Are you wondering about cool things to do in Iquitos? We got you covered!

Iquitos is also called the capital of the Peruvian Amazon or “La Isla Bonita” (the pretty island, because it’s surrounded by rivers) and is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by land

You now might be wondering, how to get to Iquitos?

You either come here by plane (around 1 hour and 45 minutes from Lima), with flights also from Tarapoto, Pucallpa, and Cusco or by boat, from the Brazilian or Colombian border (against the Amazon river current), or from Yurimaguas or Pucallpa (following the river current).

The city of Iquitos from the air
Iquitos city from the air

However you arrive, you will for sure be surprised by this bustling Amazon city.

There are plenty of things to do in Iquitos, for every age range, interests, and budget. You can explore the city and its history and culture, try delicious food and also experience the Amazon jungle, its landscapes, and wildlife.

Check our suggestions about what to do in Iquitos, you will find options to enjoy your visit no matter the length of your stay, from a few days to a few weeks.

We have included a Cost” segment at the end of each suggestion so you can decide what activities fit your budget.

You can also use this custom Google Maps we have created, detailing the location of these suggested Iquitos spots, for easier orientation in the city.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Top things to do in Iquitos Perú

See Eiffel’s Iron House

This unique building was designed by Gustav Eiffel (famous for the Eiffel tower), built at Paris (some say Hamburg) in the late nineteenth century (around 1890s), and shipped by pieces through the Atlantic ocean until it arrived in Iquitos.

That’s quite a journey, right?

It is located on the main square (Plaza de Armas) with a look that dissonates from its environment. It’s walls, balcony, and ceiling are covered with sheets of iron giving the building its strange look.

Eiffel's Iron House in Iquitos
Iron House in Iquitos main square. Would you live in a place like this?

This house is a testament of how crazy the rubber times were in Iquitos, where the rubber barons had so much power (and money) that they could do this kind of seemingly impossible things, like bringing a whole prefabricated iron house from the other side of the world just for the sake of it.

It is said to be the first prefabricated house in America and its the only survivor of three of the same houses imported here.

Right now, it lives humbler times, with a pharmacy on the first floor and a restaurant on the second floor.

Cost: Free

See the Iglesia Matriz, Iquitos main church

While you are hanging around Plaza de Armas (Iquitos main square) you can also take a look at the locally called “Iglesia Matriz” whose official name is St. John the Baptist Cathedral.

Iglesia Matrix, the main church of Iquitos city
Iglesia Matriz against the clouded Iquitos sky

This neo-gothic church was constructed in the early 1900s, finishing the tower in 1924. The clock that sits on top of the tower was brought from Switzerland.

It was declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation of Perú in 1996 and is considered an Iquitos urban icon.

The cathedral is usually open and it’s free to enter if you want to admire the religious art inside.

Cost: Free

Visit the real Monkey Island

Would you love playing and sharing with monkeys and at the same time support a center devoted to their rescue, rehabilitation and release back into the wild?

Monkey playing with visitor at Monkey Island
Friendly monkey, friendly visitor

Close to Iquitos, downstream following the Amazon river, you can find “La Isla de Los Monos” or Monkey Island

This place was started by Gilberto, and in 1997 the Peruvian government donated the 450 hectares of land (the whole island) for this to be a rescue center. The first eight years were dedicated to planting over 70 different species of trees and fruits, building the facilities and preparing everything.

After years of replanting trees, clearing hiking trails, and building the center, the first monkeys were introduced to the island. All were victims of the illegal pet trade in Perú, rescued by the police, vets and concerned citizens.

The real monkey island near Iquitos, Peru.
Mister Gilberto, administrator of Monkey Island. This is the real monkey island or “Isla de los monos”

Monkey Island took a commitment to rescue, rehabilitate and release monkeys. The island is cage-free with only a few monkeys temporarily in cages for quarantine and safety.

Fast forward to today and the Monkey Island has released over 200 monkeys back into their natural habitat.

It is very important to note that there is only one original rescue center called like this, and many copycats using the same name to lure tourists.

How can you recognize the original one? 

Well, first of all before going, do your research. You can choose to visit this place independently coordinating directly with them or as part of a tourism activity, like an organized Amazon tour that includes other activities and staying in a lodge.

Once you are in the Monkey Island you will notice their logo inside the house where they welcome you. If you are in doubt that you are in the right place you can always ask any representative of the Island or your tour guide.

A monkey from Monkey Island playing with us
Monkey see, monkey do

We are very happy to be working with this organization, being able to connect Iquitos visitors to this experience so they come back home more aware of issues like pet trade or illegal hunting and more conscious about our similarities with the monkeys and the importance of their conservation.

Cost: $ – $$

Belen Market and Pasaje Paquito

Have you heard about the Belen market in Iquitos before?

If you are not used to outdoors markets in South America this place will definitely leave a mark on you. 

Located eleven blocks from the main square (Plaza de Armas), in the Southern part of Iquitos, lies this unique, chaotic and buzzing place that will, for sure, overload your senses.

Many spices to choose from in Belen Market
Senses overload in Belen Market

Belen market is the uphill part of the Belen settlement, spreading around 20 blocks, and there they sell about everything. From fresh vegetables and fruits to local food, shoes, batteries, aphrodisiac drinks and pretty much anything you can imagine.

The low part of Belen is where the neighborhood and a lively commercial zone are located and is the part that gets flooded when the river grows, that’s why it is also known as Belen floating village or market.

It’s important to note that in this market you will also find some endangered animals, like turtles, caimans or even monkeys, being sold by part or by kilograms. This part of Iquitos reality breaks our heart and we highly encourage you to not buy anything related to endangered species.

If you are going to explore Belen market then there is an alley that you can’t miss: “Pasaje Paquito”, where you will be immersed in the world of traditional Amazon medicine.

In Pasaje Paquito, you can find many different traditional plant medicines used for many different conditions like diabetes, circulation problems, cancer, baldness or more esoteric things like loneliness, a “broken heart” or bringing back home your runaway wife (or husband).

Pasaje Paquito in Belen Market, Iquitos
Pasaje Paquito. Which one will you try?

One of the main concerns from people visiting Iquitos is: Is the Belen market safe?

The answer might vary depending on who you ask. We say the uphill market part is okay if you choose to go in the morning, don’t bring flashy equipment (big cameras or fancy cell phones), leave all your important stuff (passport, money, credit cards) in your accommodation, use common sense, carry everything in front of you and be attentive to pickpockets.

If you follow these recommendations and stick to the upper zone (where the market is) it’s probable you won’t have an issue when visiting the Belen market.

Open daily starting around 5:00 AM.

Cost: Free

Amazon indigenous tribes

If you are into cultural tourism and want to know a little more about the lifestyle of some of the  Amazon indigenous tribes you can do that in Iquitos.

When visiting Iquitos there are two main different indigenous groups that you can meet:

The Bora people and the Yagua people.

Boras communities extend between the Putumayo and Napo river and are comprised of about 2000 people. They speak their own language, Bora, derived from the Witotan language and have an animist view of the world.

The rubber boom had a devastating effect on the Bora people during the 20th century, diminishing their population by thousands.

The Yagua people is said to be one of the oldest tribes in the Amazon jungle. They live in the Peruvian and Colombian Amazon basin and are comprised of about 4000-6000 people (depending which source you cite). 

Yagua tribe member using a blowgun
Yagua using a blowgun. Photo credits: JialiangGao

They speak their own language, the Yagua language, and their two closest language relatives, Peba and Yameo, are now extinct.

It is calculated that at least one-third of all the Yaguas are monolingual, speaking only their language. The rest also speaks Spanish. 

Their population has been diminishing, at first many years ago by the Spanish conquerors, then by the Portuguese looking for slaves (bandeirantes), and then by the rubber boom. They also contracted diseases like Sarampion, which were lethal to them, from outsiders (in 1933 one third of the Yagua population died due to a Sampion epidemic).

They live based on agriculture (mainly yuca and rice), hunting and fishing. Currently, they accept visitors into their communities where they show them their traditional dancing, songs, and blowgun skills. Visitors are always asked to join these activities, so bring your best dance mood!

A great way to support them is to buy some handicrafts that they make, so the profits stay in the community and help their development.

You can visit the Yaguas tribe as part of any of our Amazon lodge tours.

If you prefer to organize a trip by yourself to visit Boras or Yaguas communities you can go directly from the Nanay port, renting a motorboat by asking the locals there.

Cost: $ – $$

Iquitos Boulevard (Malecón)

There is a certain feeling about walking Iquitos Boulevard, looking at the Itaya river, unwinding your mind with slow steps, moving your gaze between the handicraft stands, the creative artisans and the lively tables full of people eating, drinking and talking. In front of it all the mighty contrast of the Amazon jungle widespread almost to 180 degrees.

Iquitos malecon view
View from Iquitos boulevard. Beautiful, right?

One block from Plaza de Armas (Main Square) you can reach this iconic riverside walkway where you will find many restaurants, bars, and bistros. 

There are many small restaurants and little cafes with riverfront terraces or balconies where you can enjoy the food and the view

This place is usually very quiet in the mornings and early afternoon and starts to get lively around 6:00 or 7:00 PM with many people chilling and walking, different shows in the walkway, the playgrounds full of children and the sounds of the jungle mixed with music, cheering and laughter.

For sunrise lovers, the trick is to get up very early (around 5:00 AM) and look for the sun coming out of the river in the Malecón.

Sunsets are also great for views and photographs, the sun casts some colorful shadows over the river clouds.

If you go on a Saturday be sure to stay there until around 7:00 – 8:00 PM where the local Capoeira team gathers to practice, along with live music, giving everybody a free acrobatic display of this martial art.

Cost: Free

Stay in an Amazon lodge near Iquitos

When visiting Iquitos you have the chance to experience sleeping in the Amazon rainforest either by camping (Pacaya Samiria being the most popular option) or by staying in an Amazon lodge.

Sleeping in the jungle it’s an experience on its own, with all the wild sounds surrounding you and the sense of disconnection from the outer world.

Happy couple relaxing on Amazon Experience lodge
Chillin’ in the Amazon lodge

When you stay in a lodge near Iquitos it is usually as part of an organized Amazon river tour that includes the food, water, equipment, motorboat transport, guides, and different activities and places to visit.

If you are on a tight schedule and don’t want to deal with the logistics of finding where to stay in Iquitos we can pick you up from your morning flight at the airport and start your tour directly, being in our way to the Amazon lodge before lunch.

Amazon Experience lodge near Iquitos, Peru
Amazon jungle lodge near Iquitos

The most common options for Iquitos Amazon lodge tours range from 2 days to 5 days.

Cost: $$

Camping in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

If camping in the Amazon rainforest is one of your lifetime dreams then look no further. Near Iquitos, you can explore the Amazon jungle (primary jungle) inside a National Reserve the size of Slovenia! (over 2 million hectares)

If you haven’t heard about Pacaya Samiria National Reserve we highly encourage you to check out this article we wrote with lots of useful information about it.

You can also check this short video, made by our friend Simon Pittet, of his experience in Pacaya Samiria. We love it!

This place is full of different wildlife species representative of the Amazon rainforest like macaws, anacondas, monkeys, pink dolphins, manatees, caimans, frogs, and many others.

Pacaya Samiria is also known as “The Jungle of Mirrors” because you can see reflections of the sky and the surrounding nature in its rivers and affluents. It is even more impressive in real life than in the photographs.

Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is the Jungle of mirrors
Any doubt why is it called the “Jungle of mirrors”? Photo credit: Wandering Kamya (while exploring with Amazon Experience)

To arrive there the journey starts traveling from Iquitos to Nauta by highway (the only one around). This trip takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Once in Nauta you go to the port and depart from there by motorboat downstream the Marañón river (one of the rivers that form the Amazon river). This river trip takes around 3 hours to reach the Santo Domingo checkpoint, where the SERNANP (Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado) staff will register the visitors in a logbook and give approval for the entrance.

To enter this national park you must go with a tour operator authorized by the SERNANP. It is not possible to organize a trip on your own (by renting a motorboat for example).

Here you can find a list of all the authorized tour operators for conducting eco-tourism activities in Pacaya Samiria.

Due to the logistics involved in getting there and back, we offer Pacaya Samiria tours starting from 3 days and 2 nights up to 10 days 9 nights.

Exploring Pacaya Samiria National Park
Our friend Kamya enjoying Pacaya Samiria.

So, are you ready for some Amazon jungle camping adventure?

Cost: $$

Luxury cruise

If you want to explore the Amazon jungle in luxury then cruises might be your thing.

There are many companies, and resellers, that you can find online offering different kinds of Amazon cruises.

We don’t have a cruise yet but we are convinced that with hard work and patience we will be organizing the most awesome cruise tours in the future. Stay tuned!

Cost: $$$

Visit the Manatee Rescue Center (Centro de Rescate Amazónico, CREA)

Have you seen a manatee before? They are huge!

Outside of Iquitos city, on the highway connecting Iquitos and Nauta town, you can find the Amazon Rescue Center (CREA) who focuses on recovering rescued manatees and then releasing them back into its habitat.

Manatee rescue center in Iquitos
Rescued manatee at CREA. Photo credits: Harvey Barrison

Manatees are the largest mammals in South America and its population has been declining in the last decades due to hunting (for its oil and meat) and habitat loss.

Manatees are docile, herbivorous, and feed on plant species, like the water lettuces or hyacinths you can find in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.

Amazon manatees can eat up to 8% of their body weight during a day.

The entrance to this center is 20 soles per person, it includes a guided tour that explains about the work the center does regarding recovering and releasing manatees and other species.

This place also has an environmental education program for Iquitos kids.

You can arrive at the Amazon Rescue Center by moto-taxi, just say that you are going to “Centro de Rescate Amazónico”, it’s on KM 4.5 on the Iquitos – Nauta highway. It should take around 30 to 40 minutes and cost around 20 soles one way.

Cost: $

Night walk in the Amazon jungle

You never forget your first night walking in the Amazon jungle.

You walk slower than the normal day pace with all your senses tuned, looking for nocturnal animals and insects, hearing the most awesome natural symphony, while your mind is intrigued by what could be found lying ahead. Your heart races with every new discovery. You feel alive.

All in all, an experience worth to be lived by any adventurer soul.

Amazon jungle night walks
You can find lots of wildlife during an Amazon night walk

Exploring the Amazon jungle by night (and even by day) is something that could be done in a safe way guided by professionals that know how to navigate the trails, orientate themselves and also recognize the different wildlife species you might find.

All our Iquitos jungle tours (except the Full Day), include night walks into the jungle.

Oh, and always go with your rubber boots! (we provide those with every tour)

Cost: $$

Bellavista Nanay port

Foodie looking for a traditional and authentic spot to eat in Iquitos city? Bellavista Nanay is here to save the day!

Bellavista Nanay port has been serving as a local market and harbor for over 50 years to the people of Iquitos.

This port is located in the northern part of Iquitos city, where the Amazon river meets the Nanay river, and it’s used by many tour companies (ourselves included) to start the Amazon river journey downstream.

Traditionally people come here to eat fresh fish (look for “patarashca”, a preparation made with grilled vegetables and wrapped in leaves). We suggest you try the “picarones” (sweet potato donuts marinated with honey) and “macambo” (roasted cacao seeds). You can also find plenty of different (and rare) fruits to choose from. Delicious!

Bellavista Nanay port in Iquitos
In Nanay, you can find many different kinds of Amazon fruits

It is sad to see that here you can also find some banned foods (like turtle eggs, turtle soup or even cooked caimans). We encourage you to not be part of this and avoid buying anything related to turtles or caimans.

You can go there by moto-taxi (around 5 soles), by bus (1 sol), or as part of an organized tour when departing to Amazon lodges located in the Amazon river.

Cost: Free (if you walk) – $

Bus ride

If you are looking for a cheap and authentic way to tour the city then this is for you!

Just hop into any of the colorful half-wooden buses that transit different parts of Iquitos, sit down and enjoy the bumpy ride.

Wooden bus in Iquitos city
Slow ride, take it easy

These buses are locally built, only the engine, the wheels system, and a few other parts are imported. The rest is assembled in Iquitos city.

For a few soles, you can spend some time just strolling by, looking outside the glassless window and enjoying the city vibe.

Cost: $

Iquitos Museums

If you like museums and learning about the history of the places you visit then these suggestions are for you.

In Iquitos, you can find a few unique museums that are definitely worth a visit.

The Boat Museum is housed inside the Ayapua, a german steamship built in 1906 that was a crucial part of the Iquitos rubber boom. This three-deck ship contains lots of information and pictures of those times, helping visitors understand how Iquitos came to be and also showing them the dark side of it, with thousands of indigenous people exploited, enslaved and ultimately killed.

A Boat Museum in Iquitos Peru
The Boat Museum in Iquitos. Photo credits: Casa Morey

This Boat Museum also displays the movie Fitzcarraldo on a loop, so if you haven’t seen this Werner Herzog’s classic movie this is literally the perfect place.

The Museum of Indigenous Amazon Cultures is located very close to the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) in Malecon Tarapaca 332 (see the custom Google Maps for reference) and it displays many ethnographic samples of around 40 different indigenous tribes from the Amazon. 

Here you can see traditional clothing, weapons, ceremonial objects, tools, and even musical instruments. You can also learn about the beliefs and cosmovision of many Amazon indigenous tribes.

Open daily from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. The cost of the entrance is 15 soles.

Cost: $

Saint John Market (Mercado de San Juan)

One of the not-so-known Iquitos attractions is the San Juan handicrafts market.

Located half a block away from the “Plaza José Abelardo Quiñones” (locally known as Plaza San Juan or Plaza Roja, “Red Square”) you can find this artisanal market that is a hidden gem if you are looking for authentic souvenirs, gifts or things to buy in Iquitos.

Here you can find many different kinds of handicrafts like wooden bowls and plates, traditional decoration, clothing and tapestry, original paintings, hammocks, etc.

Also, if you take the left lane after entering and walk straight you can find two original Shipibo tribe stands that sell some great Shipibo artisanal tapestries and clothing. Who said you cannot be fashionable in the Amazon jungle?

Clothes with different Shipibo patterns
Looking for an original gift from Iquitos? Shipibo patterns in different clothing

You can go to this market from the Iquitos center by moto-taxi. It should cost you around 5 soles one way.

Cost: Free entrance

Amazon jungle festivals and events in Iquitos

Speaking of the “Red Square” (Plaza Roja or Plaza José Abelardo Quiñones), this is the main spot where Saint John (San Juan) is celebrated every year.

If you have never experienced Saint John in the Amazon region you are up for a surprise!

Celebrated at the end of June (June 24th) this festival is one of the biggest in the Amazon. Lots of people celebrating, singing, dancing and, of course, eating the traditional “Juane” (see the Traditional Amazon food section below for reference).

This festival is massive and attracts lots of people. You can see big groups of people, families and their children, and also some visitors in the streets near and in the Plaza Roja in a festive mood.

This Amazon festival is also famous for its traditional competition “Salto al shunto” (Jumping the shunto or fire). Images speak more than words:

Jumping fire in Saint John festival. Iquitos, Peru
“Salto al shunto”. Not for the faint hearted. Photo credit: Juan Pablo Gonzalez for Amazon Experience.

If this isn’t enough to get your festive fluids going then you will be happy to know that after Saint John ends, the day after immediately starts the celebration of Saint Paul, from June 25th until June 29th.

Another important date to know about traditional celebrations is the Iquitos carnival, around February 13th.

Cost: Free

Navigate the Amazon River and its affluents

This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t suggest navigating the Amazon river, one of the Earth’s seven natural wonders and the largest river on the planet.

Amazon Experience tours exploring Amazon river
Exploring one of the natural wonders of the world. Photo credit: Wanderingkamya

There have been numerous attempts to measure the length of the Amazon river, being the most current (and accepted) one that this mighty is about 6992 km (4345 miles) long. 

Impressive, eh?

Once you are in Iquitos there are a few ways you can explore the Amazon river by motorboat.

If you are looking for a cheap option you can go to the Nanay port and rent a motorboat so you can see the “Meeting of the waters”, where the Nanay river meets the Amazon river, and navigate in the surroundings of the port looking for pink dolphins.

The most complete option will be exploring it as part of an organized Iquitos Amazon tour. This way you will be sure to cover different places to visit, including the famous Yanayacu basin, Monkey Island, visiting an indigenous tribe, along with hiking in the jungle by day and night.

People jumping in the Amazon river
Having a blast in the Amazon river.

The more time you spend navigating the Amazon river, the more chances you have to snap that great picture of a pink dolphin jumping. If you are not into photography it doesn’t matter, just watching them is pretty amazing too.

Cost: $-$$

Taste some Amazon traditional food

The Amazon region is famous for its landscapes, its wildlife and also for its delicious food!

When visiting Iquitos the most typical food you might find is the mighty “Juane” (kinda like Juan, Spanish for John).

It is widely consumed year-round but especially on June 24th celebrating Saint John the Baptist (San Juan).

Juanes are usually made on the basis of rice, chicken (or another kind of meat), olives, hard-boiled egg, and some spices. Then it is wrapped with bijao (macaw-flower) leaves and then put to boil. There is also the variant “Juane de huevo” (egg Juane) that is without chicken or any meat, just with eggs, that we recommend to vegetarians.

For people that eat fish, in the Amazon you can find great variety, including gamitana, sabalo, tucunare, palometa, boquichico, and even piranhas. If you are looking for the preparation of a fish grilled in vegetables and wrapped in leaves ask for “patarashca”.

For vegetarians and vegans (or anyone that loves fruits), there are plenty of new fruits to try including camu camu (very high on C vitamin and antioxidants), aguaje (also found in ice creams!), zapote, maracuya, uvilla, tumbo, mango, carambola, guayabana, copoasu, macambo, guaba and, of course, many different kinds of bananas (from very small and sweet ones to very big, green ones, that are boiled or fried as a side dish).

And for people that love spicy foods, we have two chili suggestions you can’t miss in Iquitos: Cocona chili (Ají de cocona) and biting one small Charapita chili (Ají charapita). You won’t be disappointed.

Cost: $

Where to eat in Iquitos?

All that food talk made us feel a little… hungry!

So, you just arrived in Iquitos, went to your accommodation, dropped the bags, took a quick shower (highly encouraged after arriving) and now you are ready to hit the streets, but… where do you go to eat in Iquitos?

We have compiled a list of suggested restaurants in Iquitos. We have tried every restaurant listed at least once and we made sure every one of them has vegetarian options. We don’t have any commercial agreement with them and you are free to eat wherever you want (just avoid ceviche served on street carts, for your own good).

Our list of places to eat in Iquitos is almost ready. Stay tuned!

Where to drink and go out in Iquitos?

Repeat after me: “Una cerveza por favor”

You can order a beer or a cocktail in some of the previously mentioned Iquitos restaurants but we thought this list of suggestions about what to do in Iquitos wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include a proper “Iquitos nightlife guide”.

Searching on Google for “Iquitos nightlife” we only found a couple of outdated articles, so we decided to write one on our own.

Our list of places to party and drink in Iquitos is almost ready. Stay tuned!

Bonus: Just chill

We know this might not be the most popular option for those on a tight schedule visiting Iquitos and the Amazon but we think it would help those trying to dig deeper into the cultural side of Iquitos and its inhabitants.

If you can afford to have some days just slowly wandering the streets, sitting on public benches or, trying to learn some Spanish while talking with local sellers we think your experience in Iquitos would be more enjoyable and rounded.

You can take a notebook and just write, draw or paint as a way to unwind while looking at the river from whatever sitting spot you have found. 

Top spots for people watching are the Boulevard in the Malecón and Plaza de Armas (Main Square).

Take it slow. 

Enjoy the humid air. 


Are you ready for your adventure in Iquitos?

At Amazon Experience we want you to discover and enjoy the beauty of Iquitos and the Amazon jungle.

This post about what to do in Iquitos was put together with much love, so you can have an idea of what to expect when arriving at Iquitos and choose from the different activities presented the ones that best fit your personal taste and budget.

If you want to explore the Amazon jungle we will be happy to share that journey with you!

You can check all our Iquitos tours here and if you want to contact us you can reach us here.


Disclaimer: If you find any piece of information to be inaccurate please get in contact with us so we can fix it. Any feedback is welcome.


Iquitos Worldwide

During July and August of 2018, we partnered with Neon Gang, one of our favorites disruptive video producers, to showcase the people, landscapes and wildlife of the beautiful city of Iquitos.

We didn’t want to cover it in a traditional way, so we decided to give it a wild twist.

Immerse yourself into the Amazon Jungle, the way we see it, with this teaser video:

Chapters 1 and 2 will be released soon and both will cover different sides of Iquitos: The city and the jungle.

Stay tuned for the release, and be prepared to experience the Amazon jungle in front row, uncensored and with a lot of style.

And remember, stay wild!

Pacaya Samiria Information

Location: Peru
Total area: 5.139.792 acres (over 2 million hectares)
Meters above sea level: 106 meters
Closest city: Iquitos, located 180 km away.
Closest towns: Nauta and Requena.
Distance to capital: Lima is located a thousand kilometers away (1009 km to be precise).
Awesomeness level: “You gotta see it to believe it”

The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is a huge protected area, situated in the Northeast of Peru. This forested area is distributed between the Loreto, Requena, High Amazon and Ucayali departments, and is circumscribed by two noteworthy streams: the Marañon and the Ucayali rivers. These two water streams are located in the Ucamara depression, giving the origin to the Amazon waterway. The Amazon river basin is the biggest rainforest on the planet and the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is the biggest zone of protected flooded forest within the Amazon rainforest.

The Pacaya Samiria reserve is one of the biggest protected territories in Peru and was established in 1982. For comparison, it’s about the size of Slovenia, and around half the size of Denmark, Sweden or the Netherlands. It protects various segments of the western Amazon basin covering more than 2 million hectares of land. Quite a bit of it stays unexplored.

The name of the national reserve comes from two big rivers: The Pacaya river, a tributary of the Ucayali, that flows towards the left bank of the Puinahua channel. And the Samiria river, tributary of the Marañon, flows on the right side of this river.

Pacaya Samiria is the jungle of mirrors
“The Jungle of mirrors”

The waterways in the reserve are for the most part blackened by the high concentration of nutrients, giving it its famous name of “The jungle of mirrors”. This offers life support to a large number of the trees and plants of the reserve providing a base to the Amazon wildlife ecosystem. One example of a magnificent creature that lives in these obscured water streams is a giant Amazon fish called the Arapaima gigas, locally known as “Paiche”, which weighs around 100 kg. and can grow more than six feet long (there are reports of it growing more than 3 meters long and weighing more than 250 kg). There is a preservation program set up in the reserve to shield these fish from over-harvesting. The Pacaya Samiria reserve is also home to a huge number of wildlife species, for example, manatees, pink dolphins, caimans, macaws, and anacondas, for naming a few.

Hoatzin or Shansho inside the Pacaya Samiria park
What about the Hoatzin? A prehistoric bird.

We’ll get into a detailed list in a few more paragraphs so stay tuned!

History and goals of Pacaya Samiria

In the early 80’s, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve was established by the Peruvian government to preserve the vast wilderness, stunning biodiversity and pristine landscapes within this Amazonian area.

Pacaya Samiria National Reserve represents 1.5% of the nation’s land and 6% of Loreto’s department. The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve presently takes an incorporated administration, including indigenous people in management roles. This is a big change considering that before locals were excluded from the discussion.

The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is part of the National System of Natural Areas and is secured and managed by the Peruvian Government, by the organization called Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (SERNANP). The main objective is to secure the biodiversity of the overflowed forest (known as varzea) in this region. As of late, the reserve’s objective has expanded to incorporate the promotion of sustainable development of indigenous people groups inside the national park.

Pacaya Samiria National park entrance
One of the Pacaya Samiria’s entrance

This coordinated management style of including local populations has had a colossal positive effect on the general preservation of species within the reserve, with a lessening in hunting pressure and an increase in wildlife populations. When local populations were offered regions to manage, a positive move occurred and many now see the reserve as a solid financial advantage to their region, making the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve an example of successful living community eco-tourism.

Visitors must pay an entrance fee (included in our tour packages), and are just allowed access to pre-determined zones of the huge reserve. The idea behind this restricted access is to shield the natural landscape from negative anthropogenic effects.

It is very important for the conservation of this delicate ecosystem that you, as a visitor, ensure that the tour company that will provide you the service of guiding you inside the Pacaya Samiria reserve has its permit up to date for entering inside the reserve. You can check all the tour companies that have this permit in this link. We are proud to be in that list as allies for the conservation of the reserve.

Up to date permit for RNPS
Amazon Experience’s permit for entering Pacaya Samiria reserve

We can summarize Pacaya Samiria’s main goals as:

  • To improve and extend education about the area.
  • To interest the local population on the benefits of conservation and good management of fauna.
  • To conserve low jungle representative ecosystems, including endangered jungle animals and plants.
  • To encourage the study of the area’s flora and fauna.
  • To encourage and promote the use of natural resources according to the principles of proper ecological development.

Amazon rainforest habitats

The different habitat types found in the Peruvian Amazon came about because of extensive scale geologic events amid the tertiary and quaternary periods. The Samiria river basin sits in the Pevas lake bed, which formed during the Andes uplifting, leaving a topographical depression denoted by soft alluvial soils. This depression in western Amazonia permits the vegetated scene to change into the flooded forest that the region is known for.

The Amazon rainforest, including districts of Peru, is in charge of 20% of the oxygen production for the whole planet. Every year around 30 million acres are deforested in the Amazon jungle (about the size of New York state), not only diminishing the oxygen production but liberating massive quantities of CO2 into our atmosphere.

Pacaya Samiria producing oxygen
Oxygen factory

Peru’s tropical rainforest provide a humid warm environmental condition within the Amazonia region. The climatic conditions are very valuable to the development and life cycles of a wide assortment of plants and animals.

The ancient tropical forests additionally provide a powerful structure for the development of different life forms involving a few layers of vegetation, from the forest floor on the ground to the tall canopy in the air. Plants and animals that live in the rainforest are to a great degree all around adjusted to their surroundings, occupying a particular specialty inside the ecosystems.

This specific biome, or network of ecosystems, is believed to be the oldest on earth. The diversification of Amazon animals and plants are greatly intricate, unique and fascinating. Do you feel like exploring the Pacaya Samiria now?

Exploring the natural reserve
Exploring the Pacaya Samiria Reserve

Amazon wildlife

When you are thinking about animals that live in the Amazon rainforest, what comes to your mind? Surely you think of river dolphins, anacondas, piranhas, sloths, monkeys, frogs, and lizards right? Then it will impress you to know that the birds have the highest number of species found: Over 500 inside the Pacaya Samiria reserve. Quite a while back, a group of bird researchers recorded over 350 species… in only 24 hours!

Birds of Peru - Bird watching Iquitos, Peru
Slate-colored Hawk – Buteogallus schistaceus

Researchers and scientists also have found over 100 warm-blooded creatures (mammals for example), 69 reptiles and 58 amphibian species. What about fishes? Over 260 species recognized. And care to guess the number of plant species inside the Pacaya Samiria reserve? More than 1800 types of plants!

According to Cornell analysts, Peru has the highest density of bird species per area on the whole planet! Pretty cool eh?

Birds of Peru - Amazon Experience
Amazon Kingfisher – Chloroceryle amazona

Here you have a sample list of Amazon animals and plants you can find in the Pacaya Samiria national park:

Amazon rainforest animals you can find in Pacaya Samiria:

  • Black caimans or Melanosuchus niger (up to 6 meters long!) and also white caimans (Caiman crocodilus)
  • Giant centipedes, including the largest in the world Scolopendra gigantea
  • Scorpions
  • Tarantulas, being the Amazonian tarantula the biggest in the world!
  • River turtles, like the Charapa (Podocnemis expansa) and Taricaya (Podocnemis unifilis)
  • Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), a kind of prehistoric bird
  • Howler and spider monkeys
  • Boas and anacondas (Eunectes murinus), up to 9 meters long.
  • Piranhas, but do not worry, most places within the reserve where we navigate are safe to swim.
  • Sloths (Bradypus variegatus)
  • Frogs and Salamanders
  • Freshwater electric eels (Electrophorus electricus), these species use electromagnetic pulses for hunting and communication
  • Paiche (Arapaima Gigas)
  • Giant hummingbird along with other hummingbirds, this region has a great diversity
  • Leafcutter ants, along with other ant species
  • Blue morpho butterflies (Morpho menelaus), truly spectacular iridescent butterflies bigger than the size of a fist!
  • Amazon river dolphins, including the pink dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) and the grey dolphin (Sotalia fluviatilis). There is a legend about a black dolphin but we have never seen it.
  • Giant river otters (Pteronura brasiliensis)
  • Black Jaguars (Panthera Onca), locally called Otorongo, the third biggest in the cat family around the world.
  • Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), a beautiful and endangered river animal
  • Macaw parrots, like the blue and yellow macaw (Ara ararauna) and the red and green macaw (Ara chloropterus)
Frogs in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Sapo Hualo – Leptodactylus pentadactylus

Amazon rainforest plant species you can find in Pacaya Samiria:

  • Giant lily pads
  • Aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa), a palm tree whose fruits are eaten by many animals and settlers of local communities. It is also used to make artisanal soap.
  • Large cedar trees (Cedrella odorata)
  • Orchids, with over 20 rainforest species present in the natural reserve
  • Caoba (Maena capimori)
  • Uña de Gato, or cat’s claw in english
  • Heliconia
  • Rubber trees
  • Mahogany (Maena capimori)
  • Lupuna tree (Ceiba pentandra)
  • Cascarilla (Cinchona officinalis)
  • Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
  • Huairuro (Ormosia amazonica)
  • Machín sapote (Quararibea bicolor)
  • Hormiga caspi (Durdia eriophila)

The timber tree species in the Pacaya Samiria reserve like cedar and mahogany are very much appreciated in local and international markets. This is the reason why these are threatened occasionally by unscrupulous illegal loggers.

Big tree inside the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Now that’s what I call a giant tree!

Climate and Seasons

Pacaya Samiria’s climate is humid and tropical, with varying temperature ranging from 18°C to 35°C. Yep, that hot. You can check some average temperatures regarding different months here. The annual average rainfall is between 2000 and 3000 mm of water. This vast protected area is described by the cycle of two seasons, called crescent and reflux (low water season and high water season), correlating to the water levels inside the forested area.

The two yearly seasons are:

  • Crescent, from October until April. Also called “High water season”.
  • Reflux, from May until September. Also called “Low water season”.

So, you might be asking yourself now when to visit Pacaya Samiria?
The answer is: It depends.
The best time to visit Pacaya Samiria depends on what you want to experience.

Friends enjoying Pacaya Samiria
Enjoying some cool weather on the boat

From October until April the increased rains make the water levels of all waterways in the reserve (rivers, creeks and, lagoons) go up. This period is what gave the name “Jungle of mirrors” to the national reserve, where large areas of the rainforest are overflowed. This is the best time to explore the many creeks and lagoons in motorboats or canoeing.

From May until September there isn’t so much rain as in the crescent period, and water streams recede accordingly. This period gives the chance to visitors to walk and trek more inside the virgin jungle. During this period you can also see some sandy shorelines on the riverside which are used by the settlers of the reserve to grow beans, rice, peanuts, among other crops. Also by two very characteristic species of the Pacaya Samiria reserve, the charapa (Podocnemis expansa) and taricaya (Podocnemis unifilis) aquatic turtles, use these beaches to lay their eggs.

Survival skills inside Pacaya Samiria
Survival skills in one of the walking tours

Wildlife adapts without problem to this cycle of crescent and reflux. When most of the rainforest remains flooded, animals find shelter in the highest areas, which remain dry because water streams never reach. During the reflux, when water is retained in small lagoons and creeks, you can observe a large number of aquatic birds catching fishes concentrated there.

If you travel with us you will still do both kinds of activities, trekking through the jungle and cruising it on motorboat and canoes. This seasonal division is to give you a reference for what to expect when you arrive there.

So, are you ready to jump in?

How to get to Pacaya Samiria

Pacaya Samiria’s beauty, as well as it’s biological wealth, makes the reserve a particularly important destination for scientific investigators, nature lovers and bird watchers.

The only safe way to visit the Pacaya Samiria reserve is through an organized tour from professional and certified tour operators, like us! (If you prefer the fancy option there are many companies that offer luxury cruises. We do not offer cruises yet)

Navigating inside the Pacaya Samiria reserve
They see me cruisin…

Departing from Iquitos by road it will take us around 1 hour and 45 minutes to arrive at Nauta town. From this town, founded in 1830, we will depart by private motorboat through the Marañon river, against the current. The trip will take us around 3 hours before arriving at Santo Domingo, one of the SERNANP checkpoints for entering the reserve. Here we register and show entrance tickets to the officer in charge (we get those in advance when you book with us).

There are no jungle lodges inside the reserve because this is a protected area by the government of Peru. On the first night inside the Pacaya Samiria reserve, we sleep inside a typical village house in the community of Buenos Aires. Here we will sleep on individual beds with mosquito nets. The next days are all about camping with tents in the jungle, making this experience pure adventure.

Pacaya Samiria aerial shot of a campsite
Arriving at one of the campsites inside the reserve

We offer Pacaya Samiria tours starting at 3 days and 2 nights because we consider that the minimum amount of days to get a feel of the beauty of this place considering the logistics involved in traveling there by land and river.

With us, you can go as much as 10 days and 9 nights, reaching deeper parts of Pacaya Samiria and arriving at “El Dorado” lake, considered the hearth of the reserve because of its spectacular and diverse wildlife. Arriving there is an adventure on its own, reserved for those willing to go deep into the jungle.

If you are really adventurous and want to experience a place where not many people have been or you are a passionate birdwatcher, biologist, photographer or videographer, then the 9 days and 8 nights or the 10 days and 9 nights El Dorado itineraries are definitively for you!

If you are interested in visiting the Pacaya Samiria reserve for a rainforest camping tour (and a truly unique experience) you can check our tours or contact us. Our tours don’t have fixed departures so we can accommodate to your schedule. We will be happy to answer your questions.

All of the photos presented in this article are taken from us or our friends, that traveled with us inside the Pacaya Samiria reserve.

Thanks to all of you who contributed with this. It would have never been possible without you. You know who you are.

Pacaya Samiria enjoyed by some friends
Our friends enjoying the view in Pacaya Samiria

Direct flights from Cusco to Iquitos

Last week LATAM Airlines Peru inaugurated its direct flight from Cusco to Iquitos (or vice versa), with a promotional fare, starting at 45 USD one way.

This flight will run 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and it’s part of LATAM’s plan to decentralize commercial air operations in Peru. There are rumors of possible direct flights from Brasil and Argentina to arrive directly at Iquitos during 2018 or 2019 but so far no official statement on this.

On July 2th, upon arriving at the Coronel FAP International Airport, the flight was received by the “Cruce de Aguas”, baptizing the first flight, welcoming the guests as well as city authorities.

Flight being received with water crossings. Image courtesy of tnews.

This direct flight it is expected to transport more than 7,000 passengers between July and November.

You can find the estimated departure times here (courtesy of tnews):

Timetables. Image courtesy of tnews.

If you are heading Cusco, now you can consider coming to the Amazon Jungle without stops.

Just on a single hop.

Are you ready for adventure?

Source article (spanish):


Hello wild people!

The Amazon Experience team is happy, very happy. And it’s all thanks to you, the travelers.

This week we were contacted by TripAdvisor with great news for us. We have been awarded the Certificate of Excellence 2018!

Amazon Experience receives Certificate of excellence from Tripadvisor 2018. Iquitos, Peru.
Amazon Experience – Certifcate of Excellence 2018

You can check our profile here.

With over 90 reviews there (and many more on Facebook, Google, in our physical notepad inside the office and other places), we feel very grateful towards all of you.

What motivate us it’s your constant feedback in how to do things better, your words of kindness and appreciation, your recommendations, your understanding when we screw up something and your encouragement to keep us going with this dream we had, about how to do things differently for the better, regarding tourism in the Amazon rainforest.

We have big plans to continue the development of a tourism business that cares for the travelers as friends and visitors, for the local community, for our team and, especially, for nature and the environment.

Thanks for allowing us to do what we love.

Big hug to all of you.

And remember… Stay wild!


How do people live in the Amazon rainforest? What it’s like to live in the Amazon jungle?

Don Julio, Santa Maria de Fatima
Don Julio, member of the Santa Maria de Fatima community

On March, 2017 we went to Santa Maria de Fatima community, located in the Amazon river and we talked with Don Julio to share how Amazon rainforest people live.
Don Julio is part of a group within the community that is in charge of developing this area in the context of sustainable ecotourism.
He shared some insights with us in how people live in his community.
What is your full name?
My name is Julio Cahuachi Sanda.
How old are you?
I’m 67 years old.
How long have you been living in the Santa Maria de Fatima community?
I’ve been living here my whole life, since 1950, the year I was born. I’ve lived my childhood, when i was young and, well, now I’m an elder.
I’m permanently here, I haven’t been out that much, just to work in some other places. Mostly I dedicate myself to my community.
Amazon rainforest people
Don Julio and his house

What is your role in the community?
I work permanently with my group, we are about 20 people working in this paradise -I’m going to just call it like that, he says-. We have an environmental conservation area and we love that our tourist friends visit us and go deep into the Amazon jungle. Usually they enter in the afternoon and they come back in the morning after staying in the jungle.
Santa Maria de Fatima
Surroundings of Santa Maria de Fatima, a true paradise

Which animals can we find in the surroundings of Santa Maria de Fatima?
The jungle here is really charming. Many times you find animals like monkeys. We have 2 types here, the mono ardilla (squirrel monkey) and the cervecerita (pichico pardo, saddle back tamarin), that has a white mouth.
By night while walking you can find snakes in some ocassions, frogs like the sapo hualo and others.
Of the birds you can see here, the Herons are the most known?
Yes, the herons and the shansho (hoatzin). In the season you can find snowy egrett (garza blanca), white and brown boat billed herons (huapapa blanca y huapapa marron) and others.
Tower Santa Maria de Fatima
3 floor wooden tower. Built by the community to enjoy the landscape and look for herons.

When it’s the best time for seeing Herons?
The best season it’s from May until September.
How many people live in Santa Maria de Fatima?
In the community we are 65 families. Older than 18 years are considered part of the community. Counting childs and adults we are 232 persons.
What do you do for a living?
Here the work we have is the agriculture and fishing. We sow so we can produce banana, yuca, corn and other vegetables.
What do you like the most of living here?
I like my community a lot. I love living here and that is why I stay here.
school santa maria de fatima
Santa Maria de Fatima community: Blue buildings are the school

What are the problems that your community has?
We need many things here to improve. For example, an infrastructure to receive our friends that visit us like a community house, between other things that we have permanently delayed because we just can’t.
Do you feel supported by the regional government?
No. We belong to the Belen district but politically we belong to the Indiana district. In election times we go to Indiana, and to the Belen district, only 2 or 3 people go.
For example, in front of my house, there are documents for making a new local building but that has been like that for 3 years. The thing is we don’t have support.

What is the thing that visitors most like when they come?

I’m one of the local guides, when the visitors come I come with them and show them the jungle. They say to me that this place is charming.
What message would you like to give to the world, to the people who read this?
I would give a message to our tourist friends:

Visit our community, we will be glad to welcome you.

Thank you, Don Julio
Thank you, good day.

We are in the process of updating our tours in the Amazon river to include this destination. If you wanna visit them just send us a message. We strongly believe in the development of communities throught practices of self leadership and sustainable eco tourism. That’s why we support them.
If you wanna contact Santa Maria de Fatima community you can do so through their Facebook page
This is the first post of a series showing some perspectives from Amazon rainforest people.
Interview by Luis Bustamante