Although it is a tropical destination, Iquitos has a fairly consistent climate throughout the year – with most days seeing some rain and high temperatures. Instead, the city is said to have “low” and “high” water seasons. Travel between May and October during low water, for the best wildlife viewing opportunities (unless you really want to see monkeys, which are more visible during the high water season). Cheaper flights are more likely to be available during the high water season.
Located in Peru’s Amazonian region, Iquitos is a superb base from which to explore the jungle and its amazing wildlife, and is also a vibrant and charming city in its own right.
The city itself was once a booming centre of the world rubber industry, and still possesses hundreds of opulent buildings from that golden age. Wander around the Old Town and see gorgeous mosaics and facades, as well as the extraordinary Iron House that was built by Gustave Eiffel.
There are some fantastic family attractions as well, such as the unique Manatee Sanctuary, which houses manatees whose mothers have been killed by hunters. In the nearby village of Padre Cocha, you can visit the superb Butterfly Farm, while the town’s “Mercado” is a fabulous place to secure souvenirs.
Iquitos is also a great city for dining, and is one of the centres of Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine. Head to the Plaza 28 de Julio (Peru’s largest square) to find some of the country’s finest eateries.
But this is a destination which excels beyond the city limits. Join well organised tours to sites like the enormous Pacaya Samiria National Reserve – where visitors can experience intense jungle survival courses or just enjoy trekking expeditions into the jungle. There are also beautifully sited lodges for visitors to stay in at Tahuayo and Curassow, where visitors can see monkeys, sloths and the incredible giant water lily – a truly unforgettable experience.
Visitors can also join specialist cultural expeditions to meet jungle tribes and learn about their lifestyles, while outdoor activities like kayaking are also easy to organise. And, when you return to Iquitos, the city offers all-year round nightlife like few other South American destinations, with a huge range of dance clubs and bars.
Locals generally tend to get around Iquitos in the many “motocarro” – motorcycles with cabins attached to the back. These are reliable, quick, cheap and cool vehicles which will pick you up wherever you find them, and drivers will know all of the major hotels. They may also give you an informative guided tour for a small fee, which is well worth it.
Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport (IQT) is located about 4 miles (7 km) from Iquitos town centre and there are no regular bus services. However, every flight will be met by a crowd of eager taxi drivers, and the fare into the city centre is extremely affordable. Some hotels and Amazon lodges will also provide their own transport, which is worth checking before you fly.