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Amazon vs. the Pantanal | Which should you visit?


As Rickshaw’s Brazil Specialist one of the most common questions I’m asked is, ‘Which is better, the Amazon or the Pantanal?’. This is a tricky question to answer as everyone’s taste is different and the options available to adventurous travellers are fantastic. Here I’ll take you through my opinions on both locations and try to answer some other frequently asked questions…
Decorative torn edge

The Amazon jungle | Caiman and pink river dolphins

The Amazon is an amazing location to experience the noises of the jungle and the vastness of the river which winds on for nearly 6500 km. It’s a great destination to escape the rat race, forget modern technology and be at one with nature. During your wildlife-spotting trips you’ll most likely spot caiman, tarantulas, monkeys, snakes and maybe even a pink river dolphin! Do keep in mind it is a little harder to spot animals in the trees and undergrowth due to the sheer size of the Amazon jungle.

Brazil Amazon pink dolphin wildlife spotting
Brazil wildlife spotting anteater

The Pantanal | Monkeys, anteaters & the elusive jaguar…

The Pantanal (also known as the Wetlands) offers a great chance to really get up close with the wildlife. You’ll most certainly see caiman here, but also monkeys, toucans, macaws, armadillos, and anteaters. This is also the best location to spot the native capybara – the largest rodent in the world, and perhaps the elusive jaguar. There are areas in the Pantanal set up for jaguar spotting and chances are higher here than spotting one in the Amazon.

Choosing the best accommodation for your needs

Accommodation is important and you must feel comfortable wherever you travel, and we are keen to recommend establishments that support and conserve the local environment. In certain areas of the Amazon deforestation has occurred due to irresponsible building, scaring away the animals and destroying the surrounding jungle.

At Rickshaw we are passionate about promoting meaningful travel in Brazil, and this includes choosing accommodation that gives something back to the community and is run in a sustainable way. We offer four different types of accommodation in the Amazon, from Simple and In Style lodges to Clipper boats which cruise along the river by day and moor at night.

Brazil accommodation Annivalhanas
People on the boat trip Brazil

The Pantanal – north or south?

People will argue which is better the north or the south, normally because they have only visited one of the areas. Realistically on a two week holiday you will not be able to visit both as the Pantanal is the size of half of France. Both north and south offer wonderful experiences where you will have the chance to see all of the wildlife. If you choose the south you can also visit Bonito and go river snorkelling. Car hire in this area really opens your options and gives you extra freedom.

The north can be a little more relaxed and you would tend to travel straight into the Pantanal, staying in lovely fazendas (large farms). I recommend the south for those who want the freedom of a hire car and the north for those who want to sit back and relax with transfers.

When to travel?

Both the Amazon and the Pantanal are fine to visit all year round. My advice? Always take a raincoat! The wet season for the Amazon creates beautiful floating forests, and as for the wet season in the Pantanal, some would argue that there is better wildlife spotting at this time due to reduced areas for the animals to graze. If you do travel to the Pantanal during wet season I would advise against hiring a car and rely on private transfers for transport, as the local drivers are used to the slippy conditions.

Whether you choose to visit the Amazon or the Pantanal, I believe that you will have a fantastic experience, and hopefully it will be one of the highlights of your trip.

Amazon rainforest Amazon river