Named after female warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazon is itself a place of nearly mythical status. What traveler hasn’t imagined a trip to the Amazon, not only to admire the towering trees and awesome river, but to enter, in a real sense, the very life spring of the planet, the source of so much of the air we breath, the water we drink and the weather we rely on? To be sure, expecting a Discovery Channel–like experience (jaguars in every tree, spear-toting indios around every bend) is a recipe for disappointment. In fact, the Amazon’s quintessential experiences are more sublime than superlative: canoeing through a flooded forest, dozing in a hammock on a boat chugging upriver, waking to the otherworldly cry of howler monkeys. On a river whose size is legendary, it’s actually the little things that make it special. Give it some time, forget your expectations, and the Amazon cannot fail to impress.