Difference between revisions of "Iquitos"
Revision as of 15:01, 27 January 2012
Iquitos is in the Amazonas region of Peru. This is not to be confused with the Department Amazonas where Chachapoyas is located. Iquitos is the capital of the vast Department of Loreto, which covers most of the northern Amazon region of Peru.
For travelers, Iquitos offers a vast selection of activities not found elsewhere in Peru, such as Amazon boat rides and great wildlife viewing. One way to see Peru is to visit the 3 areas - Costal, Andes, and Amazon -- and Iquitos is the best way to see the Amazon.
Iquitos is hot and humid (90 percent), year round. The population is very diverse: there were many periods of big wealth in Iquitos (mainly two with rubber and oil) that brought people from around the world and made it the most important fluvial port in the Peruvian Amazon. The city still has a lot of houses which were built during that age. 'Iquiteños' (or 'Iquitinos') are usually very friendly and like to party.
As a city not accessible by road, motocycles and motocarros dominate unlike anywhere else. Imagine if an American style biker-gang had taken over a city. This makes the city a bit more manic and loud. Other results include remarkably fluid (if chaotic) traffic, a preponderance of motocycle ads and repair shops, and a sub-industry of people who agree to guard your motorcycle while you shop (even placing cardboard on the seat to keep it cooler during the day).
Geographic and Climatic Data for Iquitos Peru
This data for Iquitos Peru is from the NASA Langley Atmospheric Science Data Research Center.
Latitude: Minus 3.75 degrees south of the equator.
The elevation above sea level is approximately 106 meters or 351 feet.
The Coordinated Universal Time of Peru is UTC-5, the same as Florida and New York, Eastern Standard Time. Remember that Peru doesn't observe daylight savings time, so Iquitos will be the same time as Central Standard Time for about half of the year.
The time difference between the longest day and the shortest day is only 18 minutes.
The temperature measured by ° F averaged from 22 years of data per month:
(Jan. 82.09) (Feb. 81.86) (Mar. 82.60) (Apr. 82.06) (May 82.42) (June 82.20)
(July 82.04) (Aug 83.55) (Sept. 85.78) (Oct. 86.59) (Nov. 84.88) (Dec. 82.87)
The average rainfall at the Iquitos Port is 103 inches per year. March and April have slightly more rain on a 10 year average, and July and August have slightly less than average, but contrary to popular belief there is very little difference in month to month precipitation in Iquitos. The water level of the river fluctuates by as much as 40 feet per year, triggered by rainfall and snow melt on the east slopes of the Andes.
Iquitos is widely considered the largest continental city unreachable by road. That leaves planes and boats as the primary means of entrance and egress for both people and supplies.
Do not expect to see a city with all the trappings of the western world. This city is very basic as it has no road connection with the rest of the world. Vehicles are old and most vehicles on the meager roads are "motor taxis" or three wheeler motorbikes which can carry three at a pinch. The people are friendly once you get past the taxi drivers at the airport
There are numerous flights to Iquitos from the capital Lima. LAN  flies 4 to 5 times per day; Peruvian Airlines  flies twice daily and offers flights without penalties and other facilities. Star Peru may offer slightly lower prices but do a brief 10-minute stopover at Tarapoto or Pucallpa on the way to re-fuel and drop off/pick up passengers. Flights are from $55 USD to $200 USD, depending the season and promotions. Is suggested to check prices in all the airlines in advance to get cheap tickets.
When arriving at the airport, consider stopping at the official iPeru, Tourist Information and Assistance Office of the Peruvian Tourist Board (PromPerú) before exiting the terminal. You can get a free map and brochure (without ads!), a list of tour providers, recommendations about what to see and do and safety recommendations. They may help you in case of problems and complaints in all over Peru.
Iquitos can be reached by boat from any navigable port on the Amazon River. Boat prices will depend on the distance, speed of the boat, number of passengers, and your bargaining skills.
The trip from Francisco de Orellana (Coca), Ecuador to Iquitos takes over 8 days. The first five days are around the Yasuni National Park in the lagoon of Jatuncocha (Ecuador). It then leaves on an adventure from Nuevo Rocafuerte heading towards Iquitos. This expedition goes 1,140 km along the Napo River and the Amazon River. The Napo River is one of the most important tributaries of the mighty Amazon River. The source of the Napo comes from small streams flowing from the Cotopaxi and Antisana volcanoes. Normally, there is only 1 cargo ship every 10 days.
Yurimaguas, Peru to Iquitos
Yurimaguas has daily cargo ship trips to Iquitos that take 2-2.5 days to arrive (except Sundays or on holidays). Getting to Yurimaguas is non trivial, because its airport no longer has flights. Yurimaguas is 3 hour by bus from Tarapoto.
To get Yurimaguas, first you have to get Tarapoto, a large city that has daily flights from Lima on Star Peru (the airline). You can get Tarapoto by bus from Lima (about 20 hours) or Chiclayo in northern Peru (about 18 hours). From Loja, Ecuador, you can take a bus to Pedro Ruiz, a town in Peru, where you can get Chachapoyas or Tarapoto. Tarapoto and Moyobamba are known as "The Orchids Valley".
Pucallpa, Peru to Iquitos
Pucallpa has daily cargo ship trips to Iquitos that take about 4 days to arrive (except Sundays or on holidays). You can get Pucallpa from daily flights from Lima on Star Perú or by bus (20 hours).
Peru/Colombia/Brazil border to Iquitos
It just so happens that if you continue down the Amazon from Iquitos, the point at which the river leaves Peru is at both the Brazilian and Colombian borders.
Tabatinga (Brazil) or Leticia (Colombia) has Monday to Saturday cargo ship trips to Iquitos, that take about 3 days. Therefore, you can choose the speedboats from Tuesday to Sunday, the trip takes 9 - 10 hours (USD 65.00).
The most common way to move around town is by motocarro, a motorcycle with a small, rickshaw-like passenger cabin in the back. Taxis are available too, but the heat and availability of the moto-taxis makes it advisable to take a motocarro. Sometimes the 1.5/2 soles ride is worth the cost just for the breeze. Most places you will want to go within the city cost about 1.5 soles, but places further away (for example, from the airport to Plaza de Armas) usually costs about 3 soles or more. The drivers often make their money by kickbacks from the hotels they take you to.
It's hard to understate how available and prevalent the motocarros are in the city. Near the city center, it's common for 2 or 3 empty motocarros to pass you on the street in any given minute. The driver will make eye contact with you, hoping that you are interested in a ride. Not all motocarros are identical in the quality of their ride; older ones will tend to transfer the vibration of the motorcycle to the passenger cabin, while newer and better maintained ones won't. When taking a motocarro, it can be comfortable on longer rides to hail a newer-looking one.
If you're economically minded, it can be fun to learn about the economics of motocarros. As of May 2010, it is typical for the drivers to rent their taxis for S/.10.00 Soles/hour or S/.25 - 30 Soles/day.
Many motocarristas (those who drive the motocarros) make excellent city guides. Motocarristas are extremely friendly and outgoing, in fact, they are too outgoing and even aggressive in their pursuit to gain a passenger. So tourists can enjoy some peace in Iquitos, do not take a ride from a taxi driver who asks you for a ride when you are sitting and eating.
When you exit the airport you will be approached very aggressively by the taxi drivers (this is a more acceptable place for taxi driver aggression.) The drive from the airport to the city center is quite a distance, relative to the size of the Iquitos area, and prices are fixed at 8 soles, although it may be possible to negotiate as low as 6 soles. Anyone offering a lower price will likely try to take you to a hotel or hostel that pays them; if you already have a hotel in mind, stay firm and they will take you there.
The riverfront is just one block from the Plaza de Armas. In the low water season it will retreat and thus not be terribly visible. The waterfront walk also seems to be the place where local high schoolers go to canoodle, so if you stroll it be prepared to see lots of this. There is a somewhat big crafts market right below the walk, called Anaconda Center.
The Plaza de Armas is a mix of mostly modern and rubber boom styles. Cities like Iquitos turned into one long party during that age, where no expense was spared, nor eccentricity nor luxury lacking. As part of the legacy of this rubber boom age of abundance, Iquitos still bears traces of the extravagant taste of the rubber barons: mosaic tiles in Italian-style palaces, the bustling riverside walkway or the Iron House, a famous residence designed by Gustave Eiffel that was built from metal sheets. It was carried by hundreds of men through the jungle. There are a few street performers, a fountain, some statues, and one Catholic church. It is quite busy on a Saturday evening.
Today, in the city of Iquitos, the modest local homes -not without a certain kitsch charm- exist alongside French mansions, today largely used as public offices. When rubber seeds were smuggled out of the country, the rubber industry moved to Malaysia, signifying the end of the rubber barons. The memory of this past filled with abundance, however, lives on in the eccentric buildings which testify to an exuberant and wild era.
The main reason to visit Iquitos is that it serves as a launch point for trips into the Amazon. Single day or multi-day trips can be booked for around S/.130 Nuevos Soles per person per day (USD45). You are taken out on a boat and can view wildlife such as monkeys, alligators, giant lily-pads, baby caimans (sort of like mini-alligators), anacondas, boas, tarantulas, and more.
Your taxi driver or hotel concierge will be more than happy to contact a tour guide for you, as they get a kickback for the referral. However by using this kickback referral system, you will be guaranteed the highest possible price and lowest possible service. Besides, take note that in Iquitos there are not an official tour guide associations so never pay attention to street guides or freelancer guides; at the best, they are expensive, and at the worst, corrupt and dangerous. It would be best to visit or contact directly a bunch of regular (licensed) tour companies' offices and compare their prices and guides. Usually, their offices are located around the Main Square. Remember, a nice-looking travel agency's office it may be a sign of quality. An unsightly office or an aggressive vendor or guide could not be good or, at worst, scammers. Guides and staff could be friendly but they are sellers expecting your money. Always be aware.
If you need to know regular companies or guides and their record of complaints, feel free to contact iperu, the government tourist information office. Their nationwide service is free and reliable and they may assist you in case you have problems or need to do procedures anywhere over Peru. The Iperu address is 161 Napo street (right off from the Main Square) and they open including on holidays, or contact them by phone (+51 65) 23-6144 or their 24 hours line (+51 1) 574-8000 or they email firstname.lastname@example.org. In iquitos, they work from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm and Sunday from 9am to 1pm. They have an office in the Arrival Lounge of the Iquitos' Airport.
Traveling by yourself
It is possible visit most of the attractions by yourself, except the rainforest and the reserves. iPeru, the official tourist information office, has representatives at the airport and downtown. They are very helpful to any travelers struggling to make sense of their options.
In the case of the indigenous tribes and for visit jungle areas or the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is suggested to hire ONLY a licensed company in their offices, never in the streets. Remember that the closest indigenous tribes live according to modern life customs and only perform a show for tourists, as the Bora tribe in the river Momón (in many cases their show are most expensive than their real value).
Jungle tours and ecolodges
There are many lodges and resorts which are carefully controlled. The facilities are adequate, with some being very well appointed. You can book in the city or pay for a full package in Lima or through a travel agent. If you buy in Iquitos, is suggested contact only companies registered in iPerú, Tourist Information and Assistance (by PromPerú, the Peruvian Tourism Board). Contact the company offices directly (in their offices, by phone or email) and avoid intermediaries, especially taxi and mototaxi drivers, freelance guides and all the insistent people (remember, they are not your friends, actually they are touts working for the most informal companies).
Be aware of "guides" who solicit on the street. They offer their work for a very cheap fee but they do not have any guarantee. They are not official guides in Iquitos. They will show you an ID of the company they "work" for to gain your confidence. Most of them are scammers.
Party and nightlife
If you want to party, there are dance clubs all over the city. All Iquiteños love to party in their own way. That's non-stop partying all year round!. Beer and other cold beverages are cheaper than in Lima (subsidized by the government). Often times clubs will not let men in if they are wearing sandals or unbuttoned shirts.
Renting a vehicle
Renting a motorcycle and driving around the city and out towards the airport is a cheap and an exhilarating way to experience Iquitos and the surrounding area. Only do so if (1) you are an experienced motorcycle driver, and (2) you can handle the manic traffic. A nice drive is to Nauta about 90 km away from Iquitos (pass the airport) on a nice calm road trough the jungle. The police have been known to target foreign-looking drivers, since they can often pay larger bribes. One way the police make extra money is to stand by the side of the road and flag over most everyone who drives by. The ones who do pull over will often pay a small fee for the privilege (perhaps to help the police "fix the crack in their windshield.") If you can tell that no one will come after you if don't pull over, consider pretending not to see them and continuing to drive on.
The floating market, known as Belén, is on the embankment in Iquitos. Over 150 native communities from upriver come down here to sell their produce in the Market. Belen is the hub of every village within miles, chaotic, flavorful, practical and superstitious, thriving on and above a strip of land that is seasonally flooded. For a series of photo-essays on Belen, check out The Belen Street Market, Pasaje Paquito (if you want to buy exotic drinks this is THE place), and Floating in Belen. If you want to buy crafts, you can go to the San Juan crafts market.
Be careful as there are many thieves and pickpockets in this market. Take extreme caution, don't carry valuables in ANY outwardly accessible pockets, and dress down so you are not an obvious target. Consider striking up conversations with police as you walk through, to make yourself even less attractive. (Though many of the police can be corrupt, they also like helping tourists out.)
Travellers shopping for souvenirs in local markets and shops should be aware that many items are manufactured from endangered species, and that buying such items subsidizes the continuing destruction of ecological communities in local habitats. Necklaces made from jaguar and black caiman teeth are often offered for sale, as are bracelets and other ornaments made from spotted cat skins. Other items recently seen in riverside tourist shops include the heads and feet of harpy eagles, the claws of giant anteaters, and jaguar skulls. All items like these are are illegal to own, to export from Peru, and to import into the USA and the European Union. Shop ethically (and stay out of trouble)!
If you are new to Iquitos and the Amazon, you are in for a real treat. The food in Iquitos is excellent. It is an exotic blend of Peruvian, Brazilian, and Colombian food with influences from the Andes and the Pacific Coast. Try the 'juane' and the 'tacacho'. If you want something cold (most likely you will need it because of the heat) there are excellent 'heladerias' (ice cream shops) like Shambo (the main Shambo is in Grau avenue, close to 28 de Julio Square, and the second in the corner of Huallaga St. and Morona St.), Giornata in Plaza de Armas, and La Favorita in Prospero St.
Try tropical fruit juices, like Cocona. Pineapple in the Amazon region is quite different to the one found in the rest of Peru, and makes really good juices. Aguaje and ungurahui are also a good choice: you can try everything in the entrance of the Upper Belen central market. You can try also native alcoholic drinks (some of them reputedly aphrodisiac). Pasaje Paquito is the best place to buy them.
Reasonable places can be found for around 25 USD per night, including air conditioning (important and very welcome in the brutal heat of the tropical environment) and a private bathroom. If you are staying in Iquitos and are not enjoying yourself, consider splurging for a room with A/C, as it can make the difference between a good trip and a great one.
Given the louder-than-average noise of traffic, ask for a room away from the street.
These are accommodations in the city:
Jungle lodges are following:
The main danger in the jungle surrounding Iquitos is the same as any tropical zone: Malaria. There is very little malaria in the city, but it is common outside the city in the jungle. You should get anti-malaria pills from a doctor before your visit. Malarone (if that's what you've been perscribed) should be taken two days before arrival and 7 days after leaving. Bug repellent can be purchased in pharmacies anywhere in Peru and should be applied liberally whenever going out, and especially if taking an Amazon tour.
Yellow fever vaccine is also recommendated.
A next stop places are by the west: Yurimaguas, Tarapoto (offers one of the widest variety of orchids and butterflies in the world), Chachapoyas (pre-incan ruins and mummies, the tallest waterfall in Peru and the third in the world, sarcophagi and more), Chiclayo (pre-incan ruins, pyramids and museums) and Trujillo (offers pre-incan ruins as the second largest adobe city in the world, join with beautiful beaches as Huanchaco and Chicama, where is located the longest left wave in the world. Ideal places to surf). It is a beautiful route, you will go through the Amazon jungle, the Andes and the Pacific coast plenty with beautiful landscapes and activities. The route from Iquitos to Chiclayo owns 60% of bird species in Peru (more than 1200 species). Peru is the second richest country in birds, with only 20 species fewer than Colombia.
From Chiclayo or Trujillo you may take route to the beautiful beaches on the north Peru (Mancora, Pocitas and others located in Piura and Tumbes) or visit the mangrove swamp in Tumbes before to get Ecuador or take route to the south and visit Huaraz (the Cordillera Blanca is here, it is one of the best places in the wolrd to perform a trekking), Lima (offers the best food in the Americas, trips to the islands to see sea wolfs and penguins, museums and pre-incan ruins as Caral, the oldest civilization in the Americas), Ica (the Nazca Lines and Paracas Reserve are here) and the places located in the south of Peru: Arequipa, Ayacucho, Puno (the Titicaca lake) and Cusco.
Other options is travel upstream the Amazon river to the south to get Pucallpa (it takes from 4 to 5 days). From Pucallpa there is a highway to Lima and the Andes. If you want to get Cusco avoiding Lima, you may chose the route Pucallpa-Tingo Maria-Huanuco-Huancayo-Ayacucho-Abancay-Cusco.
If you travel downstream the Amazon river to the East to get Colombia and Brazil. In this route you may stop in Pevas (there is a remarkable Art Gallery here), San Pablo (this is the place where the famous "Che" Guevara stayed as a volunteer) and Caballococha (a town sorrounded by beautiful lagoons plenty of pink and grey river dolphins).
Finally, you may travel upstream the Napo river to get Ecuador by the north of Iquitos, but there are two or three boats by month and takes around 7 days to get the border.
Government tourist and assistance office, iperú
The Peruvian government features a free service that gives official information on the different attractions and assistance in case the service rendered does not comply with the one agreed by you. You may write to iperu email to plan your travel and ask them for the record of the tourism companies that you consider.
iperú service is unbiased and extensive. Jungle tours are available on every street but if you want to go to a reliable operator then use those recommended by the tourist office. The office is not much to give you confidence but once you establish contact you will find the staff helpful and knowledgable.