Iquitos & Amazon River
Iquitos & Amazon River
- Located on the shores of the Amazon River, the largest in terms of water volume in the world
- Iquitos is Peru’s largest jungle city
- Iquitos can only be reached via air or water
- Starting point for cruises and jungle lodges in the Amazon Basin
The Amazon River is an enigmatic name for anyone with some geographic interest being one of the largest rivers in the world and source of great adventures. Iquitos is Peru’s prime city when it comes to visiting the Amazon River and quite a unique destination in itself. The city is the starting point for jungle cruises as well as many of the different jungle lodges around. These organized jungle experiences will give visitors the best chance on seeing the local fauna and flora up-close. It is not recommended to head into the jungle on your own account. The city itself is a fascinating place that still breaths a lot of adventure and makes you feel you are in a unique place on the planet. The weather is hot and humid with showers all throughout the year – which for this tropical destination is not a bad thing.
THINGS TO DO
Iquitos & Amazon River History
Before the conquest the Amazon Basin was very much undiscovered and known to the world. It was a huge dense forest with a lot of dangers and it took quite some time before the Spanish became interested in the region. The basin was populated by small tribes that lived a life of nomadic hunter-gatherer but intertribal communication there was little. When the Spanish arrived in 1532 in Peru they focused first on the coast and highlands in search for gold but in a later stage also turned to the Amazon as perhaps the location of the mythical El Dorado (city of gold) they were looking for. This resulted in several expeditions during which the first Jesuit Missionaries settled in the Amazon Basin. This was the start of several Missions in which the local native habitants were obliged to settle and be converted to Christianity. This is also how Iquitos was founded. Located close to the confluence of the Marañon, Napo and Amazon Rivers Iquitos rapidly started growing but it was not till the beginning of the 1900’s that Iquitos knew its big boom. This big boom was triggered by the increased demand for rubber a resource found in the many rubber trees of the Amazon. Plantations of rubber trees were planted and it was till the 1920’s that Iquitos knew a time of great wealth and importance. From this moment on the Asian rubber plantations (created with seeds smuggled from Iquitos) were able to produce cheaper and therefore signing the end of the rubber boom for Iquitos. Nevertheless Iquitos was able to maintain its position as an important trading port in the Amazon basin. It exploited its timber, oil and mineral resources for export and processing, along with agricultural and other products. Nowadays tourism is also a large source of income for Iquitos but often threatened by the industries mentioned above.
Iquitos & Amazon River Geography
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world in terms of discharge of water and the second largest in length. The river originates in the Arequipa region of south Peru and crosses the Andes before dropping to the Amazon Basin. In Peru the main part of the river is called Marañon River and changes names in Nauta at about 100km from Iquitos. Iquitos is located on the left bank of the Amazon River and has the largest river port in Peru. For many first time visitors the size of some boats traveling the Amazon River is quite impressive. Located on some large plains in the depths of the Rainforest Iquitos is the largest city in the world that can only be reached by air or water. There are no roads leading to Iquitos and apart from the urban roads in the city itself there is only one other road leading to the port of Nauta about 100km from Iquitos and this is literally “the end of the road”. With almost one million inhabitants logistics is quite the challenge for this city with everything having to be airlifted or send in cargo boats. The city is divided into three parts with Iquitos Downtown and Belen being the best known and important ones. During the rainy season parts of Iquitos can flood, especially the lower parts such as Belen, where the houses are actually foreseen for this yearly flood.
Iquitos & Amazon River Weather
- Rain is possible throughout the year with more frequent rains in the rainy season
- Rainy season from November through April – high river season
- Dry season April through October – low river season
- Hot and humid climate all year round
- Average Min / Max Rainy season 24ºC/75ºF – 33ºC/95ºF
- Average Min / Max Dry season 21ºC/70ºF – 31ºC/90ºF
Iquitos & Amazon River Attractions
Iquitos is probably one of the more fascinating jungle cities on the planet. Not only the effort it takes to get there but also the general atmosphere still feels a little like the day of the great explorers being the first foreigners to set foot in a place such as this. The city itself has a couple of worthwhile places to see but it is perhaps more the ambience and friendly outgoing people that makes Iquitos the destination it is. On the main square one can find the famous Iron House designed by Eiffel (the one from the tower in Paris) as well as the former Hotel Palace built in 1908. The Iquitos city center boardwalk next to the lowlands and river is a nice place to spend some time and perhaps try one of the typical juices or liquors from the region. Finally one also has to visit the floating market of Belen. This market is a fascinating spectacle on the senses and will give you an idea of everyday life in this unique city. The market in the dry season takes place mostly in the streets around the central market building of Belen but in the rainy season turns into an open air market spread out on bridges between pole houses, floating rafts and other types of boats. The main reason for most people to come to Iquitos is to visit the Amazon Rainforest and spot the wildlife here. Birds, reptiles, small mammals, caimans and monkeys; in these forests you can find them all on one square mile. Being such a large city, to get to the depths of the Rainforest one has to travel in boat for a couple of hours. Around Iquitos there are a lot of lodges all having their own tourism concession and protected area. The biggest national park in the region is the Pacaya Samiria Park. The jungle can best be visited with one of the many multi-day jungle cruises over the Amazon River or by staying at one of the lodges around Iquitos. Closer to Iquitos there are also some small lodges but wildlife viewing here is limited.