Peru's Amazon rainforest
The world's largest and most diverse jungle is a paradise for nature lovers. Here it seems another world, impressive and fascinating where everything is gigantic, an explosion of colors, smells, and unknown sounds, well, we're on another planet.
Venturing into the jungle, we enter another dimension, giant trees can reach 40 meters (130 ft) in height and 3 meters (10 ft) in diameter, flowers and leaves are immense, the cacophony is permanent, the Amazonia never sleeps.
The jungle cuisine is also special. Of course you can try local specialties such as the suri, a big white worm or giant ants, but the dishes are generally more "civilized" as the juane, chicken, rice and vegetables cooked in a bijao leaf (a local tree), the tacacho con cecina, mashed bananas with dried meat and excellent fish including the paiche and the piranha.
We can also find delicious liquors made of local plants with evocative names like "Rompe Calzón "(bust your britches).
The tourist generally stay in lodges, rustic wooden houses built in the heart of the jungle at the edge of a river, offering daily boat ride and guided walks to discover the enormous diversity of wildlife.
Another peculiarity of Peru, Iquitos is the only major city in the world that is inaccessible by road, located in the heart of the jungle and reached only by airplane (1 h 45 from Lima) or by boat from the city of Pucallpa. The journey can take between 2 and 7 days depending on the size of the boat, currents and mood of the captain.
With 495,000 inhabitants, it is the capital of the department of Loreto and the sixth-largest city of Peru.
Here two large Peruvian rivers, the Marañon and Ucayali unite to form the famous Amazon river.
From 1638, the native tribes were obliged to settle down in various missions founded and run by Jesuit missionaries to be evangelized. In 1863, the Peruvian army installs the first fluvial port in this strategic area and end of the nineteenth century began the rubber boom, which will change in few years a village in one of the largest cities of Peru bringing 35 years of prosperity to Iquitos and all country.
Located on the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), this curious neo-Gothic church was built in 1924 and is characterized by its Swiss clock.
Casa de Fierro
In front of the major square, this house is made with a metal structure built in Paris in 1887 by the Eiffel company.
Ex Hôtel Palace
Corner calle Putumayo and malecón Tarapacá.
This 3-story building built in 1924 is the perfect representation of the golden age of rubber. The former Hotel Palace is considered the most luxurious building the entire Amazon jungle with wrought iron balconies of Hamburg, Carrara marble and mosaics of Seville.
Port of Belén
It is the most typical place of the city. Located on the banks of the Amazon River, the houses are built on stilts or floating and tied together. The people continually live in the river, moving only with boats.
200 meters from the port is the market with traditional products.
Malecón Tarapacá 386. Open 7 days a week from 8:00 am to 9 pm.
The museum displays 80 full-scale sculptures representing the major tribes of the region. In the same room is also the military museum which traces the history of the city.
15 mn of the city, this resort built around a lagoon is ideal to appreciate 70 animals very difficult to see in the jungle as the jaguar, the pink dolphin and snakes. Here is also a botanical garden with medicinal and ornamental plants from the area, a beach, boating and restaurants.
Allpahuayo-Mishana national reserve
Only 20 km southwest of Iquitos starts this small reserve, impressive for its diversity and its World Records as the largest number of species of trees per hectare (300), the largest variety of reptiles (140), amphibians (112), primates (17) and birds (600) within a locality. The park also has nearly 2,000 species of plants including a hundred endemic to Peru, a dozen vertebrates species and 28 endangered species such as the giant otter, the harpy eagle, the monkey tocón negro (collared titi), the monkey guapo rojo (bald-headed uakari) and the giant armadillo.
Pacaya Samiria national reserve
Called the forest of mirrors, it is the largest flooded forest in the Amazon. This park starts in Nauta, a small town 106 km (66 mi) from Iquitos by highway and is the largest reserve of Peru and the second in the Amazon region with an area of more than 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi).
It protects numerous animal species in danger of extension as the small turtle charapa and the medium terecay, the sea cow, the black caiman, the giant otter and 56 indigenous communities.
East central Peru
The capital of the department of Ucayali is now accessible by a paved road from Lima in 15 hours - 787 km / 489 mi (1 h 10 by airplane). The principal economic activities of this city of 320,000 inhabitants are the wood industry, agriculture, livestock and fisheries. Like Iquitos, the city was founded at the time of the rubber boom in 1883, formerly inhabited by numerous tribes, the most important are Shipibo, Cashibo and Campas.
Pucallpa natural park
Located on the outskirts of the city near the airport, this park has a lake, a relaxation area, a park with typical animals and a small museum showing textiles and handicrafts Shipibo-conibo characteristic with geometric patterns on a beige background.
7 km (4 mi) from Pucallpa, you can see pink dolphins and numerous fish in this lake of clear water. You can also fishing, enjoy the beaches during the dry season (April to December) and boating to go in the Shipibo villages bordering the lake.
Manú national park
Also called Manu Biosphere Reserve, this huge park located northeast of Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. It extends from the Amazon jungle at 300 m (1 ft) to the Andes at 3,800 m (12,500 ft) a.s.l. Manu is one of the places in the world where you will find the largest variety of plants and animals. Manú has the highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world with more than 20,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of bird, 1,200 of butterflies, 200 of mammals and 14 of monkeys includes the Pygmy marmoset the smallest monkey in the world with a weight of 100 g (3.5 oz).
The reserve not only protects the fauna and flora, but also the cultural aspect of peoples as Matsiguenkas, Amahuacas, Ynes, Amarakaeris, Huashipaires and Nahuas to their languages, folklore, lifestyles and natural medicine, many of these Indians have no contact with the modern world.
Many adventurers are searching the Paititi, the legendary lost city of the Incas with its fabulous treasure, hidden within the vast unexplored regions of Manu.
To reach the reserve, we can go by plane from Cusco to Boca Manu (30 minutes) and then by boat to the heart of the reserve. In two days, you can also go for a partially paved road that passes through Pisac (in the Sacred Valley) and Paucartambo and then by boat to the park.
This medium-sized city of 80,000 inhabitants, capital of the department of Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru, is accessible with the new Interoceanic Highway connecting the Pacific ocean in Peru with the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil, crossing the Andes and the Amazon jungle. Today we can go from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado in 10 hours (524 km / 326 mi) as needed before 2 to 3 days. Puerto Maldonado is now less than four hours of Iñapari on the Brazilian border (228 km / 142 mi).
This region has also experienced the rubber boom in late 19th century, but nothing was left of its splendor as in Iquitos.
The chief industries in Puerto Maldonado are logging, artisanal small-scale gold mining mostly informal and illegal, causing enormous environmental damage, throwing the mercury needed to separate the gold in rivers, deforestation and accumulation of sludge in rivers.
However, the region is one of the richest ecosystems and is another paradise for nature lovers.
Tambopata-Candamo national reserve
South of Puerto Maldonado, this reserve is one of the most interesting of the country and like the others, has an enormous diversity. The Collpa de guacamayos (macaw clay lick) is the most prominent attraction of the park. Around 6 am, hundreds of parrots gather here to eat clay in a mud wall alongside the river.
Scientists still do not understand the purpose of this ritual, but have noted that also serves as a social gathering. This colorful spectacle exists elsewhere in the jungle, but in Tambopata is the most impressive.
One hour by boat from the town and one hour more walking, one of the most beautiful lakes in the jungle is traversed by canoe to observe the animals peacefully, like monkeys, giant otters and many birds.
The Amazon jungle covers 6 million km2 (2 million sq mi), almost the same size as Australia and 1 ½ time that of the European Union. In Peru, the rainforest represents more than half of the territory but only 13% of the population despite some major cities.