Amazon Rainforest map & highlights

A massive 60 percent of the Amazon sits within the borders of Brazil, but when it comes to choosing which country to visit, you may want to look beyond the most obvious choice to Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador or even Colombia – each has its own sights that set it apart. Wildlife lovers wanting to see animals in the jungle would be best off choosing tours that visit quieter, more remote countries. Most of the protected reserves boast claims of the highest biodiversity on earth, but what matters more than species statistics is going with a guide who knows where and how to find them.
Bahuaja-Sonene National Park

1. Bahuaja-Sonene National Park

Bordering Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia, Bahuaja-Sonene is a mosaic of different ecosystems ranging from mountain rainforests to tropical savannas and flooded grasslands. As you float upstream in your motorised canoe you might spot the exotic parrots and parakeets, monkeys and tapirs that are attracted to the salt in the dry riverbanks.
Leticia, Colombia

2. Leticia, Colombia

This small, southern city has an interesting indigenous ethnography museum – but that's not why you're here. Leticia is Colombia's gateway to the Amazon rainforest. Only accessible by air, it sits on the shore of a branch of the Amazon River, where encircling rainforest promises sightings of pink dolphins and parakeets. Take a jungle trek or visit the Mocagua village, painted with colourful murals of the local wildlife.
Madidi National Park, Bolivia

3. Madidi National Park, Bolivia

Madidi is a serious contender for the world's most diverse national park; it's here that the Amazon meets the Andes. Cruise along the Beni river through a landscape of soaring trees and deep leafy canyons, where whoops and calls help pinpoint howling hoards of monkeys, scaly caiman and perhaps even the ever elusive jaguar. More than most other places in the Amazon, Madidi is a good spot for animal sightings.
Mamirauá Reserve, Brazil

4. Mamirauá Reserve, Brazil

In an area of encroaching urban development, the Mamirauá Reserve is a spectacular model of sustainability, its floating ecolodge one of many projects that protect Brazil’s largest area of flooded forest. This renowned, but lesser travelled, corner of the rainforest conceals sloths, dolphins and giant river otters. It’s also the only place you’ll see what is arguably the Amazon’s ugliest primate: the bald and red-faced Uakari monkey.
Manú National Park, Peru

5. Manú National Park, Peru

If you're hoping to see animals, you've come to the right place; the Manú Biosphere Reserve protects important, pristine Peruvian rainforest. Its rambling territory provides a refuge for jaguars, giant anteaters, monkeys and a multitude of multicoloured macaws that gather at salt lick sites on clay river banks. Its success lies in its inaccessibility – civilisation is a couple of days away by boat, but it’s worth it for the wildlife. 
Napo, Ecuador

6. Napo, Ecuador

The Napo region is dominated by a roaring river that draws in rafters and kayakers looking for white-knuckle whitewater paddling. Not just for thrill seekers, Napo is home to many indigenous communities who have taken a leading role in the tourism here. Discover the daily lives of the Kichwa community, from their traditional yuca drinks to blowpipe hunting, or visit the AmaZOOnico wildlife rehabilitation centre.
Northern Brazilian Amazon

7. Northern Brazilian Amazon

Don’t linger long in Manaus, this sprawling and ungainly city at the heart of the Amazon is better kept a starting point for your trip. Set off west, instead, on a small boat cruise along the vast Rio Negro. Here you can fish for piranha, meet the local Caboclo community and sail among flooded forests where orchids cling to overhanging trees and lily pads grow to the size of canoes. 
Southern Brazilian Amazon

8. Southern Brazilian Amazon

The Cristalino River, which runs through central Brazil, is a nirvana for natural historians. Although ancient towering trees hide much of Brazil’s biodiversity, it’s here you’ve your best hope of spying harpy eagles, one of the world’s most powerful birds of prey. Stay at the Cristalino Lodge, and make the most of its 50-m canopy lookout, or trek the meandering forest trails in search of spider monkeys and some 586 species of birds. 
Tambopata Reserve, Peru

9. Tambopata Reserve, Peru

Being so secluded certainly helps preserve Tambopata’s wildlife populations, but so does an invitingly varied collection of habitats, from misty cloud forest to beautiful oxbow lakes and swampy savannah plains. It’s perfectly suited to more adventurous visitors and families, who can choose bird watching while canopy climbing and kayaking. Paddle palm-fringed waters to see feeding otter families or trek through the rainforest along wooden walkways.
Yasuní National Park, Ecuador

10. Yasuní National Park, Ecuador

Ecuador’s largest section of undisturbed tropical rainforest is the deep, dark jungle of adventure movies and explorer’s tales. This ancestral land of the indigenous Kichwa Añangu people sits in the shadow of the Andes, just below the equator, in an area described as an ‘ecological bull’s eye’. Suffice to say, the richness of animal, plant and insect life here is on a record-breaking scale. 
Travel Team
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Travel times in the Amazon

Manaus is the overdeveloped gateway to the Amazon, a sprawling city where tourists can step off the plane and into the rainforest. Lodges and large cruise ships are just a short car ride away, but the convenience comes at a sacrifice. “There are a lot of lodges that are at road heads that you can get to more easily, but you're not going to see the same amount of wildlife,” explains Kathy Jarvis from our Amazon holiday specialists Andean Trails. Her key tip is to get off the beaten track and further in.

Ultimately, all the wildest regions are remote and require quite complicated journeys to reach. The Tambopata Research Centre in Peru is a two hour flight to Puerto Maldonado followed by six hours in a motorised canoe. Reaching Peru's Manú National Park involves an eight hour road journey and six hours by motorised canoe, or a flight to Puerto Maldonado and a full day journey upriver. Time-pressed tourists might be put off by the time it takes. But, as Kathy Jarvis points out, “it's all part of the trip obviously, when you're on the river boat you see masses and it's a great experience, it's not like you're sitting on a bus.”
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christian Vinces] [Bahuaja-Sonene National Park: Charles J.Sharp] [Leticia, Colombia: Paulo Philippidis] [Madidi National Park, Bolivia: Michael Kessler, Schweiz] [Mamirauá Reserve, Brazil: Aaron Martin] [Manu National Park: Bill Bouton] [Napo, Ecuador: Arabsalam] [Northern Brazilian Amazon: Zemlinki!] [southern Brazilian Amazon: Brian Gratwicke] [Tambopata National Reserve: Xauxa] [Yasuni National Park: Geoff Gallice]