This experience has always been on our bucket list! The Amazon is a 4,400-mile river with thousands of branches. It is a 2,600,000-square mile basin, draining rivers and streams in eight countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname). Its rainforest is the largest on the planet and it’s combined with the savannah, floodplains and rivers. It is a region of immense diversity, sheltering more than 30,000 plant species, 1,800 fish, 1,300 bird species, 311 mammals and 165 types of amphibian. There are many ways into the Amazon, Brazil being the most common starting point for most Amazon trips. Peru and Colombia are also offering great travel experience. Most people visit the Amazon as part of a tour or via organised itinerary. Independent travel is possible but it comes with some complications and requires more spare time. Hence reading through this ultimate do-it-yourself guide to amazon river and rainforest will come handy.
If you are in Brazil, you can fly into Belém and book onto a local boat. Then arrange flights or epic bus journeys on from Manaus. It is more crowded but you’ll have more companionship from fellow travelers and dance samba on deck at sunset. But you won’t see many toucans. In Peru you head directly for Iquitos and in Colombia your only point of entry is Leticia, where you can fly to from Bogota. Peru and, to a lesser extent, Colombia are notable for their wildlife. Where deforestation and industrialisation have devastated great expanses of the low-lying Brazilian Amazon, the headwaters are in better shape.
We have started our journey in Peru and finished in Columbia so can we can actually advise you on at least two parts of the Amazon. And this is how we did it!
Of course when you plan your trip to Peru, you have Machu Picchu pinned down already. It is an incredible place, definitely worth a visit whichever way you chose. In the end it is one of the 7 Wonders of The World! You can take the famous Inca Trail, take a bus and train combo or even bus and walk as some people do. The latter can nowadays more and more difficult as Peruvian government is clamping-down on such walks to sell more permits. There is however one place we urge you to add to your list when planning your visit, so put together a little Ollantaytambo Travel Guide.
Not all roads lead through this picture perfect village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, your train might be passing by but we can assure you a few hundred yards from the train station lies a peaceful, unspoiled and friendly village with plenty to offer. So there is a good reason why you should slow down and stay for a night or two.
We arrived in Ollantaytambo early in the morning and we instantly fell in love with this place. It is full of tourists yes, but still it is pretty authentic with Inca terraces, temples and original irrigation system. That irrigation system almost cost me a broken leg so mind your step peeps when visiting. I somehow did not see it in front of me, fell in with one leg and bruised it really hard. So, trekking around Ollantaytambo was out of the question for me. It had to get better to climb Machu Picchu. Tom went on and he loved the views of the valley. It is so easy to understand why Inca thought of it sacred. It’s very green with flows everywhere and a huge river floating along and massive mountain peaks surrounding it – just naturally stunning.
This country seems to be on everybody’s ‘To Do List’ and to be frank it has a right to be there! It is an amazing culture rich country with varied terrain spanning Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert and Amazon Basin rainforest. Bolivia is also a home to many places with ‘the highest’ next to its name i.e La Paz is world’s highest capital city at 3660m; Potosi is the highest situated town at 4070m; Lake Titicaca is the largest high altitude lake in the world at above 3800m. You should travel Bolivia soon!
If you enter the country from Paraguay, as we did, the winding Andean road offers you the most tremendous views. Majority of it was just a sandy path that had space hardly for one bus not to mention two vehicles so prepare yourself for an adventurous ride. I was ‘lucky’ to sit on the cliff side of the bus and had to hold my breath every time the bus came too close to the edge. It is part of the adventure, right? Would have done it again, though…. if only for the perfect sunset over these mountains.
After touring the country we have this picture of Bolivia in our mind: rough, dry, desert-like terrain with sandy roads and colourful people. Yes, the colourful comes to mind immediately. Surprised? Let us explain why.
We were not incredibly excited about visiting Copacabana but we had to pass through this highly touristy place to get to the amazing Isla del Sol by Lake Titicaca. We have to admit, we underestimated this little town a lot, although we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. We arrived in the afternoon and it was already too late for a boat to the island. We could not even be bothered with looking for accommodation and we took a room in a very reasonably priced Hotel Colonial just because it was next to the bus stop. We took a stroll around the main road filled with restaurants, bars and souvenir stalls and decided it was not our cup of tea and we could definitely not make it our exploration base when in the area.
We were lucky though, as the day we arrived there was a local event in town. It was not so much a festival but a celebration of the Saint who is the holly patron/protector of Bolivian Police. Every year on this occasion Police force from all over Bolivia gather their best musicians and dancers and make huge parade around Copacabana. Wow, it was quite something. Initially we did not know what their agenda was and thought we missed the main thing in the morning but they were just getting started.
Little did we know about Paraguay except for the fact, that it is by far the most unacknowledged by travelers part of South America. Information you find is a little bit confusing as on one hand it is the most secure country in SA and on the other hand Brazilians would swear it is deadly dangerous. I think this coming from them is a big statement haha We spent the most amazing 15 days in Paraguay. You are probably wondering what there is to see? So here is a list of our 5 top things to do in Paraguay!
The bridge linking Brazil and Paraguay is also supposed to be a dangerous place to walk along and we were unsure if we want to cross it by foot or if we should take a bus/taxi. When we got to the Brazilian immigration point we saw trucks full of soldiers, DEA and INTERPOL agents. ‘What the hell is this place?’ – we thought. We asked the woman who was stamping us out if it was ok to walk alongside the bridge and she just looked at all the military around and smiled. Sure it was, at least that day 🙂 Later on we read online that a few days later after our crossing all those agencies made a major bust of the leading drug cartel in a region confiscating 1500kg of cocaine and arresting 20 people. I guess that was what they were waiting for;-)