Iquitos: Gateway To The Amazon
Iquitos is the gateway to a truly authentic Peruvian Amazon Rainforest experience. Porto Maldonado is a more popular choice because it is closer to the other common tourist sites. But you don’t travel to be common do you? You travel to explore and learn and have REAL experiences. Glad we are on the same page, and in that case you need to book your ticket to Iquitos and tell Puerto Maldonado to bounce. Iquitos is an easy 2-hour flight from Lima followed by a 2+ hour boat ride depending on where you stay in the Amazon.
All About Iquitos
Iquitos is a small community reachable only by air or boat. The infrastructure is not nearly as advanced as Lima or other larger towns in Peru. It is very reminiscent to other developing countries such as Cambodia and rural Thailand.
The only real reason you might come here is on your way to and from the rainforest so you will likely only spend 1 day or less here. That being said, Iquitos must be some kind of HUGE backpacker hub because there are TONS of backpackers here selling art, jewelry, paintings and inhabiting every bar, restaurant and coffee shop. So even though Iquitos definitely has a small city vibe it doesn’t seem to have a vibe all its own. It has been totally taken over by tourists, which is really unfortunate. I also have no idea why Iquitos is the chosen location for all these folks…I couldn’t quite figure out what it really has to offer that would be drawing them here for the long term.
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Where To Stay
A decent hotel is a little tough to come by so it is a good idea to ask your Rainforest tour company for recommendations if they have one. We stayed at the MDA Marfils del Amazon hotel, which looks questionable on the outside but was decent on the inside. Just don’t get a ground floor room near the courtyard or you will have ants crawling on your bed. you also might have to spray the last of your Amazon bug spray around all the room openings and stuff towels under the doors to keep the ants out. Apparently my standards for “decent on the inside” or pretty low.
What To Do
There is a large Plaza de Armas with a fountain and a huge church. This area sometimes has street food vendors but the real place to be is near the water. Keep walking east to Boulevard Joaquin Abensur for the real action at night and especially on weekends. The whole walkway is lined with street food vendors, artists and gambling games. This will likely be the most interesting place in town any night or weekend. There are also tons of great restaurants along this walkway.
Honestly, that is about all Iquitos has to offer itself. For me, it mainly was the stepping off point for an Amazon Rainforest tour. I would not plan to spend any more time here than necessary just simply because there are more things to see in Peru and no time to waste!