Iquitos Travel Guide: Exploring Peru’s Amazonian Treasure

Discover a Jungle Metropolis, Born from a small Jesuit mission, Iquitos’s heyday came in the 19th century as the result of a rubber boom. With no roads leading here, it can only be reached via water or by air. During the rubber boom, money flooded into the region, and a bevy of grand and extravagant mansions were built, including the Gustave Eiffel-designed Casa de Fierro (The Iron House). Though the rubber barons have long since fled, their opulent residences – so incongruous to the jungle setting – still stand. Present-day Iquitos is the port in which your Amazon River cruise begins, as the largest port city in the Amazon rainforest.

1. Best Time to Visit Iquitos

Best time to Visit Iquitos

Iquitos is a year-round destination, with two distinct seasons: high-water season and low-water season. Therefore, when to visit is up to preference.

During the high-water season which runs from December to May, cruises are better able to adventure through hidden lagoons, meanwhile, the low-water season of June to November offers greater exploration through the forest.

2. Things to See and Do

Amazon River

Amazon River

The Amazon River, the lifeblood of the jungle, offers unparalleled experiences, from serene cruises to adventurous explorations. Navigate through its winding waters, discover hidden lagoons, and witness the diverse wildlife that calls this river home.

Amazon Forever Biopark

Learn and experience the lungs of the earth on a whole new level. The Amazon Forever Biopark is run by a nonprofit organization with the intention of providing environmental education through a fun, adventurous experience. Explore the private conservation area consisting of an educational aquarium, an ethnographic-botanical garden, playful giant wood sculptures, and a white-sand forest, a rare ecosystem only covering 0.05% of the Amazon.

Amazon Rescue Center

Amazon Rescue Center

With the intention of serving animals in need while educating the public, the Amazon Rescue Center is a wonderful site where you can witness the heart-warming work of staff helping to rehabilitate animals in need. The tour is about 2 hours long and a staff member will guide you through the rehabilitation process. You will also be able to closely view incredible wildlife such as “Shicshi” the Manatee and “Mickey” the Ocelot.

Amazon Refuge Wildlife Conservation Center

This center is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of Amazonian wildlife. Visitors can learn about conservation efforts and see animals such as jaguars, monkeys, and birds being prepared for their return to the wild.

Monkey Island Tour

Monkey Island Tour

Just 18 miles from Iquitos you can take a tour of the impressive natural reservoir of Monkey Island housing 8 different species of monkeys and sloths. This reservoir not only allows visitors to have close contact with wildlife but also serves as a rehabilitation center for injured monkeys. An essential experience when in Iquitos, you can easily arrive here with a fun trip down the river. Be ready to laugh and smile as you get to experience feeding and playing with the different monkeys.

Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Inhabiting over two million hectares, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is one of Peru’s largest protected jungles. Here you can find a variety of exotic birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and plants. You’ll even be able to have the unforgettable experience of viewing the unique, rare species, the pink dolphin that only inhabits the Amazon. From the deck of your Amazon cruise, you will be able to discover why they call this region “the jungle of mirrors” with a clear image of the pristine forest mirrored on the water.

Visit an Indigenous Community

Visit an Indigenous Community

Learn about the traditional ways of life from the Bora or the Yagua community. Consisting of about 2000 people, the Bora people inhabit an area stretching from Putumayo to the Napi river. Being one of the oldest communities in the Amazon, the Yaguas have about 5000 inhabitants that live in the Peruvian and Colombian jungles. Enter the traditional life of the Amazon as you learn about the daily activities, preserved traditions, dances, and crafts.

Floating City of Belen

Floating city of Belen

The Floating City of Belen is a fascinating part of Iquitos, where houses, shops, and schools float on rafts. During the rainy season, the entire area is navigable by canoe, giving visitors a unique perspective on life in the Amazon. Explore the bustling markets and interact with locals to gain insight into this extraordinary way of life.

Casa de Fierro

The Iron House, designed by Gustave Eiffel, is a symbol of the rubber boom era. This iron structure, shipped from Europe and assembled in Iquitos, stands as a testament to the city’s historical wealth and architectural ambition.

3. Best Hotels in Iquitos

Best Hotels in iquitos, source Delfin Amazon Cruises

Aqua Expeditions: Set sail down the Amazon River in fashion with luxurious & sustainable cruise lines: Aqua Nera & Aria Amazon cruise. While you’re not out on an adventurous excursion with the onboard naturalist expert, you can enjoy some of the many amenities these contemporary cruises offer, including tranquil spas, high-end gastronomy featuring some of Peru’s finest chefs, an outdoor pool, a well-equipped gym, and various social spaces to enjoy. Create memorable moments as you sail through the untouched, pristine jungle from the safety and comfort of a beautifully styled vessel.

Delfin Amazon Cruises: Experience one of Earth’s wildest regions left through an environmentally-friendly luxury riverboat stay. Delfin Amazon cruises provide world-class luxury accommodations while also having a sincere commitment to protecting the environment and communities of the region. Embark on a relaxing Amazonian vacation as you enjoy the many extravagant amenities and the opportunity to adventure out with minimal harm to the environment.

Treehouse Lodge: Stay above the jungle floor in a unique and adventurous treehouse lodge. Offering stunning views and an immersive experience in the heart of the Amazon, these treehouses provide comfort and a one-of-a-kind connection to nature.

DoubleTree by Hilton: Enjoy a cozy and welcoming stay in the heart of Iquitos at the DoubleTree Hotel. The spacious rooms offer spectacular views overlooking Plaza de Armas, comfortable, large beds, air conditioning, and many other amenities to make your stay as pleasant as possible. The hotel also offers a glamorous on-site restaurant, various well-designed social spaces, and a gorgeous outdoor pool equipped with a small waterfall. Along with the exemplary service of the friendly staff, you will surely have a very enjoyable stay at the DoubleTree.

4. Iquitos’s Best Restaurants

Iquitos's Best Restaurants

Wildlife isn’t the only biodiversity the Amazon has to offer, but the gastronomy perfectly reflects the astonishing variety in this part of the jungle. Experience the vibrant taste of exotic flavors prepared in both modern and traditional dishes, including the popular paiche, a delicious dish consisting of the largest freshwater fish in South America. Take a short boat ride to a floating restaurant located in the middle of the Itaya River that offers our favorite local staples and an unforgettable view.

Al Frio y Al Fuego: The only restaurant located in the middle of the Itaya River, Al Frio y Al Fuego offers visitors a dining experience like no other. Take a short boat ride down the river to arrive at this unique gastronomic experience. Enjoy beautifully presented, authentic cuisine on the second floor of this thatched roof paradise. Afterward, watch the sunset as you sip on a delicious Pisco Sour in the lounge next to their attached pool.

Restaurante Fitzcarraldo: Named after Herzog’s film shot in Iquitos, Restaurante Fitzcarraldo serves visitors breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a bar environment in their lounge to enjoy the Iquitos nightlife. Here you will be able to absorb the fabulous views of the Itaya-Amazonas river while exploring new dimensions of flavor from a varied menu including popular Mediterranean dishes.

La Casa de Fierro Restaurante: This restaurant, located in the historic Iron House, offers a unique dining experience with a focus on regional Amazonian cuisine. Enjoy a meal in a setting that blends history and culinary excellence.

Amazon Bistro: Offering guests a wonderful view of the Itaya River, Amazon Bistro curates a French-styled gastronomic experience in the heart of the jungle. With an innovative menu, you can find a diversity of cuisine from Peruvian to European classics as well as delicious burgers. They serve breakfast starting early in the morning in order for you to have a nice meal before you go on your morning adventures.

Las Terrazas: For an entertaining evening of performances and delicious food, Las Terrazas is a highly recommended restaurant to visit. Located on a rooftop, the restaurant and bar offer great views of both the Itaya River & Tarapacá promenade. For live music and performances, dine during the weekend. This restaurant will also have your tastebuds entertained with the variety of delicious Amazonian dishes and mixed drinks on their menu.

5. Bars & Cafés in Iquitos

Bars & Cafes in Iquitos

Dawn on the Amazon Café: This popular café offers a relaxed atmosphere and a great selection of food and drinks. Enjoy a cup of coffee or a refreshing smoothie while taking in views of the Amazon River.

La Casa de Fierro Restaurante: While also a restaurant, this historic venue offers a charming bar area where you can enjoy a drink in a unique setting.

6. Where to Buy Souvenirs

Where to buy souvenirs in Iquitos

Mercado de Artesanías de San Juan: This bustling market offers a wide variety of handicrafts, including jewelry, textiles, and carvings. It’s a great place to find unique souvenirs and support local artisans.

Centro Artesanal Turístico Anaconda: Another excellent spot for shopping, this market features a range of traditional Amazonian crafts, from intricate beadwork to handwoven baskets.

7. Must-Visit Neighborhoods

Must-Visit Neighborhoods in Iquitos

Belén: Known as the “Venice of the Amazon,” Belén is a fascinating neighborhood where homes and markets float on the water. Visit during the rainy season for a unique canoe tour through the floating village.

Centro de Iquitos: The heart of the city, Centro de Iquitos is home to historic buildings, lively plazas, and a variety of shops and restaurants. Stroll through the streets to experience the vibrant atmosphere and rich history of Iquitos.

8. Festivals and Celebrations

Festivals and Celebrations

Fiesta de San Juan: Held in June, this festival celebrates Saint John the Baptist with music, dance, and traditional foods. It’s a lively and colorful event that showcases the cultural richness of the Amazon region.

Carnaval Amazónico: Celebrated in February or March, this carnival features parades, music, and dance. It’s a time of joyous celebration, with elaborate costumes and vibrant street parties.

9. How to Get to Iquitos

How to Get to Iquitos

As Iquitos is only accessible by boat or plane, most visitors arrive by air. The Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport (IQT) has regular flights from Lima. From the airport, it’s a short taxi ride to the city center. For those arriving by boat, there are river routes connecting Iquitos with other Amazonian cities and communities.

Iquitos, a jungle metropolis, offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From exploring the majestic Amazon River to immersing yourself in the vibrant local culture, there is no shortage of adventures to be had. Whether you’re marveling at exotic wildlife, savoring delicious Amazonian cuisine, or engaging with indigenous communities, Iquitos promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Amazon.

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