Iquitos can be reached by boat from any navigable port on the Amazon River.
The most common way to move around town is by motocarro, a motorcycle with a small passenger cabin in the back. Taxis are available too, but the heat makes it advisable to take a motocarro. Most places you will want to go within the city cost about 1.5 soles but more far places (for example, from the airport to Plaza de Armas) would cost about 3 soles or more. The drivers usually make their money by kickbacks from the hotels they take you to.
Many motocarristas (those who drive the motocarros) make excellent guides of the city. Of course, you should take the same types of precautions one would take with any type of travel, but if you can befriend a motocarrista, you might have the opportunity to experience Iquitos in a unique, real-life sort of way.
When you exit the airport you will be approached very aggressively by the taxi drivers. Take the first one who offers to drive you for 2 soles and follow them quickly to escape the rottweiler-like pursuit of the others.
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 keeps lots of houses built during that age. 'Iquiteños' (or 'Iquitinos') are usually very friendly and like to party very much.
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 altitude above sea level is approximately 350 feet.
The Coordinated Universal Time of Peru is UTC-5, the same as Florida and New York, Eastern Standard Time.
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 riverfront is just a few blocks 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 make out, so if you stroll it be prepared to see lots of this. There is a somewhat big crafts market right below the walk.
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 famous residence designed by Gustave Eiffel and which was built from metal sheets 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. Over time, with the invention of nylon and other alternative products, demand for rubber dwindled, 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.
One of the major attractions of Iquitos and the Amazon Rain Forest is the native tribes. For a good review of the various Amazonian tribes and how to meet them see the Amazon-Indians Non-Profit Organization Guide .
If you want to party, there are dance clubs all over the city. All Iquiteños love to party on 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.
There are many lodges and resorts close to the city but next to rivers. The experience is carefully controlled and the facilities are adequate, with some of them even very well appointed. You can book in the city or pay for a full package in Lima or through a travel agent.
The floating market, known as Belén, is located 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.
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'. For a list of the top ten restaurants check out the Iquitos News . If you want something cool (most likely you will need it because of the heat) there are excellent 'heladerias' (ice cream shops) like Shambo (in the corner of Prospero and Morona St.) 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 30 USD per night, including air conditioning (important in the brutal heat of the tropical environment) and a private bathroom.
Try the hostel Casona, right off the plaza de armas. Its airy, spacious, and only costs about 35 Soles. no A/C but if you get in the shower, strip your butt naked, and get under the howling ceiling fan (as well as an occilator), you will feel glorious. Take about 5 showers per day to keep cool, especially cool off the top of your head.
Some tour operators in Iquitos are notorious for taking advantage of travelers. Most tours can be made without the assistance of tour guides. Best to consult guide books and online resources than using the services of untrustworthy guides.
To visit the indigenous people, it is best not to use a tour guide. Instead, go directly to the Amazonian natives for an incredible experience with real indigenous people. For example, visit the Movement in the Amazon for Tribal Subsistence and Economic Sustainability , an indigenous tribal organization for information on visiting their indigenous reserve.
The main danger in Iquitos is the same as any tropical zone: malaria. You should get anti-malaria pills from a doctor before your visit. Malarone 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.
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 150 soles per person per day. 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. There are also official tour guide associations (normally at the main square).
A good travel choice is to take a Cruise along the Amazon River, starting at Iquitos, passing by Leticia and ending in Manaus.