Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Kelly
The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s greatest ecological wonders. As far as forests go, it’s absolutely massive. The Amazon Rainforest stretches over 9 countries and covers over two and half million square miles. The rainforest has also been under threat in recent years.
It’s 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 our experience visiting Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest.
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!)
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About Iquitos, Peru
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.
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.
Tours of the Amazon 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 an experienced 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 we 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! The Heliconia Lodge has a pool as well.
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. You can also read more about our thoughts on Amazon River luxury cruises.
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!
After leaving the airport, we headed to our hotel in Iquitos.
Our Maniti Expeditions Tour of the Amazon Rainforest
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. Our guide 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.
Be sure to see all our posts about destinations in Peru!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 such knowledge of the rainforest have helped to keep people safe.
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!
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.
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.
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 just 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. 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.
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 making sure you have medical insurance 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!) We wish we would have brought a Garmin device.
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. 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.
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.
Hotels in Iquitos
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.
How to Help the Amazon Rainforest
Before we continue about our adventure in the Amazon Rainforest, 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
We can say that visiting the rainforest firsthand helped us to truly appreciate its importance and it motivated us to do more to help protect it.
FAQs about Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest
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: Visiting Iquitos and the Amazon Rainforest
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!
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