Amazon (the State of Amazonas) is the largest Brazilian state and it is almost entirely covered by the Amazon Rainforest. The dense forest is divided into four major vegetation types: Terra Firma Forestan upland forest which is located on higher ground not in contact with rivers; Várzea Forest which is a seasonally flooded forest that occurs mostly along the Amazon River; Igapó Forest which is a flooded forest found mostly in the dark waters of the Rio Negro region, and Catinga savannah which is a grassland environment found in the sandy soils of the Rio Negro. The gateway to the Amazon, is the capital, Manaus. There are direct flights from the main cities in Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo (a five hour direct flight), Salvador (about 5 and a half hours) and Brasilia (about one and a half hours). There are also a number of international flights to Manaus from the USA. Because Brazil is as large as a continent, it is important to always consider the flying time when planning an itinerary, especially when a trip to the Amazon is one of the elements. There are three main ways to experience the Amazon: staying in forest lodges, cruising on the Amazon Rivers, and by hotel stays in the City of Manaus with day tours outside the city. We recommend lodges or cruises. Please consider including in any itinerary a hotel stay in Manaus the first night prior to any activities outside of the city. Depending on the flight schedule, a night following an activity may also be recommended. We do not recommend that travelers go straight to a lodge or a cruise immediately on arrival in Manaus.With the risk of a flight delay, in order to avoid disappointment, it is best to schedule a hotel night in Manaus on arrival. Cruise: Travelers spend much of their time on the cruise boat, though all cruise tours include several daily excursions into the forest in a variety of places. A cruise does mean that the guests will spend the full tour with the same group of passengers unless it is a combination of cruise packages like the 5 night cruise in the Amazon Clipper and the 7 night cruise in the Iberostar, when the boats return the Manaus in the middle. For this reason, lodges may be more suitable for families with young children. Cruise travelers must also be open minded to share the experiences with the other guests. Other positive points of cruising are that there are no long transfers (except the short one to the pier) and that cruises take the guests to a variety of different rainforest areas. Cruise packages have depart and return on fixed days of the week.