Stretching 96,922 square kilometres across the country, the Amazon comprises more than 60 percent of Peru. The area is home to stunning landscapes, unrivalled biodiversity, and fascinating cultures. A trip to the Peruvian Amazon is well worth the effort, but what are the most impressive attractions? Check out the top four things to do in the Peruvian Amazon:
1. Explore ancient ruins in Kuelap
The Chachapoyas people, meaning the Warriors of the Cloud, were a pre-Colombian civilisation living in the dense forests of the Amazonian region. Though eventually incorporated into the vast Incan Empire just prior to the Spanish’s arrival, the Chachapoyas were known as fiercely independent warriors that vehemently resisted outside rule. Today, the fortress of Kuelap stands as a testament to the greatness of the civilisation. Situated on the summit of a hill on the left bank of the Utcubamba, the walled city contains over 400 circular buildings. Kuelap’s sheer size and breathtaking location makes it one of the most impressive ruins in Latin America. Constructed between 900 and 1100 AD, visitors can reach these 1,000-year-old ruins via Chiclayo, which is about 9 hours away by car. Keep in mind that it is best to make the trek during the dry season, between June and October, as during the rainy season many roads and trails become inaccessible.
2. Hike to a waterfall in Tarapoto
If you’re searching for jaw-dropping landscapes, you will find them in Tarapoto. Situated where the Andes meet the Amazon, Tarapoto is marked by verdant, dramatic hills and beautiful rivers — the perfect recipe for waterfalls. The Cataratas del Ahuashiyacu is arguably Tarapoto’s most famous waterfall. However, there are a number of arguably more spectacular waterfalls situated off the beaten path. The Cataratas de Huacamaillo, though a 3-hour hike away, are well worth the trek.
3. Search for pink dolphins
The Amazon River dolphin, colloquially known as the pink dolphin, is a freshwater dolphin found in the Amazonian rivers of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. These fascinating creatures thrive in the lowland rivers of Peru. During the annual rainy reason when the Amazon floods across vast swaths of forests and marshes, these dolphins are able to use their unusually long necks and flexible spinal cords to manoever under tree trunks and submerged vegetation to hunt and extract their prey, feeding on crustaceans, small turtles, catfish, crabs, and shrimp. In local Amazonian lore, the pink dolphins are powerful symbols of good luck.
4. Participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony
Made by combining the caapi vine with DMT-containing plants, this powerful hallucinogenic is an important part of a rich tradition of entheogenic practices within many indigenous communities throughout the Amazon basin, used for both medical purposes and spiritual guidance. The visions induced by Ayahuasca can help users to conquer their fears and gain new insights. Outsiders have long made the journey into the Amazon in search of an illuminating Ayahuasca experience. Allen Ginsberg, a famous beat poet, went to Peru in 1960 in search of the plant on the advice of his writer friend William Burroughs. Paul Simon’s 1990 song “Spirit Journey” recounts his trip into the Amazon and experience with Ayahuasca, while a number of musicians have also tried Ayahuasca, including Tori Amos, Ben Lee, and Sting.
However, visitors are advised to exercise caution if taking Ayahuasca and to find a reputable centre or shaman. The experience itself is physically demanding and is often accompanied by fever and intense vomiting. Visitors also need to follow a dietary regimen in preparation for the ceremony, which entails abstaining from salt, sugar, and meat. The Takiwasi centre, located just outside of Tarapoto, is highly recommended. The centre is run by French physician Jaques Mabiti and combines traditional medicine, including Ayahuasca, with modern psychotherapy. The centre runs nine-month rehabilitation programs for those with severe problems, although shorter options are also available.