Iquitos, Peru, is the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon and the best tours in the jungle. Yet, while we have heard so much about the Amazon, the gateway city remains a mystery to most. Only accessible by boat or plane and surrounded by the world’s wildest rainforest, Iquitos, Peru, is a far cry from the hip and happening streets of Lima. The city is a magical mix of colonial and Amazonian influence in everything from its architecture to its markets. When exploring the city it’s hard to imagine that with just a short boat ride, it will be erased from the horizon as the Amazon River engulfs it for hundreds of miles.
In this article, we demystify the elusive Amazonian city of Iquitos, Peru, and guide you along the way to discovering it for yourself. Learn more about the city, including what to do there and how to reach it, and find out how to go beyond Iquitos and explore the Amazon jungle on a luxury tour.
Where is Iquitos and Why is the Center of Amazon Tours?
Iquitos is a city on the Amazon River in the Belén district in northeastern Peru — the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. Surrounded by thick, impenetrable jungle on all sides, there are no roads leading in or out of Iquitos making it an isolated city only reachable by boat or plane. Despite its isolation, Iquitos is one of the few gateways into the Amazon jungle throughout South America, and true adventurers looking for authentic Amazon adventures will find their way there nevertheless. After all, the Earth’s most magical natural creations lie just beyond it.
Since Iquitos is positioned on the Amazon River, it has become a center for Amazon Tours in Peru and beyond. Whether taking day trips by boat or a week-long Amazon River cruise, the journey begins in the port of Iquitos. Within moments of setting sail, the city shrinks into the horizon and all that’s left is the vast jungle ahead.
Why Take an Amazon Tour from Iquitos
While there are several entry points into the Amazon, Iquitos is considered one of the best for Amazon tours. Here are some of the advantages to exploring the Amazon from Iquitos:
Easily accessible – Iquitos has its own international airport which means you can get direct and indirect flights there from several locations throughout South America.
Biodiversity – the wildlife surrounding Iquitos and has one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in the Amazon, promising visitors a high chance of seeing the region’s most spectacular animals and an exceptional insight into and experience of life in the jungle.
Ecotourism – considered the lungs of our Earth, it’s very important to protect the Amazon and ensure tourism isn’t causing harm or destruction. Fortunately, tour operators in and around Iquitos are generally very eco-conscious and do what they can to protect and conserve their beloved Amazon.
Safety – Iquitos is a very friendly and safe city that is used to welcoming tourists and provides ample infrastructure to ensure visiting the city is easy and pleasurable.
Top tours – some of the best tours in the Amazon run from Iquitos including luxury multi-day Amazon River Cruises and lodge stays complete with professional local guides that provide unparalleled insight into the jungle’s ecosystem and wildlife.
Interesting city – besides being the gateway to the Amazon, Iquitos is an interesting city to visit that offers a unique insight into the lifestyle, culture, and mindset of a community cut off from the world.
What to see and do in Iquitos
Explore the Belen Market – the Belen Market is a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells that can’t be missed. The open-air market on the Iquitos harbor sells all kinds of wild and weird products from Amazonian medicine like ayahuasca to caimain, frogs, and other local delicacies.
Boat around the floating city – hop on a rowing boat and allow a local guide to give you a tour around one of the world’s most unique communities, the floating city of Belen, to see the school, church, shops, and give you a first-hand look into the residents’ way of life
Visit the Amazon Rescue Center – see how local wildlife including manatees and pink river dolphins is rescued and rehabilitated to be released back into the wild at this hard-working rescue center in Iquitos
Types of Iquitos Peru Amazon Tours
On an Amazon Riverboat Cruise, expect to be whisked away from the Port of Iquitos in sheer luxury for an Amazon experience that doesn’t compromise on comfort. The riverboat, complete with everything from fine dining restaurants to gyms and spas, provides the same level of service as a five-star hotel. Meanwhile, the Amazon outside awaits to show you life on the wild side as you step out of the rooftop jacuzzi and onto the rainforest floor.
Guided by an onboard Amazonian exploration expert, you will get to participate in an exciting range of activities that bring you closer to the jungle each day. Kayaking, piranha fishing, night patrols, and birdwatching are just a few of the daily activities an Amazon Riverboat Cruise will provide. Cruises can last between four and seven days and while four is enough for a satisfying Amazon experience, a seven-day cruise will give you that bit more time to immerse in the jungle and better understand the nature of it. Regardless of how long you spend on the luxury riverboat cruise, your vacation will strike the perfect balance of wild and muddy and relaxed and refined. Discover our top five Amazon River Cruises Peru to find out more.
Amazon Lodge Stay
Although the easiest way to maximize your rainforest exploration is on a riverboat cruise, an Amazon lodge stay gives you a better chance of immersing within it. Nestled into the rainforest beneath the tall canopies, wildlife will envelope your Amazon lodge. From your bed to the dinner table, expect to listen to the lulling sounds of birds singing and monkeys cackling in the background.
Most Amazon lodges have been developed eco-consciously with a zero-carbon footprint to ensure they don’t contribute to harming the environment they allow their guests to enjoy. Therefore, the lodges are minimal in terms of style and amenities whilst maintaining a true sense of relaxation and comfort for their guests. Environmental considerations also extend to the activities and excursions they run with an expert local guide. Jungle walks, monkey spotting, kayaking, and flora identification are just some of the eco-conscious activities you can expect to do.
Day Trips from Iquitos
Even on a flying visit through the Amazon, it’s possible to get a glimpse into the wonders of the jungle. On a day trip, you will board a small authentic wooden riverboat, typical of the Amazon and be guided around the basin as your guide helps you spot birds, monkeys, and more wildlife. Along the way, expect to stop and explore from the jungle floor on walks through the rainforest in search of more animals including snakes and sloths! The day will round off with a local community visit to see what daily life is like in the Peruvian Amazon and its cultural influences.
Exploring Pacaya Samiria National Park
Pacaya Samiria National Park is a protected region of the Peruvian Amazon. As the second-largest reserve in the jungle, it boasts astounding biodiversity. Combined with its remoteness and national park status, it is the Peruvian Amazon’s best destination for experiencing the jungle authentically. It is located around two hours downriver of Iquitos, where tours in and around the park begin.
Whether visiting on a land-based adventure or riverboat cruise, you will get to partake in a range of immersive activities that allow you to see and experience the park’s boundlessness for yourself. With a local naturalist guide by your side throughout, you’ll also get to learn about the Amazon’s plants and animals, the processes of its ecosystem, and its conservation. Learn more about visiting the Pacaya Samiria National Park on your trip to Iquitos and the Amazon here.
How to Get to Iquitos
As a city in the center of the Amazon without road access, Iquitos is sometimes discounted as being out of reach when planning a South America vacation. However, the truth is that Iquitos and the Amazon are surprisingly accessible. Iquitos Airport provides frequent direct flights (2 hrs) from Lima which is well connected to all major airports throughout South America. This makes Iquitos considerably easy to reach whether traveling from Bogota or Buenos Aires.
How to Book Book Amazon Tours From Iquitos Peru
Since the Amazon is so strictly protected, not to mention impossible to navigate, it requires visitors to explore the jungle on a guided tour with a jungle lodge or on a riverboat cruise. Being in such high demand, they require careful advanced planning. As Iquitos and Amazon tour experts, Totally Latin America has the means to secure the most luxurious and enriching tours in the Amazon. Message us here or call on +1 855 217 9045 to enquire further about Iquitos and Amazon tours.