The untouched Amazon Rainforest surrounding Iquitos is undoubtedly the main reason why travelers visit this jungle city, but Iquitos should not only be considered a jumping-off point for a Peru Amazon tour. A destination in itself, those who spend some time there will be surprised to learn just how much there is to see around Iquitos that will make your visit to the Peruvian Amazon more fascinating and meaningful. Here we take a look at the top Iquitos attractions worthy of a visit.
The “Jungle of Mirrors” is a must-see for anyone visiting the Peruvian Amazon. Most of our Amazon river cruises, venture deep into this reserve. The largest national reserve in South America, Pacaya Samiria contains literally thousands of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants. It is like a botanical garden gone wild. The high water season will open more of the reserve to exploration by boat; be sure to visit the El Dorado cocha (lagoon) where wildlife abounds. The reserve is reached by boat via Nauta.
Although smaller than the Pacaya Samira, the Allpahuaco-Mishana National Reserve also offers a great Amazon cruise to tourists who are looking for a rainforest exploration experience. The best way to travel this reserve is along the Nanay River and into the wild creeks and waterways that abound here. Chances of seeing a pink dolphin here are high, and the treetops resound with the calls of Amazonian birds and monkeys.
Located just outside Iquitos, Peru, is the Amazon Rescue Center, where orphaned and injured animals are cared for, rehabilitated, and released back into the rainforest. The heart of the operation is, undoubtedly, the manatees. Young manatees are rescued from the pet trade and raised by staff. You can see the babies being fed by their human friends. Sloths, anteaters, and monkeys are also cared for at the center. Some of our Amazon cruise itineraries visit the Manatee Rescue Centre on the last day of the river cruise.
Just a short distance from Iquitos, the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm, is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are with your family. The owner, staff, and volunteers at the farm raise Amazonian butterflies for release back into the rainforest. The farm is ablaze with the color of these beautiful insects. In addition, the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm also serves as an animal orphanage, for young amazonian animals whose parents have been killed; often simply to obtain the baby easily to sell to tourists. You will be able to interact and pet many of the amazon animals here, as well as admire the butterflies. One thing to watch out for at the farm is monkey pickpockets!
This tourist complex is just 15 minutes from Iquitos around lake Quistococha. The zoo is home to various Amazonian wildlife: jaguars, pumas, pink dolphins and macaws, just to name a few. There is also an “artificial beach” and a local food restaurant on site.
This Amazonian cultural museum in Iquitos will be appealing to both children and adults. The colorful displays, with descriptions written in English as well as Spanish, show artifacts of the native Amazonian tribal cultures. The thoughtful settings highlight the artistic skills of the people of the area. Headdresses, clothing, weapons, and ceremonial items all demonstrate the love of beauty and talents of the tribal peoples in the Amazon jungle.
The Museum of Historic Boats, pays tribute not only to the city of Iquitos, but also to a boat, the Ayapua, a steamship built in Germany. The Ayapua played a large part in the rubber trade that helped build Iquitos from a Jesuit mission to the community it is today. The boat has been restored lovingly and, in addition to the display rooms, a cinema room is also present in the museum.
The Belen Market is where the ‘real people’ of Iquitos do their shopping. Just a short distance away by water-cab, you will find every imaginable edible here. Fresh fish, fruit right off the tree or vine, vegetables picked that very morning, sausage, ready-to-eat delicacies, and all sorts of spices and native herbal remedies. Don’t be surprised if you see a man carrying a fish to one of the stalls that are nearly as big as he is. An altogether remarkable place, but do keep an eye on your valuables.
The Artisan Market is right in the center of Iquitos, in the San Juan district. This is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs and gifts as the native artists have provided a wealth of beautiful craft and art items. Be prepared to be overawed by the workmanship.
The San Juan Festival in Iquitos, begins on June 23 and the fun runs through June 25. June 24 is considered to be the highlight of the festival, as this is thought to be the birthday of San Juan. St. John is the Patron Saint of the Amazon (because of all the water), and this is reflected in the parades, music, dancing, and fireworks that mark this festival. Juanes are a popular Amazonian dish that is eaten during the festival. They are a pottage made with rice, pieces of meat, eggs, olives and spices all wrapped up in bijou leaves and boiled in clay pots. This is an exciting and lively time in Iquitos and the Amazon jungle.
Al Frío y Al Fuego is a restaurant floating in the Amazon River that offers what is perhaps the best food in Iquitos in a special setting. In addition to delicious food, there is a pool surrounded by cabanas, so you can actually spend an entire day lounging, nibbling, and swimming. Getting a table for your meals on the second floor will give you a wonderful, panoramic view.
This Iron House, in Iquitos, is reputed to have been designed by the architect responsible for the Eiffel tower, Gustave Eiffel. After undergoing restoration, the Iron House now has a restaurant on its second storey. You can walk to La Casa de Fierro while walking around the main boulevard in Iquitos.
You can also find plenty of things to see and experience just by walking around Iquitos. The Cathedral de Iquitos is a peaceful place to view and to visit. No picture taking is allowed inside the cathedral, but there are religious pictures and other art inside.
La Plaza de Iquitos is a small, but lively park located in the heart of the city. Not only will you be able to munch on some of the red popcorn offered for sale here, but you will also be able to mingle with the people who make Iquitos home. This Amazonian city plaza is said to be especially enjoyable during the evening hours.
A block away from Plaza de Armas square, you’ll find Iquitos’ malecón, a riverside promenade on the banks of the Itaya river. Edged by some of the swankiest bars and restaurants in the city, the malecón is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll to take in Iquitos’ spectacular jungle location, sip on delicious Amazonian fruit cocktails and savor some of the region’s tastiest dishes.
With so many attractions, the Amazonian city of Iquitos proves itself to be worthy of travelers’ attention and time, not to mention a wonderful starting (or finishing) point for once-in-a-lifetime Amazon vacations.
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