Iquitos is in the Loreto region of Peru. Iquitos is the capital of the vast Department of Loreto, which covers most of the northern Amazon region of Peru. It's the worlds largest city that cannot be reached by road.
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.
In recent years, Iquitos has attracted a large number of travelers from across the globe who are interested in the ancient shamanic ways of plant healing. The most popular shamanic medicine is Ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic brew that is gaining increasing popularity worldwide. Iquitos is arguably the "Capital of Ayahuasca" with a fast growing number of Ayahuasca retreats surrounding the city area.
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).
Travelers should be aware that Iquitos is located in the region of Loreto, one of the poorest regions in Peru. Though there are remnants of houses from glory days past, it is easy to observe the poverty and struggles of many Iquiteños in every day life. Unfortunately, the government's solution has been to give the people economic incentives to use the rainforest for income without ecological supervision or constraint. The region has long suffered a deeply entrenched illegal logging and wood laundering system which supplies raw material for several international corporations, including the most popular international manufacturer of compressed wood furniture.
Visitors to Iquitos should choose their activities, shopping and jungle trips carefully to avoid contributing to further destruction of this fragile region. Popular activities include handling and taking photos with jungle animals, visiting establishments that display animals in enclosures, buying souvenirs made from animal parts, and sampling exotic jungle meats. All of these activities encourage and perpetuate the local practice of illegally capturing and hunting animals to meet tourist demand. Once home, travelers can continue to help this region by avoiding compressed wood products sourced from Peru and demanding that manufacturers provide indisputable proof of the ecological soundness of their products.
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.
The Peruvian government features a free service to travelers that gives information on different attractions and assistance. Listings are broad but not comprehensive, as businesses have to pay to be listed. 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.
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 does a stopover at Tarapoto or Pucallpa on the way to re-fuel and drop off/pick up passengers. Be aware that the stopover in Tarapoto often causes delays up to several hours. Avianca has also started service to Iquitos. Flights are from $55 USD to $200 USD, depending the season and promotions.
It is suggested to check prices in all the airlines in advance to get cheap tickets. Prices on the domestic airlines are often cheaper when buying from within Peru (or when using a VPN).
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. Please note their listings are broad but not comprehensive, as businesses have to pay to be listed.
Upon exiting the airport, there will be several mototaxis and a few cars waiting to win your fare to town. Average rate for mototaxi into the center of town is s/. 10 and for a car is s/. 20. Note that many mototaxi drivers may try to bring you somewhere other than where you requested to go because they earn commission. Communicate with your lodging before you arrive to get an idea of how long the ride should take or to arrange a private airport pick-up.
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 in one of the three slow cargo boats that ply the route. 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. 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, but they leave on irregular schedules when full of cargo.
There is also an option of taking (daily) faster boats from Coca to Nuevo Rocafuerte ($15, 10hours) then after stamping out of Ecuador crossing the border to Pantoja (no scheduled service, you need to bargain). There are 2 rapido (fast boats) per week between Pantoja and Mazán, a small village before a big bend in the river about 45minutes by mototaxi and speedboat from Iquitos. These rapidos take 2days from Pantoja to Mazán, with an overnight stop in Santo Clotilde halfways. The boats arrive into Mazán's Napo port - a 5-10minute mototaxi (S/. 5) from Mazán's Amazon port which is a 40minute speedboat (S/. 15) or 2.5hour slow boat (S/. 7) from Iquitos. Fluvial Vichu, (+51) 965-800-468 (Mazán office) leave Pantoja on Mondays, while Transportes Rapido Llorlli (+51 947 527 193 / 968 299 850 / [email protected] ) leaves at 10am Tuesdays. Both cost S/. 200.
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 2 soles ride is worth the cost just for the breeze. Most places you will want to go within the city cost about 2 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. Current price is 10 soles, although it may be possible to negotiate if you have the energy. 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.
Jungle trips are the main reason to visit Iquitos as 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.
Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic brew made from local plants. Shamans have been using Ayahuasca for thousands of years as part of their plant healing methods. Ayahuasca is considered a traditional medicine and is legal in Peru. It has recently been gaining popularity across the globe and is attracting growing numbers of people to Iquitos, which is considered to be the "Capital of Ayahuasca". Many Ayahuasca users have reported life-changing experiences after taking the medicine. Most providers of jungle trips in Iquitos will offer Ayahuasca ceremonies in their jungle lodges for an additional charge of $50 to $100 per person. Local shamans will run those nightly ceremonies which typically start around 8pm and end around 12pm. The quality and effects of a ceremony depend on the experience of the shaman, the quality of the Ayahuasca beverage and the "set and setting" of the Ayahuasca user himself. Shamans recommend to follow the so-called Ayahuasca diet (no salt, no sugar, no oil, no alcohol, no sex) before indulging in an Ayahuasca experience. More sophisticated Ayahuasca centers offer all-inclusive, full-service Ayahuasca ceremonies in their jungle retreats. People usually stay in an Ayahuasca retreat for 7 days or more at weekly rates starting at $750 with the option of attending multiple Ayahuasca ceremonies. The number of people in one ceremony vary by retreat and range from 5 to 25 people. If you are really interested in exploring Ayahuasca, you should book a 7 or 10 day stay in a specialized Ayahuasca retreat. As with any psychedelic, inform yourself about Ayahuasca and its risks before you drink.
Iperu, the government tourist information office, offers free nationwide service for travelers, but beware that their listings are not comprehensive as businesses have to pay to be listed. 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 [email protected] 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 to visit most of the attractions by yourself, except the rainforest and the reserves.
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 Eco-Lodges
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, through a travel agent, or online directly with the company. Many legitimate companies are registered in iPerú, Tourist Information and Assistance (by PromPerú, the Peruvian Tourism Board), but be aware that businesses must pay to be listed in iPeru, thus listings are not comprehensive. Always contact the company offices directly (in their official offices, by phone or email) and avoid intermediaries, especially taxi and mototaxi drivers, freelance guides and all the insistent people you may encounter in the street (remember, they are not your friends, actually they are touts working for the most informal companies).
Be aware of freelance "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, do not trust them for your own safety and well-being!
A common scam is to show you on Tripadvisor that they have many excellent references. Actually they show you the Tripadvisor profile of an official and recognized company, and some even use the exact name of established companies in their scam to gain your trust. Even if the name they use is exactly the same as a company you are considering, ask to speak directly to the owner and ask to be taken to the official office listed on the company website to book. Scammers in Iquitos are aggressive and persistent, so either book ahead and avoid the street scams or be aware of the situation when you're shopping around in Iquitos.
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. The area is often patrolled by police, but be aware that many are corrupt. Police may even offer to "escort" you through more dangerous and illegal sections of the market where rare and endangered species are traded. The police are the ones who should be shutting those sections down, but many have discovered how to profit from them instead--if they don't ask you for a tip or charge a fee for their services, they receive a kickback from the illegal animal vendors. To stay safe and prevent further crimes against nature, do not accept these kinds of deals with the police or any other guide.
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 Australia, 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 ice cream made of local fruits as aguaje or camu camu.
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.
Options range from backpacker hostels (from 4 USD) to more upscale hotels, but do not expect the same standards of luxury from Iquitos as elsewhere in the world or even in Peru. Reasonable private rooms can be found for as little as 25 USD per night, sometimes including air conditioning 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.
Be advised that many accommodations in Iquitos are not officially registered with the city and operate illegally. They avoid paying taxes this way and usually take less care in maintaining health and safety standards. Ask to see the business' registration and license if you find yourself in a less than satisfactory situation.
Given the louder-than-average noise of traffic, ask for a room away from the street or choose a place further away from the main plaza.
Jungle lodges include the 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. Visit your doctor before you go to Peru and get the required anti-malarial prescriptions. If you choose to, you can get anti-malaria herbal pills in the shaman market section of the Belen market. Note that its efficacy is questionable. DEET based bug and mosquito repellents 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 recommended, though not required.
In Iquitos it is difficult to get care by an international insurance doctor. Be cautious and coordinate with your insurance beforehand the possible care with travelers’ clinics.
Nauta is the only other town reachable by land from Iquitos. Buses cost S/. 10-15 and take under 2hours.
Tarapoto offers one of the widest varieties of orchids and butterflies in the world, as well as waterfalls, whitewater rafting and more. To get to Tarapoto you need to fly (1hour, about US$90), take a rapido from Nauta to Yurimaguas (about 16hours, S/. 130) every night at 9 pm, or a slow cargo boat (about 3days, S/. 80-100). From Yurimaguas it is a 2.5-3hour (S/. 10) combi to Tarapoto. Further west from Tarapoto are 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 (more pre-Incan ruins - the second largest adobe city in the world, and beautiful beaches such as Huanchaco and Chicama, said to be the site of the longest left hand surf break in the world). 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 contains 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.
Pucallpa is upstream on the Amazon river to the south (the journey on slow lanchas takes between 4 and 5 days). From Pucallpa there is a highway to Lima and the Andes. If you want to get to Cusco avoiding Lima, you may chose the route Pucallpa-Tingo Maria-Huanuco-Huancayo-Ayacucho-Abancay-Cusco.
Leticia is downstream on the Amazon river to the east near the tri-border between Peru, Colombia and Brazil. On 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 surrounded by beautiful lagoons and plenty of pink and grey river dolphins). Rapido boats leave Tuesday-Sunday at 6am for S/. 200 (about 9hours), while slower lanchas leave Monday-Saturday (S/. 100).
Coca, Ecuador - finally, you may travel upstream on the Napo River to get to the city of Coca in Ecuador, to the north of Iquitos. However, there are just two or three direct lanchas per month leaving on a very irregular schedule and the journey takes at least 7 days to get to the border as it is upstream, against the current. As of February 2016 there is a new option to take a rapido (speedboat) to the Peruvian village of Pantoja, from where you can catch another boat to Nueva Rocafuerte and the daily 5am speedboat to Coca. The boats leave Mazán's Napo port - a 45minute speedboat and 5minute mototaxi from Iquitos - on Fridays and Saturdays and cost S/. 200 for the 2day trip. They depart at 9am and arrive around 5pm into Santo Clotilde, a village halfway where everyone disembarks and sleeps for the night - on the Llorlli you can sleep for free in a hammock or on the padded boat seats - a mosquito net (mosquidero) is a good idea. The captain of the "Llorlli" Jeorge Perez Tamani will also invite you to sleep in his house in Santa Clotilde for free. The following morning the boat departs again at 5-6am, arriving in Pantoja at about 6-7pm. Here you get your immigration stamps before catching the next boat over the border. Jeorge of the Llorlli will offer to take passengers across the border if there is enough demand. For more information see iPeru in Iquitos or call the companies directly - Fluvial Vichu, 965-800-468 and Transporte Rapido Llorlli (+51 947 527 193 / 968 299 850 / [email protected] ).