Luxury riverboat Aria Amazon cruises deep into the Peruvian Amazon, on three-, four- or seven-night itineraries that bring you face to face with one of the wildest regions left on earth. But if the surroundings are untamed, the boat is anything but: a sleek vessel of polished wood and glinting glass, the Aria glides from the city of Iquitos through the water like a black swan. In every room, the jungle views are framed by sharp modernist furnishings, there’s an open-air Jacuzzi, spa, cocktail lounge and a fine-dining restaurant with a menu by chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, an internationally renowned expert in Peruvian cuisine. You might feel like you’ll never want to leave, but the team of expert guides will make it well worthwhile, leading you in search of spectacled caymans, on fishing trips for piranhas and imparting their knowledge of the river’s extraordinary ecosystem.
1pm, but flexible, depending on your transfer times and subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 6pm.
Double rooms from £1999.63 ($2,550).
Rates include all meals; select fine wines and beers; all non-alcoholic drinks; daily excursions; bike use; group transfers to and from the boat (if taking the recommended flights); entrance fees to the Pacaya Samiria reserve.
There’s no WiFi onboard. Think of it as an opportunity to disconnect, allowing yourself to be drawn deeper into the enigmatic jungle.
In 2018, the boat will dock for maintenance from 11–24 May and 26 November–9 December.
At the hotel
Indoor and outdoor lounge areas; observation deck; treatment room; gym; boutique. In rooms: air-conditioning, free bottled water, eco-friendly bath products by Kara.
Our favourite rooms
All the suites are the same size and style, with polished timber floors, king-size beds and floor-to-ceiling windows facing the river. The only difference is whether you opt for a suite on the first or second deck: first deck suites are almost flush with the surface of the water, making you feel very connected to the river. The second deck suites will give you a loftier outlook and place you closer to the lounge and deck areas.
There’s a Jacuzzi at the front of the top deck, giving you a panoramic view as you soak. We’d recommend hightailing it there after you get back from the day’s excursion – there’s no better place to cool off.
Get back into a more natural rhythm with a visit to the onboard spa, where you can get massages that incorporate Amazonian herbal aromatherapy techniques. All of the oils used in the treatments are completely natural, extracted from indigenous ingredients like coconut and vanilla.
For excursions, you'll need cool, light clothing that you’d wear to trek through a jungle. Pack some smarter threads for the evening.
There are steps between each deck and no specially adapted rooms, so the boat isn't suited to wheelchair users.
Over-7s are welcome onboard, and can sleep on the sofa beds in each room for an additional 40 per cent of the rate.
Designed to be as green as possible, the Aria is fitted with an innovative exhaust system to minimise emissions and noise. The staff use biodegradable cleaning products by Ecolab, and all of the bath products in the suites are environmentally kind. At least 70 per cent of the ingredients used in meals are sourced locally.
There are no bad tables; it really comes down to whether you want to dine alone or join new friends at a larger table.
Dress like an off-duty explorer: khaki shirts, safari jackets and pale trousers.
The Dining Room cuts a dashing character with its black leather chairs, floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary Peruvian art; crystal glasses and fine bone china add a luxurious finishing touch. The modern Peruvian menu was created by executive chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, whose knowledge and creativity has caught many an eye on the global dining scene. The man behind two of Lima’s best restaurants, Schiffiano is dedicated to unearthing the culinary secrets of the Peruvian Amazon, often journeying deep into the jungle in search of ingredients found nowhere else. Try his Aqua-style sautéed beef tenderloin and the spicy river snails, which are served with tapioca and turmeric sofrito.
The bar is at the far end of the indoor lounge, a glass-walled room strewn with plump sofas and scented by freshly cut flowers. It’s well stocked with Peruvian coffee, national beers, fine spirits and a judicious selection of wines from Europe and South America. The barmen have also created Aqua interpretations of classics like margaritas, chilcanos and pisco sours; if you’re smitten with their creations, you can learn how to perfect them in one of their onboard talks. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a bar menu that includes plantain chips, deep-fried sweet potato and marinated olives.
Nauta Port or Iquitos Port, depending on the itinerary
Departing from Iquitos or Nauta, the boat sails deep into a remote region of the Peruvian Amazon.
You’ll be flying into Iquitos, which is best reached via Lima if you’re coming from outside Peru. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights for you; call anytime, day or night.
You’ll be met at either Iquitos Airport, then driven in an air-conditioned bus to a boat in either Iquitos (20 minutes away) or Nauta Port (two hours away), depending on your itinerary.
Worth getting out of bed for
Although the Amazon rainforest takes up more of Peru than any other region, it’s the least populated of them all, with only five per cent of Peruvians calling it home. The lack of development means it’s still one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, which makes the Aria Amazon a first-rate safari. Ensuring their guests get the most out of the natural bounty, Aqua Expeditions hire born-and-bred naturalist guides from along the river, so when you hear that obscure bird call (Peru has more species of bird than any country in the world), you’ll have an expert on hand to tell you exactly what it is. Over the course of your cruise, these specialists will accompany you as you swim, kayak and boat on the river; search for all manner of wildlife on land and water; go trekking in the jungle; explore remote villages and meet their inhabitants; visit local markets; bike along trails on the shore; and fish for piranhas. Back on board, there’s a range of lectures and classes, including talks on the Amazonian wildlife, Peruvian cooking classes and the all-important pisco sour-making session.
You’ll have all your meals onboard, so you won’t be eating out. There aren’t too many fine-dining restaurants hidden in the depths of the rainforest...
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from luxury cruise in the Peruvian Amazon and unpacked their Amazonian artwork bought in the onboard boutique, a full account of their river break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Aria Amazon in Peru…
There’s an undeniable allure to journeying into one of the world’s most remote rainforests, linking up with the mighty Amazon, and following it deep into the jungle. The problem is, such trips are usually a bit, well, rough, requiring litres of maximum-strength insect repellent, an iron constitution and a willingness to get very familiar with all manner of many-legged beasts. Or so it used to be, until the Aria Amazon arrived on the scene. Stylish and luxurious at every turn, this award-winning boat elevates Amazon river cruising to newly polished heights – and manages all this in a region that’s famous for its wild character. Watch river dolphins frolic as you sip fine French wine in the lounge; spy on swooping parakeets from the Jacuzzi on the observation deck. Thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows in every suite, you can even take enjoy the safari from the comfort your bed, which is decked in ultra soft sheets made from Peruvian cotton. The jungle outside might be as untamed as ever – that’s its beauty – but the Aria Amazon elevates the experience like never before.