Iquitos is more than likely the most popular Amazon jungle destination in all of South America. Although the city is not accessible by land doesn’t mean that its connections are sparse. Regular national flights constantly land at the airport in town driving in droves of tourists. The city, for the most part, is driven by that tourism economy. A good percentage of tourists that come to Peru for Machu Picchu extend their stay by taking part in a jungle excursion, and Iquitos is by far the most popular of those destinations.
Personally, I much prefer the smaller, and less touristed, parts of Peru’s jungle system. Both Puerto Maldanado and Manu off similar experiences to that of the Iquitos experience, but with a more authentic feel to it. Still if you are looking for a raw, deep in the Amazon rain forest, experience you wont have to look hard to find it here. Despite the commercial nature of town you are still guaranteed a lot of wildlife sightings and an interesting cultural experience as well.
Things to Do in Iquitos
- Mansions and Museums: Although most don’t spend a lot of time in the city, there are some nice buildings to check out. The Iron House (Casa de Fierro), which was designed by the same man that designed the Eiffel Tower was imported piece by piece to Iquitos from France and delivered by boat. It is a fascinating story and an interesting visit. If you’re interested in the history of the region you can also head to the Biblioteca Amazonica which has a great collection of information.
- Floating Belen: The part of town known as Belen is quite rough. However, it is also a very interesting visit as much for the neighbourhood has been built to float directly on top of the river. It also is host to a very rowdy market.
- Jungle Excursion: You’re likely to be accosted by about a hundred tour guides and travel agents as soon as you touch down in Iquitos. Take your time and choose wisely. There are quite a few scams, so be careful of who you book with. I went with a Lonely Planet recommendation at stayed at the Otorongo Lodge which was beyond what my normal budget would be (I paid about $500 for 5 days).
Where to Stay
Before and after the jungle excursion I stayed in a place called the Hobo Hideout where I paid about $9 for a private room. There were also dorms available for about $6.
For a city that is so remote you wont have a problem finding internet. There are internet cafe’s, phone centers, and wifi available throughout the city. Don’t expect the internet to be lightning fast, but it is not much worse than the rest of the country.
Getting Out of Town
- Flying: You can fly to either Lima or Pucallpa directly. There has also been talk recently about connecting Cusco with Iquitos, however I’m not sure if that has gone through.
- Boat: Although I never took the long boats from Iquitos, I have done Amazon trips in Brazil. The trips are long but they are comfortable if you have a hammock. If you are planning on making a trip to Brazil or Colombia you will likely have to book from Puerto Masusa and trips tend to leave a couple times a week. You can also go by boat to Pucallpa if you’re hoping to make the journey to/from Iquitos overland.