Things to do in Iquitos, Peru– The Amazon City
Firmly seated in the modern world, but not losing any of its previous charm, Iquitos should not only be considered a jumping off point for an Amazon tour, but a destination in itself. You may be surprised to learn just how much there is to do in and around Iquitos that will make this journey to South America and the Amazon jungle more fascinating and meaningful.
Eco-Tourism in Iquitos
The untouched Amazon rainforest surrounding Iquitos is the main reason why travellers visit, and getting out into this realm will provide you with a glimpse of a world few people are ever fortunate enough to experience at first hand.
1. Amazon River Cruise
Since Iquitos itself is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, it has the highest concentration of Amazon River cruises in the Amazonia region. Experiencing the Amazon rainforest by a river cruise, is no doubt, the best activity to do in Iquitos. The Amazon rainforest in Peru is one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth. An Amazon river cruise tour will take you deep into the jungle, allowing you to discover different ecosystems and wildlife, in tranquil tributaries and idyllic lakes, sleeping in different locations each night, under a different spectacular sunset. Pink river dolphins, macaws, three-toed sloths, caimans and many more Amazonian species frequently make an appearance during an Amazon river cruise.
Rainforest Cruises offers a variety of different Amazon cruise tours. Our goal is always to match our travellers with the Amazon riverboats that best suit their interest and budget. Have a look at our Peru Amazon river tours, here.
2. Day Tours
Day tours are a great introduction to the Peruvian Amazon. Qualified guides will take you and your party along the rivers or into the forest to observe the wildlife and even meet some of the native peoples such as the Bora and Yagua tribes. These ‘day tours’ can be of varying lengths (some will run for 4 days or more) and will offer levels of difficulty, but are the perfect way to absorb the Amazon rainforest first hand.
3. The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
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.
4. Allpahuaco-Mishana National Reserve
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.
5. Manatee Rescue Center
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. Ask us, here, for more information.
6. Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm
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!
7. Quistococha Zoo
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.
Museums and Markets in Iquitos
There is no reason to neglect sightseeing in Iquitos just because of the surrounding Amazon rainforest and river system; there is enough in Iquitos city to keep you interested and involved between trips to the backwaters.
1. The Museum of Indigenous Amazon Cultures
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.
2. The Museum of Historic Boats
The Museum of Historic Boats, pays tribute not only to the city of Iquitos, but also to of 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.
3. Belen Market
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 is nearly as big as he is. An altogether remarkable place, but do keep an eye on your valuables.
4. Iquitos Souvenir Market
The Artisan Market is right in 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.
Festivals, Sightseeing and Restaurants in Iquitos
Most of the festivals that are held in Iquitos during the course of the year are centered around the Catholic religion, and one of the most important is the Festival of San Juan, or St. John the Baptist, celebrated yearly in June. Sightseeing can be experienced anytime of the year just by walking around, mingling with the locals, and trying some traditional Amazonian foods at the restaurants in Iquitos.
1. The San Juan Festival
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. The “Juanes” is a popular Amazonian dish that is eaten during the festival. It’s 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.
2. Frio y Fuego
Frio y 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.
3. La Casa de Fierro
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.
4. The Cathedral
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.
5. The Plaza de Armas
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.
For the dedicated adventure seeker, eco-tourist, and bucket-list enthusiast, there is hardly a better place on earth to enjoy nature than on an Amazon tour. The cornucopia of life, bursting from every aspect, makes the Peruvian rainforest a ‘must-see’ destination. The Amazonian city of Iquitos proves itself to be a wonderful starting (or finishing) point for this grand, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Contact us, to start planning your Amazon vacation.