Iquitos is not only the gate to the impressive Amazon jungle, but it is also a vibrant jungle city with many activities you have to experience.
Next to Puerto Maldonado, Iquitos is the most popular Jungle destination for travelers in Peru. There’s a special reason for that: it doesn’t matter if it’s just a ride with the famous mototaxis, a visit to the unique Belen market or a jungle adventure, you won’t get bored here!
During our visits, we always liked the jungle much better than the city itself. Honestly, it’s not worth spending too much time in the city, as the highlight of your time will be the jungle!
In this blog article, we’ll tell you more about the top things to do in Iquitos.
|List of the Top 10 Things to do in Iquitos:|
List of the Top 10 Things to Do in Iquitos
1. Explore the Belen Market
Belen is a floating slum in the Amazon and is famous for the unique and crazy market! We’ll get to that in a second.
The best way to get there is by mototaxis, “los chinos”. Using them within Iquitos is cheap and will only cost you a few Soles. We strongly recommend you to visit this place with a guide, as they can explain the history of this place, help you communicate with locals and make you feel more secure.
About the market: you will be fascinated by the exotic and sometimes crazy products that the locals sell there. Apart from the usual products that can be found in a conventional market, you’ll find various types of tobacco, bottled ayahuasca, jaguar fur, crocodile heads and many different herbal medicines. Without an expert at your side we would definitely NOT recommend buying any of them, as some products can cause severe side effects.
Recommendation: Visit the Belen Market during the day with a local guide. Take a look at all the crazy things you can find there, but be careful with purchases of tobacco or liquor.
2. Visit the Monkey Island
The Amazon jungle in Iquitos is surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna. Just 18 miles (30 km) north-east of Iquitos you will find one of the most impressive places in the jungle: the monkey island!
The monkey island is a natural reservoir for 8 different species of monkeys and sloths! The island has a kind of double function: on the one hand, it’s a magnet for tourists to see the monkeys playing and it also serves as a regeneration center for injured monkeys. Here, the monkeys can rest before they are released back to the jungle.
At the moment the monkey island has rescued and released over 250 monkeys. You can get there by boat choosing one of the different boat tours offered from Iquitos. The visit to the monkey island is an integral part of our 3-day Iquitos tour.
Get ready to watch, feed and play with the different monkeys!
Recommendation: Please don’t use any perfume or sunscreen during your visit to the monkey island, as this can irritate the animals.
3. Have Lunch at the Iron House
The “Casa de Fierro” (Spanish for Iron House) is an iron building, located in the centre of Iquitos. What is special about the Iron House is that it was built by Gustav Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower, as a symbol of the city’s prosperity during the rubber boom.
According to the myth, the individual pieces of iron were transported to Peru and then carried through the jungle by numerous men. The Casa de Fierro is now regarded as a cultural heritage in Peru and has established a reputation as a delicious restaurant with a great view over Plaza de Armas (main square) of Iquitos.
Recommendation: On site you have the choice between various local and international dishes. We recommend the gnocchi with pesto and prawns or the delicious wraps!
4. Visit the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The Pacaya Samiria national park is over two million hectares in size and is one of the largest protected areas in Peru. The aim of the reservoir, which was founded in 1982, is to save a variety of unique plants and Amazon rainforest animals.
You will see a variety of tropical bird species, mammals, freshwater fish, reptiles and plants. In addition, you will be able to see some species that are threatened with extinction such as the giant otter, the black lizard and even pink dolphins.
The Pacaya Samiria is also known as “the jungle of mirrors”, as the reflections of the sky and the surrounding nature are reflected in the Amazon river. Just imagine a sunset here… unbelievable!
Recommendation: This national park can only be visited with an authorized tour operator.
5. Do an Amazon River Boat Tour
The list would be incomplete if a boat trip on the world’s longest river was missing – the Amazon river! There have been numerous attempts to accurately measure the river and the most accurate one currently is 6992 km (4345 miles).
With some luck, you can see different animals such as pink dolphins or piranhas. During our 3-day tour, you will be on the Amazon river several times a day so you can get to the different activities.
Part of our itinerary is a boat tour at night in a small side channel of the Amazon. The engine and all lights will be turned off, so that you can hear the different sounds of the jungle around you. Undoubtedly an unforgettable experience! To get a better idea of our jungle tour we recommend you watch the following 1-minute video:
Recommendation: Take a bout tour at night. The concert in the jungle will be one of the most memorable experiences of your time in Peru – believe us!
6. Take a Mototaxi
Don’t be surprised when you arrive in Iquitos and you see all of these mototaxis. The locals call the mototaxis “mosquitos”, because they buzz through the city just like the small insects. A ride with these 3-wheelers is definitely a must-do in Iquitos!
Recommendation: You shouldn’t spend more than a few soles on a trip of 5-6 blocks.
7. Try the Traditional Jungle Food
Peru is famous for its delicious gastronomy that can be found all over the country. Each region has its own specialities and the jungle is known for its unique dishes.
One of the most popular dishes is “Juane”. It consists of rice, chicken (or another meat), olives, hard boiled eggs and many herbs. All the ingredients are wrapped in a large Bijao leaf (macaw plant) and cooked/fried.
Another traditional dish is Tacacho, a mix of pork and banana, that is served in the form of a ball. Don’t forget to try the fresh fish out of the Amazon river! Sometimes it’s served as a boiled, a fried or a cooked version with different side dishes.
Without a doubt, you have to try one of the amazing fruit juices such as camu camu, lúcuma or maracuya.
In case you’re interested in finding out more about the Peruvian gastronomy, we invite you to check out our blog post about the best food in Peru.
Recommendation: Try as much jungle food as possible. It will be a great contrast to the food you find in other regions of Peru.
8. Hike the Jungle at Night
The first night hike through the jungle will be unforgettable! A light breeze accompanied by the natural symphony of the jungle and total darkness: a unique experience.
As you move around rather slowly and quietly, you can perceive the nocturnal animals and insects much better. All of this ensures that you will feel like a real explorer in the Peruvian jungle.
Recommendation: A hike through the jungle at night is only possible with a professional guide. Don’t forget your flashlight!
9. Visit a Local Community
If you are interested in learning more about the indigenous tribes of the Amazon jungle, Iquitos is the right place. You can visit two groups in the Peruvian jungle: the Bora and the Yagua Community.
The area of the Bora community stretches from Putumayo to the Napi river and consists of around 2000 people. The number is that low due to the rubber boom at the beginning of the 20th century. This led to a severe decimation of the indigenous population.
The Yaguas is one of the oldest communities in the entire Amazon jungle. Around 4000 – 6000 Yaguas mainly live in the Peruvian or Columbian jungle.
You will also get to know the Yaguas during our Iquitos tours. During the visit, you will learn more about their daily life, you can dance with them or you can try your luck at blowing a blowpipe!
Recommendation: The best way to support the local community is through donations or by buying some of their handicrafts.
10. Do an Ayahuasca Retreat
Ayahuasca is a brew made from the “Psychotria Viridis” plant and the stem of the “Banisteriopsis Caapi” wine. The mixture is cooked until only a strong concentration remains, which is then consumed.
The word “Ayahuasca” originates from the Quechua language, where “Aya” means soul or ancestor and “Wasca” (huasca) means wine or rope. In the end, many people translate it as “wine of the soul”.
Consumption has become more popular in recent years and with that the Ayahuasca retreats in the Amazon jungle. After the consumption, it will expand your senses through a ceremony carried out by a shaman. Some people reported that by taking Ayahuasca they have found their “purpose in life”.
No one from our team has tried Ayahuasca yet and because of that we cannot give you any personal insights about it. If you are interested, you should do your proper research and look for some experienced providers with good ratings and a lot of experience.
Locals sell a variety of Ayahuasca mixtures at places such as the Belen market; we would strongly advise you to not buy from them.
Recommendation: Inquire in detail about a possible Ayahuasca retreat before your trip, as an adequate preparation is crucial.
The Jungle City of Iquitos Awaits You
You can already see that there are a variety of things that you can do in Iquitos. Regardless of whether you are interested in nature and animals, in the history of the local tribes or in extraordinary food. In Iquitos you will never be bored!
We hope that with our list of the top 10 things to do in Iquitos you will find some ideas for your travel itinerary when coming to the Peruvian Amazon jungle. If you think we have forgotten a sight or if you’d like to add another must-do, we’d be happy to read your comment below.