If you’ve come to Peru to discover the Amazon rainforest, chances are your starting point is the city of Iquitos, the gateway to the Peruvian Amazon. Iquitos is a local town founded over 150 years ago. Thanks to European investment, immigration of the Rubber Boom and later advances in tourism, it has experienced huge growth in size and population and is now the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon with approximately 500,000 inhabitants.
Ready to discover the gateway to the Amazon? Here are 6 experiences you won’t want to miss:
1. Visit the Amazon Animal Orphanage and Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm
Learn everything there is to know about the life cycle of butterflies and their impact on the environment. But be careful of those cheeky red uakari monkeys – they’ll take anything they can get their hands on! You’re best off bribing them to leave you alone with a bunch of bananas. To get there, take a motorcycle taxi to the Bellavista-Nanay Port. From there, take a 15-minute water taxi ride to the town of Padre Cocha. Then it’s just a short walk to the entrance of Pilpintuwasi.
2. Visit the nearby Bora and Yagua indigenous communities
A popular day trip is to the nearby Bora or Yagua indigenous communities, who live close to the Momon River and the town of San Andrés. Enjoy a tribal song and dance and don’t be surprised if they ask you to participate. Take advantage of the opportunity to buy some artisan goods. They often use these funds to purchase much needed medical supplies for the community. To get there, take a motorcycle taxi to the Bellavista-Nanay Port and, from there, rent an aluminum speed boat for an hour or two. The trip to San Andrés takes about 20 minutes.
3. Enjoy a ride on a peke-peke to the floating village of Belén
The floating village of Belén is a true wonder: a community of wooden family homes tethered to large posts from which they float on the rising and falling water. Incredibly, some of them float year round. Riding through the flooded streets during high tide is easy. Just rent a palm-roofed boat known as a “peke-peke”. You’ll find them available to rent for 30 soles per hour below the Boulevard.
4. The market of Belén, a kitchen pantry in the Amazon rainforest
Everything you can imagine, and probably more, is sold at the Belén Market. Here you can buy typical rainforest fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and poultry, as well as unusual items such as coca leaves, mapacho tobacco, turtle eggs, snails and even cow udders. Don’t miss Pasaje Paquito, or “Medicine Lane”, a section packed full of stands selling natural herbal medicines from the region that, according to the vendors, can cure almost anything, from diabetes and cancer to arthritis and baldness. The best time to visit is first thing in the morning.
5. Brush up on your Amazonian cultural history
The new and magnificent exhibition of the Amazonian Indigenous Cultures Museum of Iquitos celebrates the indigenous cultures of the entire Amazon Basin, not just Peru. The many ethnographic samples on display, taken from the extensive collection of the renowned biologist, Dr. Richard Bodmer, include feather headdresses, ceremonial objects, musical instruments and hunting tools, all of which offer a great perspective of how indigenous Amazonian peoples interacted with nature and the rainforest they call home. The museum is located on Malecón Tarapaca 332 and is open every day from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m
6. Take an evening stroll down the Malecón
Known as the Boulevard, the malecón of Iquitos is a pedestrian walkway overlooking the Amazon River. It’s the perfect place to spend your evening hours having a cold beer in one of the many bars and restaurants, listening to music, enjoying delicious regional cuisine or just watching the street artists.
In short, visiting Iquitos means discovering another way of life and the unique history of a region marked by the expansive Amazon rainforest. Discover our pre-boarding tours and get ready to enjoy the full experience on both land and water in the heart of the Amazon.