South America river cruises

South America River Cruising

River cruises in South America offer a wide variety of experiences showcasing the natural beauty and diversity of the continent, from the glacial landscapes of Argentina to the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
The Amazon Basin is home to more than one third of the world's animal species, and a cruise along this mighty river offers plenty of opportunities to spot colourful macaws, monkeys and pink and grey river dolphins in their natural habitat.
If you prefer to stay closer to civilisation, take a cruise of the waterways of the Orinoco Delta or combine your river cruise with a sailing trip around Cape Horn.

Destination Overview

  • Currency - all South American countries use independent currencies apart from Ecuador, which uses the US Dollar. The dollar is widely accepted as a secondary currency across the continent and may even be withdrawn from ATMs as an alternative to the local currency.
  • Population - South America is home to 387.5 million people, the vast majority living in its largest country Brazil (201 million) followed by Colombia (47.1 million), Argentina (41.4 million) and Peru (30.5 million). Most people live in major cities, though even remote regions of the Amazon Rainforest are home to native tribes.
  • Language - Brazil's huge population makes Portuguese the most widely spoken language, but Spanish is the common tongue of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. English is learned in schools and most younger people will be fluent to some degree.
  • Time Zone - Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-5), as is the westernmost part of Brazil. Continental Brazil spans several time zones, from UTC-5 to UTC-3 in the capital.
  • Weather - South America's climate ranges from tropical to sub-arctic depending on the location and terrain. The Amazon Basin has a hot and wet climate suitable for rainforest growth, with the highest rainfall occurring between December and May.

Did you know..?

The Amazon was the longest river in the world without any bridges until 2011, when a 3.6-kilometre bridge was constructed over the Rio Negro branch of the river. Prior to that time bridges were deemed unnecessary as most of the river’s length passes through uninhabited rainforest rather than cities.

Who goes there?

Aqua Expeditions specialises in eco-friendly cruises of the Amazon, and SeaDream Yacht Club offers exclusive luxury cruises of the Upper Amazon region.
Several cruise lines combine cruises of the Amazon or Orinoco with other popular destinations. Regent Seven Seas Cruises combines the Amazon with cruises around Cape Horn and the Panama Canal.

Best time to go?

Ideal conditions for river cruises vary between regions, but the Amazon is suitable for cruises all year round. Cruising in the dry season between June and November will offer access to inland jungle trails that are prone to flooding at other times of the year, but the likelihood of seeing rare species of migratory birds and river dolphins is greater in the wet season from December to May.


  • Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve - this rainforest region of the Upper Amazon in the heart of Peru has long been a favourite of adventure seekers. Hike through forest trails in the company of experienced guides and explore the Amazon's smaller waterways by canoe.
  • Canaima National Park - one of the world's largest national parks, this region in Venezuela is approximately the size of Belgium and is home to some of the world's most spectacular waterfalls. Take a cruise on the Caroni River to see the Aponguao and Kama Falls, with an irresistible side trip to the kilometre-high Angel Falls.
  • Orinoco Basin - the Orinoco divides into hundreds of smaller rivers in this immense wetland region, which is ripe for river cruises. Learn to capture perfect images of migratory birds and exotic wildlife with the help of a professional photographer, go fishing for piranhas and visit an indigenous Warao village.
  • Iquitos - the world's most isolated city, Iquitos is used as the start and end point for cruises of the Upper Amazon, but extending your stay in this unique city can be an eye-opening experience as you see how the locals have adapted to being cut off from the rest of the world by the rainforest.
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