An Amazon Adventure Guide to Iquitos City, Peru

Ayahuasca brewing
Ayahuasca brewing | © Apollo/Flickr
Brandon Dupre

Iquitos is the world’s largest city that is not connected by road. The only way to get to this sprawling city in the Amazon is by plane, or by taking a three- or four-day riverboat trip. The adventure of getting to Iquitos, and then exploring the ins and outs of the city, is an unforgettable experience. Here is our guide to Iquitos, the unique city nestled within the Peruvian Amazon.

Getting There

The fastest and most luxurious way to get there is by plane, but it will also be the most costly. Because of its remote location, plane flights to Iquitos tend to be expensive. By far the cheapest and most adventurous way to get to Iquitos is to take an Amazon riverboat; the journey will take about four days. The trip isn’t for the faint of heart, but it will provide plenty of unforgettable moments. You’ll sleep on the second level of a boat that is carrying farm animals and other supples just below you on the deck. The bathroom is less than perfect, and you may find you begin to fear those moments each day when you have to muster up the courage to use it. You’ll be stuck mostly in a hammock for the entire trip, because there isn’t much room to walk around, but it’s so worth it. If you don’t mind the uncomfortable lodgings, the trip will provide you with hundreds of unforgettable stories and memories: you’ll be traveling on a boat in the Amazon rainforest!

Belen Market

This market is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. There are odd-looking Amazon fish, edible worms, and potions made by witch doctors. You’ll find really cheap food, and plenty of flies. There’ll be people offering various kinds of drugs – especially ayahuasca – and more than a few spiritual healers offering their services. Remember that not all of them are made equal, and that a lot of them won’t actually be healers, so be wary. Hang out at the market – you can certainly make it an afternoon’s event – and enjoy the scene. There’s nothing quite like it.


This is probably not exactly your ideal fantasy of a beach, but it has sand and it runs up to a little lagoon. You can lay out on a towel in the sun and, for a second, forget that you’re in the jungle, until you open your eyes and see that you’re surrounded by it. It’s only 20 minutes outside of Iquitos and there’s a museum and a zoo where you can see monkeys and various exotic jungle animals. Enjoy the surreal experience of lying out and catching some rays on a stretch of sand in the middle of the jungle. When you get hungry, you can grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant.

Healing Centers

You won’t be able to walk far in Iquitos without being asked if you’d like ayahuasca. There are people all over the city claiming to be curanderos (ayahuasca/plant shamans) and other types of healers. This city has become the tourist hot spot for ayahuasca tourism and, as a result, healing centers have exploded in the city, along with people looking to make money off tourists by offering retreats. Prices vary for the retreats, from $60 to $3,000 depending on the package. Most retreats, if not all, can be booked and paid for online. Do remember to be cautious when accepting people offering you things on the street. Retreats, however, offer visitors well-established curanderos, and you can take a look at reviews from past visitors.

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