Iquitos Pictures: A floating village attached to Peru’s gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. Photo by Sascha Grabow.
Why travel Iquitos?
Not looking its best in the Belen neighbourhood after a bit of a flood (which is quite normal).
The Peruvian Amazon jungle, starting from Iquitos city is, in our humble opinion, a better adventure holiday destination than its Brazilian counterpart around Manaus – less spoilt, better value, with basically the same wildlife but more amiable local people (Manaus Brazilians tend towards a dark melancholy, a different species from their coastal cousins who are brightly vivacious).
The tobacco industry hard at work in the town.
Iquitos is not a pretty city, at all, from any perspective. The fifth largest city in Peru, it’s also the biggest city in the world that is accessible only by boat or plane. That’s right, no roads lead to Iquitos.
It’s basic, unattractive and recently has developed an obsession with small motorcycles and tuk-tuks (aka auto-rickshaw/mototaxi/motocarro) that create a piercing background buzz, like loud mosquitoes but without the blood loss.
Iquitos is a necessary evil, a transit point from Lima – and indeed anywhere in Peru – to the Amazon Rainforest, so grin, bear it and head upriver as a soon as possible.
More Iquitos sights
The town has been expanding rapidly as demand for Amazon Rainforest trips grows so does the high tension spaghetti. Prospero Road photo by Allen Sheffield.
The number of shrill, whining motorcycles and auto rickshaws causing noise pollution that is 40% above WHO recommended limits. Avenida Quinonez traffic photo by Percy Meza.
Lima-Iquitos: 1 hour 15 minutes by plane, be prepared for chaos at the airport. There is no practical land or river route.
How to explore the Amazon
A typical Amazon public riverboat, and. . .
. . . a small river boat being used to ferry tourists upriver to an Amazon Jungle camp. Photo by Joshjrowe.
Independent travel in the Amazon is possible but complicated and time-consuming and you will eventually have to find accommodation upriver and a guide to lead you around the jungle anyway, so realistically a backpacker could get to Iquitos but would need to find a tour from there. But there are plenty on offer in the city, prices will be good and many levels of huts/guides will be available.
Beware two things: do you need an English-speaking guide? Are you looking for a budget experience? If you go too bottom-end you may find yourself with a completely useless guide who can’t see the camouflaged creatures or locate the bizarre plants, and doesn’t know much about them even if he falls over one. In that case, your long and tiring trip – that you’ll never do again – may be disappointing.
If you have limited time and want a full-on, well-informed jungle vacation it’s best to research and book the trip beforehand. And don’t forget the insuarance!