Meet Amazon villagers

5 Great Reasons to Meet the Ribereños of the Peruvian Amazon

Meet Amazon villagers

Everyone knows that the Amazon River basin is home to some of the most impressive biodiversity on the planet, including more than one-third of all known wildlife species in the world. But significantly less well known are the ribereños, who inhabit villages spread out along the banks of the mighty river.


The ribereños of the Peruvian Amazon are an ethnically diverse people made up of the descendants of Europeans, detribalized native and their mixed-race (or mestizo) offspring. Because they live on a floodplain subject to remarkable environmental changes, these “river people” are notoriously adaptable and resilient.

Their life revolves around the river– washing clothes in it, bathing in it, using its water for cooking, and reaping its harvest for sustenance. And, since there are no roads, the ribereños use the river to get everywhere they need to go.

Despite being the most significant population in the Peruvian Amazon outside Iquitos, in terms of numbers, the ribereños remain virtually unknown. But here are five reasons why they will ultimately prove to be one of the most memorable aspects of an Amazon River Cruise:



The arrival of a ship in a Ribereños village always feels a bit like Christmas morning. All of the children seem excited to come out to welcome their visitors, but some hang back shyly while the bolder ones immediately begin using the boat as their personal jungle gym. Their energy proves incredibly infectious.


Younger kids may not ever have seen pictures of themselves before, so posing for photos and politely asking to see the results quickly becomes a popular past time.

Visiting the village’s one-room schoolhouse is an experience you’ll never forget, offering an opportunity for engaging cultural interactions that usually result in big smiles all around. After all, is there anything more amusing to a kid than watching grown-ups do “The Hokey-Pokey”?



As you stroll through the village, you gradually learn more about the typical Ribereños way of life. These communities are often focused on farming, but fishing, hunting, extraction of forest products, and waged labor are also common ways of making a living.

The women traditionally do most of the work at home, cleaning house, minding the children and roasting manioc (also known as yuca or cassava), a root vegetable that has been a staple of the Peruvian diet for thousands of years. Because it contains residual cyanide, manioc must be roasted over a fire for six hours, turning constantly to avoid burning.

It’s a special treat to be welcomed inside a typical Ribereños home– simple but well-kept wooden houses with a thatch roof, elevated on stilts in case the rising river waters come up over the bank. Most have just two bedrooms for the parents and their children, along with simple kitchens where they cook up fish, manioc and apple snails, a local delicacy.



Arguably the most unique experience you can have in the Peruvian Amazon is the opportunity to consult with a local shaman.

This oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years, is in danger of dying out, as there are few young people willing to undergo the strict regimen required to study shamanic practices. Every plant in the Amazon rainforest serves a purpose, and most ribereños will go to a shaman for healing first before seeking help from traditional Western medicine.

At the end of your meeting, the shaman may offer to perform a sacred blessing ceremony, which involves him waving a small bundle of herbs above your head and chanting melodically, blowing tobacco smoke (known as a purifying agent) on your head, and then blowing it into your hands for your to rub over your body. It’s an exhilarating and indescribably powerful experience.



Fortunately, there are no malls or stores along the Amazon River. But that doesn’t mean you have to go home without a souvenir. Most ribereños villages are home to exceptional craftsmen, and sometimes you even meet families selling goods from canoes along the river.

Traditional crafts include elaborately carved gourds featuring images of the Amazon’s indigenous wildlife, woven baskets made from colorfully dyed textiles, tribal jewelry fashioned from local seeds and beads, and even miniature boats.



As part of International Expeditions’ 38-year commitment to preserving natural habitats and improving the welfare of local communities, we have created numerous programs in the Peruvian Amazon.

These include creating water treatment plants in numerous ribereños villages to provide them with clean drinking water, and co-creating an Adopt-A-School program with CONAPAC to provide rural students with school supplies while promoting environmental education in their communities.


So perhaps the best aspect of visiting the ribereños is knowing that your trip helps to support efforts to conserve the precious flora, fauna and cultural traditions of this incredible region.


Inspired to meet the riberenos people and explore the famed waters of the Amazon River? International Expeditions offers year-round Amazon River cruises along with land-based options.