Few places in the world are as isolated and untouched as the Amazon rainforest. From its origins high in the Andes Mountains to its exit in the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon River winds through lush rainforests and past remote villages across six countries, offering a unique landscape unlike anywhere else on Earth. While remote, travel to the Amazon is surprisingly easy for travelers looking for a new adventure, with several options of luxury river cruise lines to choose from. Start your adventure in Iquitos and cruise along the Amazon and its tributaries, stopping for hikes and skiff excursions to look for birds and other wildlife.
Still not convinced a trip to the Amazon is as easy as we say? We’ve broken it down to the ABCs of Amazon River Cruising to better explain the experience and inspire you to consider this unique destination for your next expedition.
A Amazon River, of course! This incredible river system offers a unique chance to see wildlife and interact with local cultures. Board your river cruise ship and spend anywhere from 3 days to an entire week exploring and learning about this unique ecosystem.
B Birds: if you’re a birder, the Amazon is a dream come true with over 1300 species. Spy colorful macaws and parakeets nesting in the trees, listen for the distinctive call of toucans, or marvel at the unique hoatzins that look prehistoric.
C Cruising offers plenty of creature comforts while exploring one of the most remote destinations on Earth. After a day spent out in the tropical rainforest, retire to your suite for a hot shower in the cold air conditioning, then watch the scenery pass by from the comfort of your king-sized bed.
D Dance to live music with nightly happy hours. The crew is multitalented, and you may be surprised to hear your servers singing opera and your bartender playing the drums. Not too shabby for an impromptu musical evening along the Amazon River!
E Eat local, with fine dining prepared from produce and fish sourced along the Amazon River – enjoy local specialties like roasted yucca and fresh ceviche are served alongside freshly made juices and breads. While out on excursions, don’t be surprised if your guide stops to purchase a fresh catch from local fishermen to bring back to the chef.
F Fish for piranhas using a simple pole made from string and a stick. No patient waiting required here – as soon as the bait hits the water, you’ll quickly see the snapping of their sharp teeth! Your guide will help to unhook your catch, and save the largest to be fried up as a crunchy appetizer at dinner.
G Gaze at incredible numbers of stars every evening. As you cruise towards the Pacaya-Samira Natural Reserve, you will leave any light pollution far behind, offering an uninterrupted view of the heavens on clear nights. Grab a spot in a lounge chair on the front deck of the ship and see how many constellations you can pick out.
H Hiking through the rainforest is a real highlight of the trip! Venture out with your naturalists as local guides search through the dense underbrush and canopy to locate poisonous tree frogs, rainbow boa constrictors, green forest dragon lizards, and bird-eating spiders.
I Iquitos will be your first stop and serves as the main airport for the Peruvian Amazon. This city is the largest in the world that is only reachable by boat or plane – no roads connect the city to the outside world, so motorcycle tuk-tuks are the main form of transportation around town. Make time to see the Main Square and the Casa de Fierro house designed by Gustave Eiffel!
J Journey more than 600 miles down the Amazon River from Iquitos along tributaries like the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers. Your ship will stay in the main rivers while you adventure ion skiffs down black-water creeks and into flooded lakes in search of wildlife.
K Kayaking is a fantastic way to get up close and personal with nature. The paddles are much quieter than motorized boats, so you can easily pick out the chattering sounds of birds or the creepy calls of red howler monkeys as you kayak through reserves and past floating local villages.
L Lima will be your first stop in Peru before flying on to Iquitos, as it serves as the main international airport for the country. Houston is lucky enough to have daily nonstop flights on United Airlines, making it easier than ever to reach this incredible country and start your Amazon journey.
M Machu Picchu is another iconic stop in Peru, and is easy to combine with a trip to the Amazon! Iquitos is only a short flight away from Cusco, so you can start your day with coffee on the Amazon River and end it with a Pisco Sour overlooking the Sacred Valley.
N Naturalists serve as your daily guides, easily pointing out hard-to-see monkeys hidden in the foliage or listening for the calls of toucans nesting in the treetops. They all grew up along the Amazon River and offer a unique perspective into local life and customs.
O Observe animals in their natural habitat! This is no zoo, so you’ll have to be quick with your camera and binoculars to spot swift squirrel monkeys leaping across branches, or flocks of birds passing quickly overhead. Guides like to say every day is like your birthday – you know you’re going to get a present, but you’ll have to wait and see what it is!
P Pisco Sours serve as the perfect end to a day spent exploring, particularly when paired with onboard live music! This local cocktail is made by blending pisco liquor with lime juice, egg white, and Angostura bitters to create a tart drink perfect for sipping. If you want something different, there’s always local beers onboard too!
Q Quiet mornings spent drinking coffee and listening for macaws may become your favorite part of the day. Wake up before breakfast and make your way to the lounge for a mug of strong coffee and that day’s pastry treat, perfect for sipping on the front deck while going through the many pictures on your phone or camera.
R River dolphins are a common sighting, and you’ll find them playfully jumping behind the skiffs and boats. While the grey river dolphins look similar to those found in the oceans at home, the pink river dolphins are unique to the Amazon and cannot be found anywhere else.
S Skiff excursions allow you to get into the smaller tributaries of the Amazon where larger ships cannot go. Each skiff is staffed by a driver and guide to explain the sites, plus a cooler of ice-cold juices and beers to refresh you in the rainforest heat.
T Tarantulas will likely make an appearance, which may seem intimidating for those with arachnophobia. However, talking with your guides about these eight-legged creatures may help you to face your fears and learn more about these misunderstood arachnids.
U Unique experiences are to be had every day, so you never know what to expect! Enjoy having a feast of a breakfast on the river, go for a swim with pink dolphins in a black water lake, and spotlight caimans on nighttime boat excursions.
V Visit a local village and interact with the Ribereno people who live along the river. Lucky travelers may get to meet the village shaman, who offers traditional blessings and talks about the medicinal plants that serve as a natural pharmacy for the locals.
W Wildlife sightings are the name of the game, if we haven’t expressed that enough! Our favorites include multiple species of monkeys, slow-moving two-tooed sloths, camouflaged anacondas, colorful frogs, swooping fishing bats, and enormous 300 pound catfish.
X eXpedition-style travel doesn’t have to mean a lack of comfort or extreme environments. While off-the-beaten path, an Amazon Expedition doesn’t require extensive training or peak physical shape, and is easy for all ages to enjoy. Plus, the easy travel time from Houston means you don’t have to dedicate weeks of vacation time.
Y You better not wait as there are…
Z … Zero reasons NOT to plan your own trip to the Amazon with your River Oaks Travel advisors.
Ready to start planning your own expedition to explore the Amazon River? Our team can explain the experience firsthand and help you to find the perfect river cruise company to travel with based on your budget, travel dates, and design preferences. Contact us or make an appointment with one of our Houston travel agents to get started.