The wonderful city of the Peruvian Amazon is located in the Peruvian Jungle and close to the borders of Colombia and Brazil. It is the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon and the fifth largest city of Peru, also known as the “Capital of the Peruvian Amazon”. The city was included in the list of "10 outstanding cities, 2011”.
Iquitos is surrounded by Lake Moronacocha, the Nanay and Itaya rivers and also by the famous Amazon River. It’s made up of four districts: Iquitos, Punchana, Bethlehem and San Juan Bautista. It's an adventure in itself to get there as the ONLY way is by flight and by boat! There are so many great things to do in Iquitos, such as visiting the Quistococha National Park and the amazing Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve.
The historic centre of Iquitos contains several Cultural Patrimonies of the Nation: Iquitos Cathedral, the Iron House, the Old Palace Hotel, the Cohen House, the Morey House and more than 70 other buildings. Other known landmarks are the Plaza de Armas, Jiron Prospero - an avenue with several commercial and historical sites - and of course the lively neighbourhood of Belen, often nicknamed as the "Amazon Venice." The city is also home to the Amazon Library, one of the two most important in Latin America. Below is our Iquitos travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
MEET THE BORA – Bora are indigenous people who live in the deep jungle. You can go to their visitor area by boat, it takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour to get there. You will see them with their traditional clothing, they will show you some of their dances and their handmade work. Their main town is 2 hours from there by foot.
VISIT QUISTOCOCHA NATIONAL PARK – It’s an entertainment complex located in the southern region of Iquitos city, the only tourist park of the Department of Loreto, and is officially considered a "National Tourist Park" within the System of National Tourist Reserves Peru. Here you’ll find a zoo, an aquarium, an artificial beach, a museum, and of course a restaurant and childrens’ park. People like to swim in the lake, as it has an amazing view of the jungle, and you can rent boats here too.
VISIT THE AMAZONIAN RESCUE CENTRE – This is a centre where they take care of local animals, like the manatees which were taken from illegal sellers who wanted to sell them in the black market. They were found in terrible conditions and malnourished, but in this centre, they care for the animals until they are ready to be released into the wild. You can even feed and stroke the manatees.
EXPLORE THE FLOATING BELEN NEIGHBOURHOOD – The shantytown – dating back to the early 20th century - is one of the tourist spots and major commercial forces in Iquitos. The name comes from its conventional architecture, mainly composed of floating houses, built on balsa wood rafts, and recently more constructions have been made using wooden blocks. Some buildings have two stories, and during flood season only the upper level is used. The locals use small wooden boats to travel around on the Itaya River. Visit this floating village and see the market, but it’s best visited with a guide, and you should watch your belongings carefully.
DISCOVER PACAYA SAMIRIA – This protected area is the largest of the Peru National Reserve, the second protected area in the country and the fourth protected area in all of South America. It’s also the largest protected area of the flooded Amazon (known as a floodplain ecosystem) in South America. Here you will see a big variety of flora and many animals in their natural environment. You can do a tour of the Amazon River, go dolphin and caiman watching, and even visit a native tribe!
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Visit Quistococha National Park.
Explore Pacaya Samiria Natural Reserve.
Sample the local food and trying exotic local drinks.
The gastronomy of Iquitos has a big variety of food with the influence of other countries. The food has a unique flavour, the most popular dishes are Juane, Tacacho with Cecina, grilled Paiche (local fish), Majas (native pork) and Chonta salad. There is a wide range of exotic fruit, such as aguaje, zapote, tumbo, and also camu camu - which has the highest rate of vitamin C in the world. A great place to go to eat local food is Blanquita Restaurant (Francisco Bolognesi 1181). For fresh local fish like Gamitama, Sabalo, Paiche and Palometa, visit Nanay pier.
Locals love to party. The most popular clubs are Noa Discotheque (Jiron Fitzcarrald 298) and Saquara Discotheque (Napo 338). There are also some bars around the boulevard where you can go for some drinks while you’re enjoying the beautiful view of the Amazon River before going to a club. The Musmuqui (Antonio Raimondi 382) is a traditional bar where you can try drinks with exotic liquors.
It’s very hot all year with a high level of humidity. The temperature ranges between 24 degrees Celsius at night and 34 degrees Celsius during the day. The rainy season is between December and March, when the rain is very strong with lots of thunder. Sometimes it is not even possible to walk around the streets, and it’s dangerous to take a boat ride. However, February is Carnival season and you will see all the locals celebrating and playing in the streets with water, paint and flour.
The only ways in and out of Iquitos are by plane and by boat.
If you are coming from Peru by plane, you have to take a flight from Lima, it’s 1.5 hours. Before you land in the city you can get an amazing sneak peek of the Amazon River.
If you are coming from Peru by boat, the boat departs from Pucallpa, and it takes 4 days to arrive to Iquitos. It’s not the most comfortable way to travel but you will have beautiful views of the jungle during this trip.
If you are coming from Colombia, the closest city to Peru is Leticia. To get to Iquitos you can go...
By plane: it’s a 1 hour flight in a small plane.
By speedboat: it takes around 10 hours in a small boat.
By sailing boat: it takes 3 days to arrive to Iquitos.
Most guesthouses/hostels are located in the centre of the city, around the Plaza de Armas. It’s not difficult or expensive to get around: a mototaxi (tuk tuk) normally costs less than $1 a ride. Try Emperador Terraza (Fitzcarrald 191), a nice property located right next to the main square or Flying Dog (Malecon Tarapaca 592), located next to the river and also close to the square. It's good-value, clean, and comfortable. Here the staff can help you organize your jungle tour.
Wifi connection is poor around the city.
Try not to be alone, especially if you go out at night.
Be careful at carnival, locals can be aggressive and sometimes they use dirty water.
Never drink tap water.
Use plenty of sunblock and insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.
If you visit the market in Belen, be very careful and watch out for pickpockets.