Iquitos Tours, Travel and Adventures

Tourism in Peru


“Delight yourself and give free rein to your senses in this land of lagoons and dreamy waterfalls.”

Iquitos and Amazon River Travel Guide with details of the main tourist places and directory of Amazon Lodges

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IQUITOS: Travel and Tours in Peru

Places to visit and celebration dates In Iquitos:

• Cathedral. A Neo-Gothic structure that was built from 1911 to 1924, its dome is intensely decorated with images of Christian piety. Its upper altarpiece exhibits the exquisite wooden carved statue of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of the city.

• Historic landmarks. At the end of the 19th century, the Peruvian Amazon experienced the so called Rubber Rush and the barons who made their fortunes from its extraction built a series of architectural gems. Decorated palaces in miniature, showcasing Arab tiles (the Rocha, Morey and Cohen Mansions), Art Noveau homes (the former Hotel Palace) and the famous mansion designed by Gustav Eiffel, that was built out of metal sheets that were transported through the jungle by hundreds of men.

• The Boulevard. Walking down this street in the Belén quarter gives the visitor a lovely view of the Itaya River as well as glimpses of important historical landmarks. The Boulevard boasts wide sidewalks, pleasant little plazas decked out with gardens and a unique fountain that is a monument to biodiversity and Amazon myths and legends.

• Museum of the Amazon. Exhibits a collection of more than 80 life sized fiberglass sculptures that represent the main Amazon ethnic groups. It shares the same premises as the Military Museum.

• Port and Belén quarter. It is called the “floating quarter” since houses are built on topa wood (cork) rafts, and when the river rises, they float. It is a very traditional regional style.

Its market is lively and colorful.

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Excursions from Iquitos

• Lake Quistococha Tourist Complex. Found in a natural rainforest, 912 acre in area, the complex has a zoo featuring representative animals from the area and an artificial lake, where tourists can swim and enjoy the sun, the white sandy beach and the surrounding breathtaking beauty.

• Santo Tomás. A tiny village in an area that is home to a farming community whose residents belong to the Cocama Cocamilla ethnic group. Their main livelihoods are fishing and pottery making.

• Santa Clara (Nanay River). From July to October (dry season), fine sand beaches form on the banks of the Nanay, perfect places to enjoy swimming or fishing.

• Padre Cocha. Local residents belong to the Cocama Cocamilla ethnic group, who make their living as potters.

• Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm. It is a refuge for more than 40 exotic butterfly species situated in a beautiful setting, surrounded by waterfalls and tropical vegetation. It is also a wildlife refuge for endangered species that have either been rescued by or donated to its managers.

• Boras from San Andrés. A community who still preserve their customs and cultural traditions and whose festivals and ceremonies are closely tied to their myths and legends. They paint their bodies before dancing, with the image of the snake being the preferred motive for both men and women.

• Allpahuayo – Mishana National Reserve. It shelters the largest concentration of white sands forests, or varillales, as they are known in the Peruvian Amazon, as well as those flooded by black spread from one end to the other of its 143,321 acre is enormous and one-of-a-kind, highlighted by numerous endemic and restricted distribution plant and animal species, many of which have still not been subject to scientific description. It is very easy to reach on account of its proximity to Iquitos.

• Pacaya – Samiria National Reserve. Because of its size, it is considered the most important protected natural area in Peru. Thousands of fish spawn in its lakes, such as the paiche, the largest Amazon fish. Yet, also found there are the highly sought after pink dolphin, the black caiman, the river otter, the manatee and the side-necked taricaya turtle.

* To enter this reserve you need a permission issued by the National Institute of Natural Resources (INRENA).

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Feast day of Saint John the Baptist. June 24th.

This feast day is a symbolic one through the length and breadth of the Amazon due to its association with water as life’s essential element.

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“Cruise down the Amazon River and lose yourself amidst palm trees and exotic fruits as you marvel at the biodiversity of the surrounding forests.”

Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon but there are no roads that link it with the highlands or the coast.

The only way to reach it is by air or by river, making it, more or less, an island in the midst of a vast ocean of green forests, cut off by meandering gargantuan rivers. It is that exact isolation that contributes to its charm. Go for a stroll down its Boulevard, feel the light, cool breeze on your face and admire the elegant buildings along the Itaya River or the magnificent mansions with Spanish tile roofs on Sargento Lores Street. This is enough for anyone to realize that this city enjoys a fine architectural tradition.

The highways the people use in this area are the surrounding rivers, like the Amazon, the longest and mightiest river by volume on the planet, the only one where you can actually see the curve of the Earth, as if you were on the ocean itself. One can sail to the confluence of its two great tributaries: the Marañón and the Ucayali, also the exact location for the entryway to the Pacaya – Samiria National Reserve, land of lakes and pink dolphins, a paradise for nature lovers.
But if you want to experience virgin wilderness somewhere near Iquitos, then there’s nothing better than jumping into a car and driving down the asphalt road from Iquitos to Nauta. In less than thirty minutes, you will reach the Allpahuayo – Mishana National Reserve, an enchanted forest sitting on top of white sands. This has been the setting for scientific discoveries in the past few years for six new bird species have been recorded here.

The best means for the jungles of Loreto to reveal their secrets is for the traveler to stay at any of the well managed rustic lodges, known for the excellent services they offer. They are found on the banks of hidden rivers or on the shores of secret lakes, where the rainforest will entertain you with its constant chorus of sounds and the psychedelic colors the sky displays.

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Routes & length of stay

City of Iquitos, Belén quarter.

Butterfly farm, community of San Andrés, convergence of the Nanay and Amazon rivers, Lake Quistococha Tourist Complex.
Allpahuayo – Mishana National Reserve, city of Nauta, confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers.
Pacaya – Samiria National Reserve.

Iquitos LOreto Peru

1 Boras de San Andrés
2 Santo Tomás Community
3 Quistococha tourist complex
4 Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm
5 Zungaracocha lagoon
6 Grau lookout
7 Padre Cocha
8 Quistococha
9 Amazon River
10 Itaya River
11 Marañón River
12 Nanay River
13 Putumayo River
14 Ucayali River
15 Yavarí River

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Accommodation and tourist services

Iquitos offers a range of accommodation possibilities: 5 star and homelike 3 star hotels in the city itself as well as tourist lodges with all the comforts spread throughout the city’s outskirts. In the city of Nauta, you will find basic accommodations and pensions.

There is ground and river transportation, guided tours, full service expeditions to the jungle, cruises down the Amazon and its tributaries and visits to native communities. Also in the area are travel agencies, basic services, camp grounds and tourist information and assistance offices.

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Recommended for visit in Iquitos

Nature lovers, who can traverse the Amazon rainforest and find trees as tall as 196.85 feet or small, beautiful orchids.
It is also easy to see monkeys, tarantulas and toucans. Intrepid adventurers, who can float down the Amazon River and discover its many tributaries. There, you can see pink and gray dolphins and go visit the village of Grau and its lookout. Treks and hikes through the deep jungle, even at night, are organized, but you have to keep in mind that it takes patience and a little bit of luck to catch sight of some exotic mammals.

Plant watchers, who will have no complaints after seeing the splendid Victoria regia, a lovely floating aquatic lilly with one-meter diameter circular leaves.

Bird watchers, who will enjoy their trip to Lake Zungaracocha (12.43 miles from Iquitos), Quistococha, and the Allpahuayo – Mishana National Reserve. There are birds that can only be found on the many islands formed by the Amazon River.

Those interested in mysticism and popular traditions, who can visit the Bora community of San Andrés or simply talk with one of the natives (who many times are specialized tour guides) to learn more about the magical world of the Peruvian jungle.

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What to buy?

You can find a great variety of handicrafts in the area, such as pottery pieces featuring geometric designs, hand painted fabrics and many other objects, both decorative and utilitarian, made from materials found in the region.

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What to eat?

Iquitos has a host of restaurants to satisfy the most refined of palates, where chefs take advantage of regional resources, such as the palm heart, an essential ingredient in salads, yet also prepare international foods. The paiche, an extraordinary Amazon fish, is a main ingredient for dishes in which its delicious meat is marinated in tropical fruit juices before being accompanied by different sauces.

The most popular restaurants offer creative regional dishes, like the famous chicken juanes (a type of rice tamale wrapped in banana leaves), the tasty tacacho (roasted bananas with deep fried pork) or the delectable soup, worthy of the best restaurants, called inchicapi.

The meat of game animals is also a succulent choice, the best being paca, deer and caiman (farm raised, not the ones living in the wild). Of honorable mention are stimulating traditional drinks like huitochado and chuchuhuasi, which are reported aphrodisiacs.

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we recommend you to take the precautions

While walking through the jungle, we recommend you to take the precautions common to all tropical areas, such as wearing light clothing, preferable long sleeve shirts and shorts, a hat and waterproof boots, preferably rubber up to the knees, which keep mosquito bites on your legs to a minimum and your feet dry on muddy paths. Also bring a waterproof coat or poncho in case of rain and bug repellent.

Likewise, the rule is never to leave the well beaten path or track. First try to refrain from touching the wildlife. Hikes should be led by a guide who fully knows the areas and you should follow his/her instructions carefully.

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Iquitos Geography

Loreto’s large territory comprises parts of the High and Low Jungle, and all of its surface is covered with thick vegetation.

This territory has wide river flood plains, which are covered with rainwater and usually are swamped in summer. In these flood areas there are elevated sectors called restingas, which always remain above water, even in times of the greatest swellings. There are numerous lagoons known as cochas and tipishcas, surrounded by marshy areas with abundant grass vegetation.

Numerous rivers cross Loreto’s territory, all of which are part of the Amazonian Hydrographical System. Most of them are navigable. The main river crossing the region is the Amazon, one of the world’s most important rivers. Its numerous curves are always changing and sometimes make for a difficult journey. The width between banks of the Amazon sometimes measures a staggering 4 km. The Yavari River runs from Peru to Brazil, the Putumayo River serves as part of the border with Colombia, and the Ucayali and Marañón rivers penetrate Loreto after going through the Pongo de Manseriche.

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Iquitos Climate

The weather is warm and humid with an average temperature of 17 °C (63 °F) to 20 °C (68 °F) during the months of June and July, and up to a high of 36 °C (97 °F) from December through March.

The average humidity level is 84%, with strong rain all year round.

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Iquitos History

The first settlers in the region expanded through the various eastern slopes of the Andes. Many of these ethnic groups settled in the Purús, Turúa and Yaraví river basins, receiving names different from those of their lineage.

It is hard to determine the number of indigenous peoples in the region when the first European explorers and missionaries arrived. Numbers given by chroniclers indicate that within the first century of contact, 100,000 natives were baptized. Presumably, when the Spanish arrived, the total population was almost 300,000. Later on, however, the natives were afflicted with diseases due to contact with the Spaniards. Examples of these diseases are smallpox, diphtheria, malaria, yellow fever, and whooping cough.

On February 12, 1542, and after a search of several months, Spanish conqueror Francisco de Orellana discovered the Amazon river, an adventure that began in the Sierra.

Even though colonization had started several decades before, the city of Iquitos was founded in the 1750s. It is located between the Nanay River and the left bank of the Amazon river, which makes it an ideal starting point when traveling to surrounding regions.

During Colonial times, the Jesuits and Franciscans evangelized and founded different towns. During these years, they contributed by opening travel routes and cutting down distances between indigenous groups and colonial villages.

When the missions fell, a long period of relative national neglect followed, encompassing most of the 19th century. Nonetheless, this was the time when the foundations of the future political organization were laid. Also, this was the beginning of navigation via steamboats, the rubber heyday, and foreign immigration.

The Golden Age of Iquitos started at the end of the 19th century with the rubber boom. Since the region was very rich in rubber and it became so expensive, it turned into the center of attention and ambitions in the world. This period lasted 25 years and left behind gigantic development once the rubber boom had passed.

Currently, Loreto is home to many Amazonian indigenous peoples such as the Amhuacas and the Urarina.

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