This one has been on my list a long time. I came across ads years ago for National Geographic’s tours which use the Delfin cruise boats. I was captivated by the unique ships, usually only having around 14 rooms.
The Amazon River is enormous and cuts from Ecuador through Peru and into Brazil. This means there are a variety of ways to see it. This is a naturalist trip – primarily bird and wildlife watching with some cultural interactions in indigenous communities.
Research tells me that Peru is the ideal place to do a cruise and several reputable tour operators offer options that explore the Pacaya Samiria Reserve area. Trips vary in length from 4 to 9 days and many people combine this with a trip to Machu Picchu on the front or back end.
Research has also shown me that this is a very pricey trip. I intended to use National Geographic, but they really penalize the solo traveler and you essentially have to pay double. A 9 day cruise was nearly $15k for a single person. This is an all-inclusive price – transfers, tours, food, guides – but that is still out of my budget by a landslide.
I found several other options and narrowed it down to Aqua Expeditions – better prices, similar itineraries, similar boats, options to combine with Machu Picchu – and Avalon Waterways, a company better known for river cruises in Europe.
As of today I’m leaning on Avalon as the best option. The only charge a $1500 supplement for a solo traveler, and they offer an 11 day tour covering both the Amazon River and Machu Picchu. Their price includes alcohol which usually is not included so that is a nice bonus. But the BEST surprise is that use the Delfin III, the newest of the Delfin ships that I’ve dreamed about!
|When To Go||June to Nov is dry season. You’ll be able to get off the boat and walk in the jungle which you can’t do in wet season. Also less mosquitos! Dec to May is Green Season which floods the jungle floors but means that wildlife is concentrated more closely together and the river level is several meters higher bringing you closer to the birds.|
|Getting There||Most likely fly to Lima. Flights arrive late day so you stay one night there then fly to the village where you board your boat (or fly to Cusco first for Machu Picchu then to boat).|
|Days Needed||Minimum Amazon cruises are 4 days plus a day on each side to get in and out of country. Most people will add another 4 days for Machu Picchu. Plan 10-12 days total.|
|Why You Go||Naturalist vacation – pink dolphins, piranha fishing, birds, monkeys, jungle and indigenous tribes. Educational.|
|Budget||Avalon offers an 11 day itinerary that includes both Machu Picchu and the Amazon cruise. $6300 per person, $1500 supplement for a solo so $7800 essentially covers the entire trip.|
Solo Travel – These cruises are very exclusive. No more than 45 people on the boat. That means the tour companies are counting on double occupancy to cover their costs. That is why you’ll have to pay extra for a solo traveler. It’s frustrating, but from a business standpoint I get it. I was a little disappointed that even with the supplement price I can’t book the second level corner suites in the front of the boat (if your gonna go, go big!). When I decide to actually reserve I plan to call and negotiate that. Avalon was definitely the best deal for a quality tour operator. Aqua Expeditions was next best and had a very good cancellation/reschedule policy.
Machu Picchu – If you’ve never heard of this, do a little research. Machu Picchu is a 15th century Incan village built way way up in the Andes mountains. It is famous for the unique rock architecture, geometrical configuration and panoramic views. Some people choose to “hike the Inca Trail” which is an aggressive 3 or 4 day hike to the location. I’m not totally sold that I need to go here, but if I’m going to be in Peru I will definitely consider it. There is a good chance that someday Peru will stop allowing tourist access to it so better check it out while you can.
Galapagos Islands – Another option when in Peru is to combine the Amazon with a trip to Galapagos Islands. I’ve been to Galapagos and highly recommend it, but in my opinion that is too much wildlife for one trip. If you do it that way, definitely do the Amazon first because I would guess it would be a bit underwhelming if coming immediately from Galapagos. Galapagos Islands are in Ecuador which is north of Peru. Click here to visit my page on Galapagos – a trip of a lifetime!
Length of Amazon Cruises – I found a very helpful review that hinted you might not want to splurge on the 9 day Amazon cruise itinerary. Since they also offer a 4 or 5 day option, you’re basically combining the two itineraries which means overlap of sites. This is why it makes sense to add on Machu Picchu and make it a decent 10-12 day vacation since you’ve gone that far.
Not In Your Budget? – Research tells me that if you want to see the Amazon but these exclusive tours in Peru are just not in your budget, try Brazil instead. The Amazon is much wider there so bigger boats can operate which means better prices. They also stop in villages where you can get out an explore like a normal cruise vs. being tied entirely to the ship like the Peru itineraries.