Capital of the state of Amazonas, Manaus has been the export hub of the Amazon River region since the late 19th century, but its economy really took off when it was designated a duty-free zone in the 1960s. Today, with a population almost 2 million, the city is a key player in Brazilian tourism: It’s the gateway to the Amazon rainforest, embarkation port for many Amazon river cruises, and home to the only international airport on the Brazilian side of this mighty river.
What We Love
Teatro Amazonas: This majestic, pink 19th-century belle epoque theater is an anomaly for the Amazon jungle. Not surprisingly, it has had a roller-coaster existence as rubber fortunes fluctuated over the past century, but it's currently open for tours during the day and shows in the evening.
Bosque da Ciência: If you want to see Brazil’s indigenous wild creatures — but not necessarily in the wild — this research and rehabilitation center, where land animals are in cage-free environments, is worth a visit. Among the species on view: giant otters, manatees, monkeys, sloths, and assorted reptiles.
Best Known For
The Confluence of Two Rivers: From Manaus, you can take a 45-minute boat ride to see the extraordinary confluence of two major South American rivers: Rio Negro and Rio Solimões. They flow side-by-side for 5-1/2 miles before merging to become the Amazon. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see pink river dolphins swimming and playing where the rivers connect.
Indigenous Tribes: An excursion to an indigenous jungle village is an incredible experience. Meet people from ancient tribes, discover their customs, get close (but not too close) to a pet alligator, go piranha fishing, and learn about Amazonian superfruits from the original experts.
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Who It's Best For
Nature and Adventure Lovers: There’s really no limit to how adventurous and close to nature you can get in the Amazon. If you want to swim with pink dolphins or hire a boat to look for giant pythons, you can. Or if you enjoy paddling — either standing up or sitting down — the river and its tributaries offer a great mix of exercise, sightseeing, and thrills. And because Manaus is far more developed than the region's small villages, the outfitters and guides here tend to be more professional.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Rainforest Weather: The sun is extremely powerful here, though you might not realize it because the forest is rainy, as per its name. But you can quite easily sunburn to a crisp while simultaneously being drenched by heavy showers.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.