One of the most interesting places to visit in Amazonia is the city of Iquitos. Iquitos is the biggest city in this region and has no roads connecting to other cities making it the largest, most isolated city on any continent! The city can be reached only by airplane or boat, with the exception of a road to Nauta, a small town roughly 100 km (62 mi) south.
The date of foundation of the city is thought to be 1757. It was established as a Jesuit mission. Iquitos started to grow and thrive through the “rubber boom” of the first decade of the 20th century. They started to manufacture rubber from natural resources - the rubber tree growing in the Amazon Selva. The owners of the plantations or rubber barons were rich and built luxurious houses for themselves, which gave the city an inimitable style.
What to see
Just a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas down on the river front is Belen, Iquitos' floating neighborhood and market. Almost as interesting as the jungle itself, Belen is the center of an incredible variety of Amazon products; tropical fruits (the likes of which you've probably have never seen before), fish of all shapes and sizes, turtles, birds, frogs, monkeys, herbal medicines, anaconda skin and hides of large animals and many other things. For a few dollars you can take one of the small canoe-taxis for a tour of the waterways, some being paddled by small children eager to practice their English.
The market opens early morning and it is best to go to the Belen Market at about 7 in the morning.
The Butterfly Farm
The Butterfly Farm is just beyond the Padre Cocha Village. Here you can see a vast number of butterflies of various forms and species, playing among flowers and small waterfalls.
To get there you can take a taxi to Bellavista or Nanay port. Then local public transport – “llevo-llevo” boats or a small motor-boat will take you to the village of Padre Cocha. It is about a 20 minute trip. If the level of the water is low you will have to take a 15-minute walk through the village from the Padre Cocha boat dock. If the water level in the river is high enough the boat will take you directly to the farm.
Keep in mind to visit the farm only in sunny clear day – you will not see butterflies in a rainy day!
Santo Tomas Village
Santo Tomas Village is situated close to the airport. It is an excellent spot to water ski and to take boat or canoe rides. There are also several restaurants where you can have a meal. The area is inhabited by a Cocama and Cocamilla indigenous farming community whose main economic activity is ceramic making.
Quistoqocha is a national park located about 15 km outside of Iquitos. A large area of the Park accommodates a zoo, a lagoon, a museum, an aquarium, an arboretum and several restaurants. You can get here in a taxi for 15-20 Soles (6-7 USD).
But it's the promise of vast virgin forest that brings the city its visitors. To see wildlife such as caiman, monkeys and macaws, you really need to travel well beyond an 80km radius from Iquitos and preferably off the main waterways. Some animals such as pink dolphins are found only in some of the more remote tributaries of the upper Amazon.
Staying at a jungle lodge is one of the most popular ways of visiting the jungle. The guided tours offer you trips to the tropical forests, where you can spot wild animals and birds, fish piranhas, access to the canopy walkway, which is now around 500m in length and over 35m from the ground, offering breathtaking views for bird-watching. Monkeys can also be spotted. You can take a boat trip to one of the Amazon tributaries to see pink dolphins and even the giant water lily Victoria Regia.
How to get there
The flight time from Lima to Iquitos is about 1 hour 45 minutes. There are 8-9 flights per day in both directions. Airline companies operating this route include LAN Perú, Peruvian Airlines and Star Perú.
Organized tours with professional guides. Group or private services. All categories of hotels.
Short group excurstions with English-speaking guides for independant travelers.
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