Iquitos

Overview

Introduction

Iquitos is known as the gateway to the Amazon basin. The city lies on the banks of the mile-/kilometer-wide Amazon River in the middle of dense, flat jungle, some 635 mi/1,020 km northeast of Lima. Sights include a floating market (known as Belen, or Bethlehem) and some interesting shops selling Amerindian goods. Remnants of the rubber-boom days can be seen in the azulejos—handmade tiles imported from Portugal, which were used to decorate the mansions of rubber barons (also notice the imported lacy cast-iron balconies). Visit the house of Peruvian rubber baron Fitzcarraldo, made famous by the Werner Herzog movie of the same name.

Near the plaza is an iron house designed by Gustav Eiffel that was transported to Iquitos after the Paris Exhibition of 1898. Close by are beautiful Lake Quistococha and protected nature reserves, including Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria. It's one of the largest protected areas in Peru and home to freshwater dolphins, turtles and monkeys. (An entry permit is required—get one from any Iquitos tour agency.)

Iquitos requires only one night to see everything, but visitors often use it as a base for escorted tours to jungle lodges or river cruises. The tours run one to seven days—some of the lodges are only an hour from town by boat. The tours usually include visits to the Boras or Yaguas people (who use blowguns). Some tour operators offer crocodile sightseeing at night. Hearty travelers can also book hiking and camping tours, which forego the lodges for more primitive campsites and long, humid jungle walks.

Visitors to Iquitos can also go on to the Explorama Canopy Walkway, which requires a two-day trip into the interior by boat. Both a tourist attraction and a research center, it has a covered walkway strung among the trees, more than 100 ft/30 m above the ground.

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