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Manu, Tambopata, Iquitos… oh my! Choosing the Right Jungle Lodge in Peru for You


Planning a trip to the Peruvian Amazon can be overwhelming. While there are many questions to think about, the beauty of the Peruvian Amazon is that you will see extraordinary wildlife and you will be able to stay in a comfortable lodge. There are a few main areas to choose from: Manu, Tambopata, and Iquitos. The guide below will help to outline why you might choose one over the other and which lodge is right for you.

Manu is a paradise for wildlife lovers and, like any good paradise, it's hard to get to. Located 8 hrs by car from Cuzco it's a real expedition to get to Manu. That being said, once you're there, it's well worth the drive. Manu is home to woolly monkeys, over 1,000 species of birds, giant otters, and, perhaps most notably, it's on the of the best places to spot the Cock of the Rock bird. Manu was declared a National Park in 1974, before any kind of serious farming, logging, or hunting was developed in the area and it remains pristine to this day. It is also very unique in that the Manu Cloud Forest is accessible by road, allowing visitors to access a number of different habitats (lowland rainforest, oxbow lakes, cloud forest).

PROS: abundant wildlife, cock-of-the-rock bird
CONS: difficult access (8 hrs by car + 6 hours by boat to arrive upriver)

Note: lodges in Manu are combined as a circuit. Below is the recommended itinerary – it is not recommended to try to shorten this itinerary. Expect comfortable but rustic bungalows complete with private bathrooms and a separate complex for dining and common areas.

Cock of the Rock Lodge
Recommended: 1 Night
Transit time: 8 hr drive from Cuzco

Amazonia Lodge
Recommended: 1 night
Transit time: 3 hours by car, 20 minutes by boat

Manu Wildlife Center
Recommended: 3 nights
Transit time: 6 hours by boat

The elusive Cock of the Rock bird
Tambopata is also a remote nature reserve but Puerto Maldonado, the closest city, has an airport with direct connections to Lima and Cuzco. This makes access far easier. The reserve is located in Southeastern Peru, close to the border with Bolivia. The Tambopata Nature Reserve actually protects a corridor that runs all the way from Bolivia, through Peru and into Argentina. The reserve is known for its macaw clay licks, jaguars, butterflies, monkeys, caimans, capibara, and much more. Many new lodges are popping up so the deeper you can go, the better your wildlife viewing chances.
Many of the lodges work with the local communities of the area, Ese-Eja in origin, and there are farms of Brazil Nuts and cacao allowing for more of a varied, cultural experience.

PROS: easy access, varied activities, good for families
CONS: crowds, less wildlife unless you head deep into the reserve

Posada Amazonas
Recommended: 1 night (combined with Tambopata Research Center)
Transit time: 1 hour by boat
Why? This lodge is closest to Puerto Maldonado and recommended as a stop to/from Tambopata Research Center. It is a great option for combining wildlife and culture of this area of Peru. Posada Amazonas is owned by the Ese Eja indigenous community of nearby Infierno, allowing guests to have meaningful connections with the local community members. The canopy tower at Posada is the tallest in the area (37m)

Refugio Amazonas
Recommended: 1 night (combined with Tamboata Research Center) / 2- 3 nights if not extending to TRC
Transit time: 3 hours by boat
Why? This lodge is recommended as a stop to/from TRC or as a good option if you only have 2-3 nights to spend in the Amazon. Located in a 200-hectare private reserve within the buffer zone of the Tambopata National Reserve, Refugio offers a wide variety of kid friendly activities from the wired science program to watching wildlife from their 100ft tall canopy tower to visiting the nearby jungle farm. Refugio Amazonas is a 32-bedroom lodge – all rooms are open to nature and have private bathrooms.

Tambopata Research Center
Recommended: 2-3 nights
Transit time: 4 hours by boat (from Refugio Amazonas)
Why? TRC is the only lodge located inside the Tambopata National Reserve and therefore has a privileged location for wildlife viewing. Its remote nature allows for incredible wildlife viewing around the lodge – and even from the comfort of your villa! Close to some of the best macaw licks in the area, TRC is also home to The Macaw Project and volunteers give nightly presentations on their findings. The open wall villas face the Amazon rainforest and feature private bathrooms in each room.

Macaws flying from the clay lick near Tambopata Research Center

Reserva Amazonica
Recommended: 3 nights
Transit time: 30 minutes by boat
Why? Reserva is the most luxurious of the lodge options in this area. 35 stand alone villas are located on a private ecological reserve on the banks of the Madre de Dios River. Their canopy walkway is extensive – a network of bridges located 100ft above the ground. It's comfort and proximity to Maldonado make it a great option for people with limited time or who want to minimize transfer time. They have a menu of jungle excursions to choose from each day – including piranha fishing!

Hacienda Concepcion
Recommended: 3 nights
Transit time: 30 minutes by boat
Why? Hacienda Concepcion offers a similar level of luxury as Reserva. Built on land that was once a cacao and rubber plantation this lodge has activities more geared towards families and those looking for a mix of wildlife and culture. Private cabins are nestled in the jungle and have netting to separate you from the other jungle denizens. Excursions follow a schedule – activities are not a la carte.

Inkaterra Field Station
Recommended: 3 nights
Transit time: 30 minutes by boat
Why? Basic bungalow accommodation (private bathroom) designed to train Inkaterra Explorer Guides and host investigators, volunteers and travelers eager to engage in different projects and experience the amazon rainforest in a more scholarly way. Great for families and those looking for a more in-depth immersion into Amazon research

To recap, the best luxury lodges in the area are Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica and Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion. Refugio, Posada, Field Station, and Hacienda Concepcion are best for families. If you're in it for the wildlife, make sure you work in enough time to make it out to Tambopata Research Center.

Canopy walkway at Reserva Amazonica
Iquitos is the only area listed that is actually on the Amazon River. This means there's a wider variety of marine fauna, including pink dolphins and piranhas to be seen. Iquitos is not accessible by road, only by plane. Iquitos is home to nearly 450,000 people, all of whom live in this small area with no road access. The effect on the surrounding natural areas is noticeable. If you want to experience the Amazon river and modern day culture of the area, Iquitos is a great option. If you're in it for wildlife, Manu or Tambopata are a better option. That being said, there are 2 cruises that operate out of Iquitos, Delfin and Aqua. They come with a hefty price tag but the cruises allow you to access areas of the Amazon river far enough from civilization to still offer wonderful wildlife viewing and a true jungle experience. 

PROS: Amazon river, boat cruises go into remote, isolated areas for stellar wildlife viewing and cultural encounters, better for water based activities (kayaking, SUP, swimming), very high level of luxury, private options available 
CONS: Need to distance yourself from the city of Iquitos - 3 nights minimum, more recommended. Recommend boat rather than land based stays 

Aqua Aria
Recommended: 3, 4, 7 night itinerary options. We prefer the 4 night option
Transit time: N/A
Why? Aqua boats are boutique, purpose built, luxury vessels – the perfect base from which to explore the Amazon river. Experience jungle walks, visits to local communities, river explorations, and even piranha fishing with your specialist guides. The 12 rooms all feature floor to ceiling windows and there's a spacious roof deck.

Delfin I
Recommended: 3, 4, 5 night itinerary options
Transit time: N/A
Why? Delfin is a Relais Chatueax product featuring a fleet of three ships – Delfin I (4 suites, best for private departures), Delfin II (14 suites), and the Delfin III (22 suites). Suites feature floor to ceiling windows and there are spacious communal deck spaces for lectures and leisure activities. Activities offthe boat range from birdwatching to trailwalks to paddle boarding to fishing and more. Meals are included and feature fresh and exotic ingredients

Ready to book your adventure to the Peruvian Amazon? Check out our Peru itineraries or ask us! 800-345-4453

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