Suggested length of stay: 7 days
Because of the particular geographical location of Iquitos in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon basin and because this city is the point of departure to the main attractions of the region,the proposed circuit is not a sequence for the developing of an itinerary but a nonconsecutive list of the most important places,as well as suggestions for the best enjoying of the trip.
:: GETTING THERE
Daily flights from Lima to Iquitos take one and a half hours.
The distance between Pucallpa and Iquitos by the Ucayali river is 990 km (613 miles) and the trip takes 4 to 6 days.The distance between Lima and Pucallpa by land is 782 km (485 miles) and the trip takes about 24 hours.
The city of Iquitos,capital of Loreto,is located on the north-eastern Amazon plain.Loreto is the largest region of Peru and covers 30% of the national land area.
Iquitos,almost 4 degrees to the south of the Equator is located at about 1009 km (625 miles) northeast from Lima and at 100 meters (328 feet)a.s.l.It was founded in 1864 although it had already been settled some decades before.The city has 250,000 inhabitants.Located between the Nanay river and the left bank of the Amazon.It is the most important river port of the country.
The weather in Iquitos is warm and humid.The temperature ranges from 17 to 20 degrees C (62 to 68 degrees F) in June and July,to 36 degrees C (97 degrees F) between December and March.These months are considered as winter time in spite of the high temperature.The average humidity is 84 %.
The city lies on the banks of an Amazon river branch in front of a large and woody permanent shoal called Padre Isla,almost 20 km (12 miles) long. It is surrounded by rivers and small channels.The Napo and Amazonas rivers converge close to Iquitos.
Communications,in this fluvial world,depend on navigation more than on land transportation which is almost unavailable outside the city.
The most popular means of transportation in the city is the "motocar":a motorized tricycle for passengers.The traditional means on the rivers,are the "pequepeque",the "pamacari" boat (larger and roofed for travelers' convenience ) and the outboard motorboat which is faster and more powerful.Some large fluvial vessels are also available.
:: WHAT TO SEE
Iquitos has a recently inagurated zoo among its main attractions,as well as some interesting buildings dating back to the rubber boom of the last century,such as old mansions covered with mosaics,along the riverside and the first "Iron House",prefabricated building of America.The Iron House was designated and built by Gustave Eiffel,brought from Europe in pieces and assembled where it is now,in the center of the city.
There are several places around the city where plenty of local culture and folklore can be admired.
Moronacocha,located 3 km (1.8 miles) from the city and the well known Quistococha-16 km (10 miles) away are among the lakes.Quistococha has a paiche fish farm.
:: LODGES AND SERVICES
There are several jungle lodges on the banks of the Amazon, Itaya, Yarapa and Manati rivers, specially conditioned for the tourist who wishes to experience a close contact with nature. Some of these lodges have bungalows with private bathrooms and others have comfortable rooms as well as other facilities, such as orchid nurseries and bio-diversity laboratories. There is also a lodge which has a canopy walkway for the observation of the jungle wildlife. All of the lodges include traditional regional dishes which are nutritious as well as delicious.
:: AMAZONIAN CRUISES
A tourist service offers exciting international cruises along the largest river in the world. The ships make a round trip from Iquitos (6 nights/7 days),thanks to the 1987 free navigation treaty. The service includes:meals on board, air-conditioned cabins and visits to Leticia in Colombia and Tabatinga in Brazil. It also offers excursions during the trip, including jungle treks, visits to Indian villages, night expeditions and fishing.
The Amazon basin is the most extensive and varied natural reserve of the world.It is home to 25,000 classified species of plants and believed to have many others which still remain unknown.
The Peruvian jungle hols more than 4000 butterflies species and in the basin of this great river (literally millions of square miles of water courses) live some 2000 different fish species,more than in the Atlantic Ocean.There are also plants such as the aquatic lilies known as "Victoria Regia",with leaves that reach a diameter of 2 meters (6.5 feet);exotic birds like the hoatzin,that dives to escape from its pursuers and whose chicks have claws on their wings.There are also pink dolphins more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length,jaguars and the tapir,the biggest native mammal of the Amazon jungle,all of them living harmoniously in this wonderful ecosystem.
:: FROM ABOVE
The camp,over the Sucusari river,affluent of the Napo,is considered one of the most important attractions of ecotourism throughout the world,because it has the first canopy walkway for the observation of fauna and flora.Nature lovers may enjoy a walk "on the high side" along this 200 meter (656 feet)-long walkway,30 meters (98 feet) above the ground,which links the 6 tallest treetops of the area.This is the first and largest canopy walkway in the Americas.
The Biosphere Reserve of the Amazon and the ACEER (Amazonian Center for Environmental Education and Research) laboratory are also in this area.The Reserve protects 2'023,500 hectares (818,910 acres) of pristine vegetation.This camp is accessible by river from Iquitos.The trip takes 3 hours by motor boat and 7 hours by rowboat.An airplane service is also available.
:: THE PACAYA-SAMIRIA NATIONAL RESERVE
Pacaya-Samiria is the largest reserve in Peru,covering 21,000 km2 (8.106 sq miles).Its area,12 % larger than Manu,is similar to that of El Salvador.
The Reserve was created to preserve the wonderful flora and fauna of the lower part of the jungle,between the Huallaga low stream and the Pulnahua channel (an alternative course of the Ucayali ).
The basin of the Pacaya and Samiria rivers also includes 8 big lakes and several lagoons.There are 2 kinds of cetaceans and a unique sirenid-the large marine cow or manati (thichechus inungis),not found elsewhere in Peru,among the uncommon water species.
Access and guided visits are possible in 4 hours by launch from the lodges or in ten by "pamacari"