The largest city unconnected to any other by road, Iquitos is Peru’s gateway to the northern Amazon Rainforest by the Amazon River. As a port city of the Amazon, Iquitos was a very important trade route for the country. The city is also now significant as the base for tourists looking to experience the Amazon Rainforest. But how many days do you spend in Iquitos and what’s the recommended time to spend in the Iquitos Amazon?
To answer these questions, let’s have a look at Iquitos itself and the surrounding rainforest…
From Iquitos, you can enjoy incredible cruises into protected areas or tours from Amazon Rainforest lodges. Explore the rainforest with your guide scouting for many different animals and fascinating plants. However, as this is a city, the rainforest surrounding Iquitos has been disturbed and much of the wildlife have fled to live farther out. This is where you find some of the best protected areas of the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and the flooded forest of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Because these areas are far from the city, it takes a few hours to reach the best sections of the Amazon. This means Iquitos is not a good place for a short tour of 2 to 4 days and really 5 days minimum is required for an Amazon tour from Iquitos. But let’s have a look at each protected area a little more. If you’re interested in a short tour of 2 to 4 days, we recommend the lodges from Tambopata near Puerto Maldonado. We will mention these at the bottom of this article.
Iquitos Protected Areas
The best protected areas to visit from Iquitos are the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and the nearby Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. These are both quite far from the city and can be reached on organized tours from lodges and cruises. The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is the first protected area to reach from Iquitos and this takes about 4 hours of travel time. The general rule is that the longer you spend in the rainforest, the more wildlife and fascinating things you will see. Therefore, you should aim to have as long as possible in the actual rainforest. As you will arrive at the reserve in the evening and will be departing in the morning or afternoon after your stay, you will have limited time actually exploring the rainforest on a short tour.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve contains a high diversity of Amazon Rainforest animals and plants. Spot many different monkeys, including sakis, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, tamarins, and marmosets. There are also the rarely seen uakari monkeys, which were the reason for the reserve’s foundation.
The reserve covers over 420,000 hectares of flooded and non-flooded tropical rainforest. As mentioned, the primate diversity of the this part of the rainforest is spectacular, but there is a lot more to see. The reserve protects over 600 different bird species, including the colorful tanagers, cotingas, trogans, and king vultures. You can also find the iconic birds of Amazonia, such as the toucans, different macaws and many other parrots.
The Tahuayo Lodge
The Tahuayo Lodges is one of the best lodges for nature from Iquitos. The lodge is positioned in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and offers private guides and a custom itinerary as standard. Enjoy spotting many different animals and plants on guided walking tours, boat tours, and canoeing excursions through the Tahuayo Reserve.
The minimum amount of time to spend at the Tahuayo Lodge is 4 days, but to spend time between both the Tahuayo Lodge and their Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center, located in even more untouched rainforest, the recommended time is 7 days or more. This means you can split your time between both lodges. Enjoy the facilities of the main lodge, such as the largest canopy zipline in Amazonia and better canoeing then visit the research center. The Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center includes a 1000 acre primate research grid where researchers are studying reserve wildlife. The grid makes it easier to observe different monkeys and other animals showing natural behavior.
The minimum trip length at the Tahuayo Lodge is 4 days. However, on trips of 4 or 5 days, you will only have time to visit the main Tahuayo Lodge and not the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center. To combine both of these lodges in the Tahuayo Reserve, you will stay for a minimum of 6 days where you will split time between both of these fantastic lodges.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The largest national reserve in Peru at over 2 million hectares, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is a beautiful flooded section of Amazon Rainforest. Because of its vast and flooded nature, the best way to experience the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is on a cruise and there are a few different cruises from Iquitos to choose from.
You can see many different animals in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Enjoy spotting many different monkeys including howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, pygmy marmosets, and maybe some of the larger species such as spider monkeys.
In addition to the many different primates, you can spot a wide range of other animals. These include the favourite and iconic Amazon species, such as pink river dolphins, toucans, large, colourful macaw parrots, black caiman, anaconda, and many colourful birds.
From the different cruises, enjoy exploring the many different waterways of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Let’s go over some of the different cruise options available.
The Delfin II
The Delfin II is a luxury Amazon River cruise from Iquitos in northern Peru. Enjoy luxurious comfort in the different suites with large picture windows to keep you connected to the Amazon rainforest, ensuite bathrooms, and very comfortable large beds.
The Delfin II vessel then includes a bar, lounge area on the upper deck, lecture room, library, massage room, and an elegant dining room lined with windows. With views of the Amazon Rainforest, enjoy delicious cuisine prepared by the vessel’s team of expert chefs. Indulge in a range of delicious dishes inspired by the rainforest, Peruvian classics, and international favorites.
Led by some of the Amazon’s best guides, explore the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve on skiff expeditions and forest walks. You will be scouting for several different monkeys, very colourful birds, pink river dolphins and hopefully some rarer rainforest animals and plants.
The Delfin II Amazon cruise offers itineraries of 4 days or 5 days. You will be collected from the international airport in Iquitos and driven in comfortable coach to the port of Nauta where you will board the Delfin II vessel.
The Delfin III
The Delfin lll (also known as the Amazon Discovery) is one of the Amazon River’s most affordable luxury cruises. Enjoy very comfortable suites, spacious living areas and delicious cuisine. In addition, you can also enjoy the massage room. indoor and outdoor lounges, a sundeck with plunge pool, gym, and bar.
When not enjoying the Delfin III’s very comfortable suites and facilities, head out into the Amazon Rainforest with your highly trained guide. On skiff expeditions from the main vessel, explore the rainforest to find a range of Amazonian animals, including many different monkeys, river dolphins, toucans, macaw parrots, many colourful birds, and night spot for black caiman crocodilians.
The Delfin III offers itineraries of 4 days or 7 days, which focus on different areas around Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. For more details, contact the cruise to see an itinerary using the contact bubble below.
How Long to Spend in Iquitos City
The majority of visitors to Iquitos are collected from the airport and are escorted back to the airport after their cruise or tour by the tour operator. However, you may choose to spend some time in Iquitos itself either before or after your Amazon Rainforest experience. Given the minimum time to spend on tours and cruises is 4 or 5 days, to explore Iquitos as well we would recommend a minimum of 7 days.
Things to see and do in Iquitos include visiting the different museums, enjoying some delicious restaurants, visiting different lakes, taking a few hours to visit the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, and visiting the boulevard to see over the river and into the rainforest. Of an evening, the boulevard is where you can find different bars to enjoy a drink overlooking the river.
Where to go for short Amazon tours of less than 5 days?
For Amazon tours for less than 5 days, Iquitos is not the best choice to make the most of your experience in the Amazon Rainforest. This is because of the time it takes to reach the areas of high wildlife, which are farther out from the city. This time eats into your time available exploring the rainforest. Often, the tours that do recommend and offer short tours will take you areas of highly disturbed Amazon Rainforest where most of the animals have left long ago. This won’t give you a good experience or image of the Amazon.
To have the best experience of the Amazon Rainforest on a tour of 2 to 4 days, we recommend a few different lodges from Puerto Maldonado in southern Peru, which will take you into the nearby Tambopata National Reserve. This is a protected area that is part of one of the world’s largest areas of protected tropical forest. As you can imagine, the wildlife is incredible and you can arrive at the reserve after only 30 minutes of travel time. This means you spend more time in the rainforest and so more chances to find fascinating animals, plants, and beautiful scenery.
Recommended Lodges for Short Tours from Puerto Maldonado, Peru
The lodges we recommend for a short Amazon Rainforest experience are the community-owned Posada Amazonas Lodge and the Sandoval Lake Lodge.
From Posada Amazonas, enjoy lake tours to find giant river otters and hoatzins, visit a canopy tower to spot toucans and parrots, cultural activities, and different add-on activities, such as kayaking, canopy climbing and jungle mountain biking.
From the Sandoval Lake Lodge, it’s a more relaxed experience and you focus on heading out on the beautiful Sandoval Lake each day to find a range of different monkeys, the resident family of giant river otters, hoatzins and lake birds, and hopefully some of the different macaws nesting nearby.