Iquitos Pictures,  Amazon, Peru

A floating village attached to Iquitos in the Amazon region, Peru

Iquitos Pictures: A floating village attached to Peru’s gateway to the Amazon Rainforest. Photo by Sascha Grabow.

Why travel Iquitos?

Belen, a banana-filled, bedraggled Iquitos street, Peru

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 primitive tobacco industry in Iquitos, Peru

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

Prospero road auto rickshaws and cables, Iquitos, Peru

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.

Avenida Quinonez motorcycles and autorickshaws, Iquitos, Peru

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 traditional upper Amazon River ferry boat, Brazil

A typical Amazon public riverboat, and. . .

Low-end travellers head up the Amazon River to a Rainforest camp at sunset, Peru

. . . 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!

Seasons

Heavy rain in Plaza de Armas, Iquitos, Peru

And then the rains fall and the water rises. Photo by profe miguel.

The very best time to go to Iquitos and on to the Amazon Rainforest is June to September (or November at a push) when rainfall is relatively modest, the number of sunshine hours at its highest and average high temperatures more-or-less the same as year-round, somewhere between 30C/86F – 32C/90F with lows aound 20C/68F. It may be best to avoid June so floods have time to dissipate before you start your jungle walks.

Belen walkways in flood season, Iquitos, Peru

. . . and highways become a lot narrower  and transport systems revert to the quietly primitive. Photo by Percy Meza.

a typical Amazon short-trip passenger boats, Peru

So that’s about it for Iquitos sights. It’s a dilapidate base for Amazon exploration, expect no more and you won’t be disappointed!  It’s time to get on a boat, any boat with a motor and head for your Amazon rainforest lodge.

These typical river boats are frequently used by modest-budget tour companies, but unless you have buttocks of steel you’d better hope your boat has cushions because most trips from Iquitos to a jungle camp will take a few hours.