As Peru’s premier jungle destination and the gateway to the great Amazon rainforest, there are a plethora of exciting activities to keep an adventurous traveler busy in Iquitos. Whether it be marveling at a floating settlement or delving deep into the Amazon, here are the top 10 things to see and do in the city.
Have lunch in an iron house
Built towards the end of the 19th century, this historically significant iron residence is a living testament to the wealth amassed during the region’s rubber boom. Said to be the first pre-fabricated house in the Americas, the building was designed in Europe (some believe by Gustav Eiffel), shipped to Peru, and carried through the jungle by hand, piece by piece. Upstairs has a decent restaurant.
See some colorful butterflies
Butterfly enthusiasts rejoice, Iquitos has one of the best butterfly farms on the continent. Countless colorful species call this refuge home, made all the better by an informative guide who passionately explains their life cycles and breeding habits. A number of other exotic animals such as a jaguar, manatee, caiman and monkey are also on display.
Make friends with a Manatee
Those more interested in aquatic wildlife should head straight to the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center to get to know these graceful endangered species up close and personal. Visitors are encouraged to bottle feed younger manatees who stay in the reserve until they are two years old and are ready to be released into the wild.
Manatee Rescue Center, Iquitos, Peru +51 965 834 685
Take a boat to Monkey Island
Iquitos has its own real life monkey island and its every bit as exciting as it sounds. As one would expect, the place is absolutely packed full of monkeys, with nine different species roaming freely throughout the 200 hectare plot. Entry is by donation only, although the cheeky locals expect an additional gift so be sure to bring bananas from Iquitos.
La Isla de Los Monos, Iquitos, Peru +51 65 235887
Meet some indigenous locals
Ethno-tourists will relish in the chance to visit the indigenous settlement of Yaguas, a short boat ride from town. Traditionally dressed villagers treat tourists to a vibrant song and dance routine and offer a crash course in the finer points of blow dart hunting. Consider purchasing some locally made handicrafts, the perfect Amazon souvenir of which the profits go straight back into the community.
Cruise around Belen
Just south of Iquitos lies the region’s most remarkable settlement, a floating village seemingly untouched by the passage of time. Boat tours take travelers right through the town, passing family homes and public buildings like schools and restaurants. Many opt to visit the Belen market, particularly Pasaje Paquito where all kinds of traditional Amazon medicines are on sale to cure anything from baldness to a broken heart.
Enter a different dimension on an Ayahuasca retreat
An indigenous medicine that has been used in the region for centuries, Ayahuasca has become popular in recent years with westerners seeking spiritual guidance. This potent brew is made from a combination of local roots and sends visitors on a profound psychedelic trip, something definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Wander down the boulevard
Due to Iquitos’ notoriously hot days, the city’s main boulevard doesn’t really fill up until it 7 pm or so. With views of the mighty Amazon below, this vibrant thoroughfare is the perfect spot for a sunset drink combined and a spot of people watching.
Check in to a jungle lodge
The best way to truly experience the Amazon is to head well away from the city and immerse yourself deep within this thriving eco-system. There are an overwhelming number of eco-lodges scattered throughout the region, so choosing just one can be a challenge. We recommend a three-day package with Sinchicuy Lodge which works out to be excellent value for money.
Embark on a luxury river cruise
Travelers with a bit of cash to splash should opt for a river cruise, which is by far the most sophisticated way to enjoy the sights of the might Amazon river. Kick back in comfort with unparalleled on board amenities, only leaving such luxury to explore smaller rivers and tributaries on a dugout canoe.