How to Visit Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest (Full guide!)

Last Updated on June 6, 2022 by admin

The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s greatest ecological wonders. As far as forests go, it’s absolutely massive. It stretches over 9 countries and covers over two and half million square miles. It’s also been under threat for years. Every second, 1.5 acres of the Amazon Rainforest is destroyed, and one of the best things you can do to help is to donate to charities that work hard to protect it. It’s also possible to visit the Amazon Rainforest, but it’s important to focus on sustainable and eco-friendly tourism. We visited a portion of the Amazon Rainforest that is located in Peru. We traveled to the city of Iquitos as a launching spot for our rainforest adventure. In this post, we share all about visiting Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest.

Amazon River in the Rainforest in Iquitos Peru
Our adventure on the Amazon River!

 

Join our newsletter (linked here) for monthly updates!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com. These sales help to run this blog without any additional cost to you. See our policy page for details. 


How to Get to Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest

 

Iquitos, Peru, is located in the northeast section of Peru along the Amazon River. It’s about 629 miles away from Lima.

It’s the largest city in the world that is inaccessible by road. You can only travel to Iquitos by plane and by boat. 

When we visited Iquitos, we took a flight from Cusco to Lima, and then we took a flight from Lima to Iquitos. The plane ride from Lima was about an hour and 40 minutes.

Once in Iquitos, we took a boat ride along the Amazon River to visit our eco-lodge in the Amazon Rainforest. (More on that experience below!)

Need a rental car? You can use our link: Best car rental prices – Guaranteed. RentalCars.com

Planning a trip to Peru? See our guide to planning the best Peru itinerary!

 

Iquitos Peru market
A visit to the market in Iquitos

About the Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. (Remember it’s 2.5 million square miles!) There are over 3,000 formally acknowledged indigenous territories within the rainforest. In terms of flora and fauna, the Amazon Rainforest has an unparalleled level of biodiversity. It’s incredible to think that about 1 in 10 of all of the world’s wildlife lives in the Amazon Rainforest. There are over 2.5 million types of insects, 40,000 different types of plants, and thousands of different types of fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

Beautiful flower in the Amazon Rainforest
A beautiful flower along the riverbank

 

The Amazon River was named by the Spanish (Rio Amazonas) after an ancient Greek myth (Amazonas) about a group of female warriors. The Spanish had witnessed many of the indigenous women fight alongside men, thus the name.

boat cruise on the Amazon River in Iquitos Peru
A boat on the Amazon River

 

How to Help the Amazon Rainforest

Before we continue, we want to share some guiding principles to help protect the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation is a major threat, as humans burn the forest to make more room for cattle pastures.

  • Reduce your consumption of red meat
  • Reduce your gas and oil consumption
  • Reduce your use of paper and wood
  • Donate to charities and organizations working to protect the rainforest
  • Read more about how to help here

We can say that visiting the rainforest firsthand helped us to truly appreciate its importance and it motivated us to do more to help. 

Victoria Regia lily pads in the Amazon Rainforest


What to Pack for a Trip to the Amazon

  • Power Bank Phone Charger: Before we leave home, we have at least one (if not two) power banks fully charged. That way we can charge our phones on the go while we’re traveling. Because we use our phones for navigation and for photography, it’s really important that we don’t run out of battery. 
  • Power Adapter/Voltage Converter: Whenever traveling internationally, it’s important to be able to charge your electronics safely. We’re recommending this power adapter and voltage converter because it can be used globally. It’s a little more expensive than some basic products you can find, but this one has a multi-protection safety system. It also lets you charge up to 7 devices simultaneously. (You don’t need to fight with anyone in your travel party about access to outlets.) It works in over 150 countries. 
  • First Aid Kit: Whenever you travel, be sure to have some basic first aid items on hand. We most commonly like to have an assortment of bandages in case we get a blister or cut.
  • High-Quality Backpack: If you’re heading on a boat down the Amazon River, it can be helpful to pack very lightly. We’ve linked a high-quality daypack option here. For larger backpacks, we recommend  this backpack for women and this one for men. You’ll also want to make sure you have a rain cover for your backpack. It is the rainforest after all!
  • Quick Dry Towel: A quick dry towel will come in handy if you need to dry something off in a pinch. It packs up small so it’s easy to throw in your bag just in case. 
  • Filtered Water Bottle: You won’t have to worry so much about water quality when you bring a water bottle with its own filter.
  • Rain Jacket: Because it rains a lot in the rainforest, it’s a good idea to bring a rain jacket or poncho. Here’s one we recommend for women, and here’s one for men.

 

(Click on any of the above images for shipping and pricing information.)


Tips for Visiting the Amazon Rainforest

Here are some things to consider when you plan a trip to the Amazon Rainforest:

  • Make sure you have travel insurance. Make sure that you have travel medical insurance, or don’t go at all. It’s that important. We would always recommend it for international travel. 
  • Tell your doctor about your travel plans. Your doctor might have recommendations for you based on your medical history. When we visited the rainforest, our doctor wanted us to take malaria pills.
  • Bring a good pair of shoes. We did a fair amount of hiking through the rainforest. There’s all sorts of grasses, branches, and insects, so it’s best to protect your feet.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. This tip is probably more of a personal preference, but we preferred to have our arms and legs fully covered. It helped to protect us from sun exposure and from potential insect bites. 
  • Leave no trace. Be sure to follow Leave No Trace guidelines and leave nature exactly as you found it.
  • Emergency communication. After almost being stranded on the Amazon River, we really wished we would have had satellite emergency communication. (More on that later!) You can see specs for a Garmin here
  • Follow recommended safety precautions. We’ve linked an article about safety on the Amazon River here.
Sunset Amazon River
The sunset from the Amazon River

About Iquitos

Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, with over 400,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area. It’s informally known as the “Capital of the Peruvian Amazon”. 

There are several things to do and see in Iquitos before beginning your Amazon adventure. 

The Amazon Rescue Center is dedicated to conservation of manatees. The center is located a bit outside of town, so there’s a small commute to reach it. You can make your ticket reservations here

Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm & Amazon Animal Orphanage is another center in Iquitos that focuses on animal conservation. They have a very colorful butterfly garden for visitors to enjoy.

Our guide also took us to Nanay Market, which was filled with vendors. Most of the vendors sold fish and fruit.

Iquitos Market in Nanay in Peru
Nanay market in Iquitos

Tours of the Rainforest

If you plan on leaving Iquitos and embarking on a visit to the Amazon Rainforest, we strongly recommend that you book a guided tour. There are a number of dangers in the rainforest, and it’s important to have a guide that knows the area well.

We personally booked a 2-day tour at Maniti Eco-Lodge. Our tour guide took us down the river and showed us Monkey Island. We also saw wild pink dolphins in the river! During the evening we also went on a nocturnal hike in the forest. We enjoyed our time at Maniti Eco Lodge and would recommend it to others. Be prepared to “rough it” a little. You’ll be fully immersed in the rainforest experience! Maniti Eco Lodge also offers a 3-day tour, a 4-day tour, a 5-day tour, a 6-day tour, and a 7-day tour

Although we didn’t stay at the Heliconia Lodge personally, it looks like a more luxurious experience than what we experienced. We recommend checking it out here! The Heliconia Lodge has a pool

If you’d like more of a luxury experience, there’s also luxury river cruises down the Amazon. Although we personally didn’t go on a cruise, in hindsight, we would highly recommend one. There’s a variety of beautiful cruise ships available, including the Aria and the Delfin II. If you’d like to read more about Amazon River luxury cruises, check out our post on them here.

 

 


Our Experience in the Amazon Rainforest

After exploring Cusco and Machu Picchu, we flew to Iquitos to see the Amazon Rainforest. The flight itself was such a treat. We caught our first glimpses of the Amazon River snaking below us. Although our flight information said it was a direct flight, we stopped at a smaller airport on the way to Iquitos. We mistakenly got off the aircraft, and luckily someone told us to get back on the plane!

Iquitos Peru

After leaving the airport, we headed to our hotel in Iquitos

Our Maniti Expeditions Tour

The next morning, our Maniti Tour Guide met us at our hotel. We drove in a tuk tuk to the main office. From there, we headed to the market. The market was a bit of a shock (for us), seeing raw meat and fresh fish lying out on blankets. Our guide also showed us buckets of wriggling worms that were for sale. He told us that they were a local cure for something, but I can’t remember now. He asked if we wanted to try one, but after having indigestion on the Inca Trail, we decided to pass. 

After a quick stroll through the market, we boarded a small wooden boat. Our Amazon River adventure had officially begun! 

As we rode up the river and then down a tributary, one of our favorite moments was watching the water color change from blue to brown. It was really interesting to watch the different patterns.

Amazon River in Iquitos Peru
Observing the different colors of water

 

Seeing Wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest

We rode in the boat for an hour or so before we reached Fundo Pedrito, which was sort of like an eco-museum. We saw a lot of different animals there, include a blue macaw, piranhas, several caiman, turtles, and more birds.

Caiman in the Amazon River Iquitos Peru
A couple of caiman eyeing us

 

We walked down a small dock and our guide started tapping his foot on the wood. Suddenly a paiche (very large fish) came up to the surface to eat some food. Our guide also showed us a Victoria Regia, which is the largest of the water lily family. The leaves were absolutely huge! Before we left, we also ate some yucca empanadas for a snack.

Victoria Regia in the Amazon River in Iquitos Peru
The underside of a Victoria Regia lily pad

 

Our Stay at the Maniti Eco-Lodge

We then continued down the river until we reached the Maniti Eco-Lodge. We stayed in a private bungalow that had a bathroom with flushing toilet and shower. The bungalows are all constructed from secondary growth rainforest materials. The conditions were nice, but certainly don’t expect luxury. There’s no hot water, no WiFi, and use of electricity is limited for several hours a day. Although we had our own bungalow, it definitely felt more reminiscent of a camping experience than a hotel experience. We just say that up-front so that you know what to expect! They took excellent care of us.

bungalo Maniti Eco-Lodge in Iquitos Peru
This was the inside of our bungalow

 

Monkey Island

After we got settled in, our guide took us on a boat to Monkey Island. Monkey Island is a sanctuary for orphaned, injured, and neglected monkeys and birds. Our guide told us that once they’re rehabilitated, they are free to leave, but many choose to stick around the island. If you visit Monkey Island, just know that a monkey might crawl up your body and try to steal your banana!

Monkey Island Amazon Rainforest Iquitos Peru
We enjoyed seeing the monkeys on Monkey Island

 

While at Monkey Island, we also saw anteaters, macaws, a toucan, a sloth, and an anaconda. (We held the anaconda, which is not an experience for the faint of heart!) Our guide took us to an outdoor bar/counter, and he treated us to some camu camu juice. 

Macaw Amazon Rainforest Iquitos Peru
A beautiful macaw in the Amazon Rainforest

 

Our guide also taught us that the smell of termites is a strong natural bug repellant. He showed us a termite nest and said that they don’t typically bite humans. He stuck his hand into the nest and let the termites crawl onto his hands. He then rubbed his hands together, and before we knew what was happening, rubbed the termite guts all over his face and arms. This was definitely one of those travel experiences that shocked us, which was a reaction from seeing the world through our own cultural lens. When we were able to get past our initial shock, we could appreciate how the local’s knowledge of the rainforest kept them safe. 

Toucan Monkey Island Peru
A toucan walking around on Monkey Island

 

Pink Dolphins in the Amazon River

After Monkey Island, we got back in the boat and we saw pink dolphins. Prior to our trip to the rainforest, I had never heard of pink dolphins. They were absolutely spectacular! Watching them surface from the water and then glide beside our boat was such a dream. They are also known as Amazon River Dolphins and they swim in freshwater. They can grow up to 9.2 feet long and weigh as much as 352 pounds! Seeing the pink dolphins was definitely a highlight for us.

I wish I had a good photo of the pink dolphins, but they were just too quick!

Amazon River Tour

We explored several tributaries, and as we were preparing to leave one of them, our boat wouldn’t start! Our guide tried about a dozen tries to start the engine, and nothing. We were alone in some offshoot of the Amazon River, the sun was setting, and our boat wasn’t starting. I tried not to panic. Finally, after what felt like forever, our engine started and we headed back to the lodge.

Amazon River Tour

Nocturnal Jungle Hike in the Amazon Rainforest

That evening, our guide took us on a nocturnal jungle hike. He provided us with large rain boots and instructed us to make sure we were fully covered. Even though it was warm, I put my jacket hood on and pulled it tightly around my face. The forest was humming with bugs, and I didn’t want any creepy crawlies in my hair if I could help it. 

nocturnal hike in the Amazon Rainforest
I’m ready for the hike!

 

We walked through the Amazon Rainforest and our guide showed us lots of insects, plants, and toads. Near the end of our hike, he pointed at a hole in the ground. He looked at me and said, “Don’t be scared.” (Not a good sign.) He took his walking stick and tapped inside the hole. A giant spider immediately jumped out of the hole! But not any giant spider. It was a Goliath Birdeater, which is the largest spider in the world by mass. I tried to keep my cool, but I just stood there frozen until it went back in its hole. Despite its name, it turns out it only rarely preys on birds. (Although it can.) It does pose some threat to humans. The Goliath Birdeater can rub its legs together to shoot out hairs that can be harmful. After learning about the giant spider, I was ready to head back to the safety of our bungalow! (I’ll spare you the photo!)

Sleeping in the Amazon Rainforest

That night, it rained quite a bit. It was a magical experience falling asleep to the rain of the rainforest. To this day, my husband still comments that it was the best night of sleep of his entire life. 

The next morning, we had planned to fish on the Amazon River. But due to the heavy rain, we decided to skip the fishing trip and head back to Iquitos. Our experience in the Amazon Rainforest was eyeopening. The abundance of plants and wildlife was like nothing we had ever seen, and traveling down the Amazon River was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Maniti Eco Lodge Iquitos Peru
A photo of the common room where we ate our meals

 

Want to book the tour we took? Click this link to make your reservation!

Where to Stay in Iquitos

Booking.com  

When we visited Iquitos, we stayed at the Epoca Hotel Boutique. We enjoyed our experience there, and we’d recommend it to others as well.

Here’s some other hotels you might want to consider:

  • Doubletree by Hilton Iquitos: The Doubletree is located right next to a pretty park. There’s an outdoor pool, a hot tub that’s almost floating over the pool (complete with a waterfall), a fitness center, and all the amenities you would expect at a Doubletree Hotel. If we went back to Iquitos, this is where we would book our stay.
  • Casa Morey: This hotel has large rooms with air-conditioning. There’s also a pool and a library.
  • Victoria Regia Hotel: This hotel has a pool, a restaurant, and spacious rooms.

We also recommend that you consider the Heliconia Lodge for an Amazon experience. Although we didn’t personally stay there, I think this is where we would stay next time in order to have a more comfortable experience. 

For a full list of hotel accommodations in Iquitos, click here.


Frequently Asked Questions about Iquitos and the Amazon

How many days should you spend in Iquitos?

From our experience, we would recommend one night in Iquitos. There’s not too much to see in the city itself. The real draw for tourists is to see the Amazon Rainforest. Depending on the length of the excursion, we recommend one night in Iquitos and one or two nights in an Amazon eco-lodge. If you have the budget, a 4-day luxury cruise would be the best way to see the Amazon River!

What kinds of things are there to do in Iquitos?

Iquitos is home to several markets and rescue centers. We recommend that you visit the Amazon Rescue Center and the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm & Amazon Animal Orphanage.

Can you visit the Amazon Rainforest?

Yes, you absolutely can visit the Amazon Rainforest. The important thing is to make sure that you are a responsible tourist. We recommend that you make bookings with an eco-lodge to ensure that you safely enjoy the Amazon Rainforest and protect it for years to come.

When is the best time of year to visit the Amazon Rainforest?

The best time of year to visit the Amazon Rainforest is during the dry season, which is typically between July to December. The temperatures will be slightly warmer, but you’ll also be more dry. If it does rain on your trip, though, don’t be bummed. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch it rain in the rainforest!

Should you stay in a jungle lodge or take a river cruise when visiting the Amazon Rainforest?

If you’re trying to decide between staying in a jungle lodge or taking an Amazon River cruise, there are pros and cons to each option. If you want to go further and see more, a river cruise will be the best. If you don’t want to rough it at all, then we would also recommend a river cruise because of the luxury accommodations. If you are on a budget, staying in a jungle lodge will definitely be more affordable.

How much does an Amazon Rainforest cruise cost?

Taking a cruise along the Amazon River will cost you thousands of dollars, but you’ll be able to see more of the rainforest and you’ll be able to stay in luxury accommodations. (No roughing it in the wilderness!) Most Amazon River tours cost several thousand dollars for 4 nights.


Summary

Macaw Amazon Rainforest Peru

We hope you enjoyed this article about traveling to see the Amazon Rainforest! We visited a portion of the Amazon Rainforest that is in Peru. We got to see tons of wildlife, and certainly got a lot of travel stories from the experience!

If this article was helpful to you, please consider sharing it on your social media accounts to further help support our blog. Also, don’t forget to join our newsletter. Thank you!
Amazon Rainforest Pinterest
Pin for later!

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in the following posts we wrote about South America:


Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information. Photos were taken from our 2016 trip to Peru.


Feel free to follow us on Instagram to see our current stories!