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An essay of Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon

Yayo López, Adrián Portugal, Alamy

In the region of Loreto, in northeastern Peru, the city of Iquitos is the perfect place  for you to feel like a true explorer

 

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By the banks on a  tributary of the Amazon, and flanked by the Itaya and Nanay rivers, one of the most exotic cities in Peru emerges almost like a virtual island. Iquitos, also known as “the capital of the Peruvian Amazon,” is the main fluvial port in the region and the starting point for  exploring the wonders of the forest. The livelihood in this city, based on trade, oil refineries, the wood industry and tourism, is as unique  as the flora and fauna that surround it. In the early 20th century, the so-called “rubber boom” marked the local history. Iquitos became an important center for the exportation  of this raw material and one of the richest cities on the continent. In its heyday, it was home to Portuguese, Spanish, Jewish and Chinese colonies, as well as nine consulates.

 

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Another noticeable consequence of all this splendor is reflected in the European-style mansions and buildings scattered around downtown Iquitos, like the art-nouveau Casa Cohen, the Casa de Fierro, designed by Gustave Eiffel; and the former hotel Palace, the first luxury hotel in Peru. A good tip here is to take an official tour to visit the city’s most emblematic structures. Amazon Camp and Paseos Amazónicos offer great options. These days, this historic complex is part of a cosmopolitan city with strong Amazon roots, whose cuisine is based on local ingredients (pork meat, banana, parlm hearts , freshwater  fish and manioc, among others) which  can all be found  at Mercado de Belén.

 

An explorer spirit

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Iquitos is the Peruvian entryway to the unique and unparalleled Amazon Rainforest, which is home to unrivaled biodiversity. Boat trips on the largest and longest river in the world are a truly unique experience. A visit to  the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve, located some 14 miles [23 km] south of Iquitos, is the perfect activity for nature lovers. Its white sands and wetland  forests are home to around 145 mammals, 475 bird species, plus reptiles and fish. The star of this location  is the Iquitos gnatcatcher, a bird that can only be found in the northern portion of the reserve (it’s estimated  population is around 100).

 

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To arrive at the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, visitors  travel down a dirt road followed by a boat trip. It’s the largest protected wetland  forest in the Peruvian Amazon, with an area of over 2 million hectares. Here you can camp among the palm trees and orchids, while spotting endangered species like manatees and Amazon river dolphins, as well as thousands of other species that circulate happily in the native communities. Important: It is  recommended to hire a professional guide to explore the reserves. There are tour options for all budgets, such as  the ones offered by Travel Perú and by Go 2 Perú.

 

Iquitos

Essential items

• Bring footwear suitable for long hikes, as well as a windbreaker

• Insect repellent and sunscreen are indispensable items

• Due to the intense heat, always bring a water bottle and a hat.

• Before you go, get informed about vaccines and medical recommendations

 

When to go

The temperature in Iquitos is quite stable throughout the year, at around 86 °F [30 °C]. The rainy season is from December to March.

 

Accommodations

Iquitos

Victoria Regia hotel

Located two blocks from the city’s financial district. 

 

Allpahuayo Mishana Reserve

Heliconia Amazon River Lodge

Built on stilts by masters from the Yanamono community.  

 

Pacaya Samiria Reserve

Lodge Ivy Mara Ey

Surrounded by humid tropical forest.

 

LATAM has direct flights to Iquitos from Lima.