Iquitos is Peru’s gateway to the northern rainforest along the Amazon River where you can experience the greatest wilderness on Earth. From Iquitos, you have access to one of the most biodiverse areas in Amazonia. Explore the waterways and hike the jungle scouting for an incredible diversity of animals and plants. Wildlife sightings are much better if you travel over 100 km from the city itself into Amazonia, but there are still things to do in Iquitos itself to keep you entertained before or after jungle tours.
Plaza de Armas
If you want to get to the center of town where you will find many hotels, internet cafes, restaurants and cafes then hop in a motocarro and say Plaza de Armas. This is the main square in Iquitos, which is surrounded by all the things most tourists require. The square has a neo-gothic church built between 1911 and 1924 with a Swiss clock on the church tower installed in 1925.
Much of the architecture around Iquitos is from the rubber boom period showing a glimpse into a wealthy and prosperous past full of rubber barons, the rise of the automobile and huge immigration.
The Iron House is no exception to this wealthy time. This building was designed by Gustave Eiffel in Paris and shipped to Iquitos at great expense in the 1800s by a rubber baron who took a shine to the building. On the 1st floor of the Iron House you will find the Amazon Cafe.
Food & Drink
Kikiriki | Napo 159
A great little diner for all chicken related dishes. The translation of the restaurant name is Cock-a-doodle-doo!
Ari’s Burger | Prospero 127
Ari’s Burger is another cafe / restaurant located close to Plaza de Armas where you can enjoy breakfast or a quick lunch.
Chifa Long Fung | San Martin 458
If you fancy chinese food in Iquitos, this is the recommendation.
For a bit of nightlife along the Amazon, Karaoke, a beer or a cocktail looking out to the rainforest, look no further than the boulevard in Iquitos.
Fruit Juice Stalls
Don’t forget the fruit juice stands dotted around the city where fresh tropical fruit is juiced to your liking. These are usually located at the edge of market areas. The favored addition to many fruit concoctions around Peru is milk (a must try).
Noa Disco | Fitzcarrald 298
The most popular nightclub in Iquitos (careful with that word in spanish) is Noa Disco. This is a large and more modern club than most in Iquitos and usually has special nights e.g. lady’s night etc.
Lake Quistococha is one of the most popular Iquitos attractions among the locals and is a large tropical lake about 10 minutes north of the city where you can relax on the beach, take a swim or tour the botanical garden and small zoo. There is a cafe near the lake where you can buy food and drink or hire a boat to paddle on the water.
Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm
The Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and animal sanctuary rescues animals from abandonment and poor treatment, usually from the pet trade. The small fee helps care for the Amazon animals you will see, such as howler monkeys, tapir, jaguar, uakaris and capuchins, not to mention beautiful butterflies. Some of the monkey have been rescued from street criminals using the monkeys to steal, which now gives some a quirky personality and habits. Careful about trusting overly affectionate monkeys as you may lose your watch!
Amazon Animal Rescue Center CRA
The Amazon Animal Rescue Center is a small and worthwhile attraction where you can see manatees that have been rescued from ill health. A small donation used to care for the animals is all it takes to see these Amazon icons.
Puerto Bellavista Nanay
Puerto Bellavista Nanay is a village about 15 minutes from Iquitos and is where Iquitos locals often buy some produce, such as sustainably harvested fruit like Camu Camu, a tart citrus superfood that grows nearby in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Nauta is the furthest town you can reach from Iquitos by road (about 100 km south). The town is used as a port of entry for tour cruises for visits to the highly diverse Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and for tours on the Rio Marañòn.
Nearby Protected Areas
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is an exceptionally biodiverse protected area 150 km from Iquitos. Here you can see several different primates, many other mammals, many different reptiles and amphibians, and a high diversity of birds. The reserve has an research center for studying primates and Amazon life, which has a 1000 acre trail grid accessible for tourists visiting the Tahuayo Lodge. From here, you can also visit the poison dart frog conservation section and other areas of interest.
Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve
Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve can be visited by motocarro from Iquitos. The reserve contains several locally common birds rarely encountered in other sections of Amazonia due to its unique sections of white sand forest. In the forests surrounding Iquitos, this reserve is where Alwyn Gentry set the world record for tree diversity.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
One of the largest protected areas in Peru, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is an impressive section of flooded tropical Amazonian forest. The protected areas contain a diversity of animals, such as several different monkeys, amazing birds, reptiles and amphibians, and of course many different fish and insects. The reserve has several sustainability programs in place to assist local communities of the reserve, such as an Arapaima breeding and sustainable fishing program, as well as sustainable harvesting of other reserve products. One of these products is camu camu mentioned in the paragraph about Puerto Bellavista Nanay where much of the produce is sold. A considerable portion is also exported for the global market.
The most recommended thing to do if you’re in Iquitos is to visit the Amazon Rainforest on a guided tour. The Iquitos Amazon Rainforest represents one of the most diverse sections of rainforest on our planet full of many different animals and plants, including the famous Harpy Eagles, Jaguar, Giant River Otters, Howler Monkeys, Capuchins and Tamarins, Poison Dart Frogs, Piranha, River Dolphins, Caiman and Anaconda plus hundreds, well more like millions, of others. But it should be noted that the diversity close to the city, inwards of 80 km or so and not protected in a reserve, will be much lower than the diversity over 120 km from Iquitos, such as near the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve & Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Fishing for Piranha
Many tours in the Amazon Rainforest enjoy offering this activity where you canoe to a section of fast flowing water in search of Piranha. After dangling your make shift rod over the water, you can get an up close look at these famous predatory fish.
Camping in the Amazon
To camp in the Amazon Rainforest is to immerse yourself in an environment before humanity. Be woken up Howler Monkeys in the morning before bathing in crystal clear water. Enjoy hiking from your base camp in search of rarer wildlife and possibly being followed by troops of curious squirrel monkeys.
A birdwatchers paradise, enjoy seeing the avian fauna of different habitats from the Hoatzins and water birds around the lakes to Macaws flying over the forest. Enjoy searching for the world’s most powerful bird of prey, the majestic Harpy Eagle.
Search for Poison Dart Frogs
Famous brightly colored poison dart frogs are a must see for Amazon Rainforest visitors. In the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve (150 km from Iquitos), conservationists have set up a section you can tour to help protect these beautiful and fascinating amphibians.
Night Spotting for Wildlife
Most tours take place during daylight hours, but at night the forest comes alive with an entirely new set of animals. See Owl Monkeys poking their heads out tree holes, bats flying through the trees, and spot Caiman lurking in the waterways.
Volunteer in Conservation Programs
What better way to spend your time in the jungle than by helping to conserve it by assisting researchers studying animals and plants in the rainforest, building information to preserve them in the face of habitat change.
Walking the Tahuayo Primate Research Grid
If you’re visiting the renowned Tahuayo Lodge for a privately guided Amazon tour, you will have access to the Amazon Research Center (on tours over 7 days). The center has designed a 1000 acre grid transecting the forest where researchers have places camera traps and are studying the ecology of several Amazon primates living on the grid.
There are few other places on Earth where you can see the stars in such high detail. Enjoy taking a boat on the water, laying back and looking to the sky to pick out different constellations.
Cruising the Amazon River
There are many cruise vessels on the Amazon River, with the newest and most luxurious being the Delfin I & Delfin II. Enjoy voyaging the world’s most famous river deep into the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve to find incredible Amazon Rainforest animals and plants.
Swim with Pink Dolphins
One of the most mysterious animals in the rainforest and frequent characters in local folklore, the friendly Pink Dolphins are intelligent and curious as they swim up to you in the water.
Vising a Native Shaman
Often the only answers for an Amazon community come from the knowledge of Shaman who can communicate with the spirit world to make sense of what is happening. Shaman help find answers and to heal sickness using tropical botanical plants.
Visiting an Amazon Community
Communities in the Amazon are warm, friendly and hospitable and you can see how life is usually lived in the rainforest.