Iquitos is Peruvian capital city of the Amazon. It is surrounded by the Amazon jungle. It has three major rainforest reserves near by. Tours to these reserve are the major attraction for most tourists who would like to see the amazing vegetation and wildlife in the largest rainforests in the world. Iquitos is also the only major city you can fly commercially to in Peru and see and ride on the largest river in the world – the Amazon river. In fact, the Amazon river official beginning is not that far from Iquitos. Iquitos also is a very vibrant city with an amazing Belen market. There are a number of animal attractions worth visiting near and around the city. Here are the topics we will be covering:
Getting to Iquitos
Exploring the Amazon rainforest
CREA – Animal rehabilitation center
Ucamara – the beginning of the Amazon river
Google satellitePicture of Iquitos in the middle of the Amazon jungle and along the Amazon river.
Iquitos is the largest amazonian city in Peru that is not connected by roads to any other major city. It is like an island surrounded by the jungle. The only way to get to Iquitos is by a boat or plane. Boat rides take several days, and so an airplane is the preferred way. There are many flights a day from Lima, that take about 2 hours. In the dry season June to November, Latam, the largest and most reliable airline in South America, also offers one flight a day 3 times a week from Cusco.
Exploring the Amazon rainforest is the number one reason people visit Iquitos. The best way to do so is stay in remote lodges that are located near or in the 3 large rainforest reserves that are found to the south and upstream the Amazon river from Iquitos. Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve is known for its beautiful poisonous frogs and the endemic Allpahuayo antbird, which can only be found on this reserve. A variety of other birds and monkeys also call this reserve their home. Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is Peru’s largest reserve. Most tours to this park explore it from the sides, by riding a boat along the Maranion or Ucayali rivers, and entering short streams that come out of the park. Lodges are found around the park in secondary forests and they explore these forests that have been cut in the past. Tamshiyacu-Tahauyo Communal Reserve is Peru’s largest communal reserve established by numerous villages that decided to protect the primary rainforest and its wildlife inhabitant. This reserve is known for it enormous biodiversity, with more than 10 species of monkeys and 600 species of birds, as well as many other animals. Lodges here are found in primary rainforest and have much wildlife all around them. Most lodges around these reserves provide transportation to them because they are found far from the city in remote locations and provide tours with accommodations. If you want to find how to choose the best lodge and tour in the Amazon rainforest click here.
Tourists in Belen market
On a usual city tour, you will visit Plaza de Armas, the Amazon river beachfront, some of the famous houses in the city, and the vibrant Amazonian market of Belen. You would learn about the history of the city and experience the energy of the people while visiting Belen market.
Macaw is one of the many animals being rehabilitated in CREA.
CREA is the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in Iquitos and is known for its manatee release program. It is also involved with the rehabilitation and release of monkeys, river otters, sloths, yellow-spotted turtles and various birds, like macaws. You will have a private guide just for your group to escort you and explain everything throughout the tour.
Iquitos has two butterfly farm. To get to it you need to take a motorcar or a car first to the main port and then take a boat. In the butterfly farms you will learn about and see all the stages of the butterfly metamorphosis. There are also a variety of butterflies that are living within an enclosure. One of the butterfly farms also has a number of other animals, including several monkey species, a toucan, an ocelot and a jaguar.
Monkey Island is a rehabilitation center for monkeys and is located one hour by speed boat, or longer by public transportation, down the Amazon river. The island is home to many different species of monkeys, from spider monkeys to wholly monkeys and many others. Many of these monkeys have been rescued from illegal pet owners or were injured and need rehabilitation. They roam free on the island and can be seen in close proximity since the center feeds them and they get used to human contact. This tour provides a really close, intimate encounter with these intelligent and curious creatures. The tour lasts about one and half hours.
Ucamara – Ucalali river on the left, Maranion river on the right and the Amazon river at the bottom of the picture.
The mighty Amazon river officially begins where the Ucayali and Maranion rivers meet. The meeting of these two rivers is called Ucamara and it is the beginning of the the largest river in the world – the Amazon. The Amazon contains 20% of all the freshwater in the world. It also has an enormous variety of fish, including the Paiche – the largest freshwater fish in the world extending 4 meter long. The river is also home to the playful gray dolphins and the pink dolphins.
In the Tribal experience you will visit an Amazonian tribe along the river. To get there you will first have to take a motorcar or a car to the main port of Iquitos and then take a boat ride to the Amazonian village. There you will see them dressed in their typical ancestors ways. You will see them dance and may even join them. It can be fun, but it is a little touristic.
Peru is known as one of the cuisine hotspots of the world. In Iquitos, cuisine is unique with a jungle flare. You will find dishes like ceviche causa, cecina, jaunes, pataraska, empanatas and tequenios. There are also may refrescos made from a variety of jungle fruits, like the maracuya and camu camu, and the alcoholic drink of Pisco sour. There are a number of good restaurants where you can try these in Iquitos. Some of them are , El Festejo, El Sitio, Fitzcaraldo, and more.
Iquitos has many inexpensive, but decent hotels in the city. For example, Palau Amazonas hotel is a three-star, modern, clean hotel that includes breakfast. It is a 5-minute walk from Plaza de Armas. For 2 people its rates are around $50 a night. One of the best hotels in the city is DoubleTree by Hilton. It is a four and a half star hotel with a restaurant, bar, and pool located at Plaza de Armas. For 2 people its rates are around $120. For accommodations in the jungle click here.