Most travelers associate Brazil with the Amazon and Peru with the Andes. Yet, some two-thirds of Peru is actually covered by dense Amazonian rain forest. Since it's far too massive to experience by air, the best way to take in Peru's Amazon basin is on the water sailing along its vast expanse in a riverboat. And while there are many traditional boats that allow you to cruise the river in luxury, the new MV Aqua will give your trip a touch of cool.
From the port city of Iquitos (about an hour by plane northeast of Lima), the 12-cabin Aqua delves deep into the 5-million-acre (2 million ha) Pacaya Samiria Reserve in placid pursuit of rare pink dolphins, giant river otters and elusive black caimans. The three-, four- and seven-day journeys include daily excursions on skiffs manned by guides from the local Bora and Yagua tribes into remote Amazon villages.
The Aqua's thoroughly modern design is by Lima-based architect Jordi Puig, who relied on the Amazon's natural bounty for both innovation and inspiration. Decks, floors and furnishings on the 130-ft. (40 m) vessel are crafted from Amazonian hardwoods such as shihuahuaco, cabreuva and caoba. Gray slate from Brazil was used to finish cabin walls, and the bedding is made from Peruvian cotton. There are no TVs in the cabins only huge windows that provide panoramic views: "Nature's plasmas," says Aqua CEO Francesco Galli Zugaro. Meanwhile in the kitchen, baby-faced Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino veteran of two Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy sources many of his ingredients (from fat river escargots to Amazonian basil) directly from Iquitos' Belém market to create dishes such as bass ceviche with sweet plantain and hearts-of-palm soufflé.
When you dock back in Iquitos after an adventure in the Peruvian Amazon, you may need help getting your land legs; maybe go for a hike in the Andes, just a short plane ride away. www.aquaexpeditions.com
Next The Long March