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Iquitos: Open gateway to the Amazon

 

Iquitos is the gateway to adventure and a charming destination that deserves every traveler’s attention. It is a city rich with history, surrounded by rivers and rainforest, and it’s home to a culture that has evolved in isolation from the rest of the “civilized” world. 

Iquitos is a land that has something to offer everyone-- from the backpacker to the swanky vacationer—and though it will be nearly impossible to see everything in one trip, here is a list of some of the top things to do, see and experience in Iquitos, Peru.
 
 
Mercado de Belen
Just about anything that can be bought and sold in Iquitos can be found at the Belen Market. From tropical jungle fruits, to rainforest delicacies, to natural medicine, there’s nothing you can’t get at Belen if you look a little deeper. For someone who is new to the region the market is a perfect place to get acquainted with some of the fascinating jungle products that you may have never seen before.
A word of caution, it is easy to get lost in the narrow alleyways crammed full of locals doing their daily shopping. If you feel a little trapped in the busy market, it’s very easy to hail a mototaxi back to your hotel for three or four soles.
 
Amazon Animal Orphanage and Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm
 
The most popular attraction near Iquitos is a short boat ride and hike to the Amazon Animal Orphanage and Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm. Anyone who has an extra halfway must find his or her way to this tropical jungle garden.
The unique feature of this attraction is that most of the animals live free to roam around the Butterfly farm, except for the jaguar that lives in a cage with trees and a pool. While at the farm you can feed the tapirs, pet the anteater, play with monkeys, view a manatee and get up close with the colorful macaws. 
Just be careful of those monkey, they are notorious pickpockets who can unzip bags and snatch a pair of sunglasses. 
 
Yagua and Bora Indian Villages
 
The Yagua and Boras villages located a few boat rides away from Iquitos in the village of San Andres is a perfect way to witness how natives have lived in the jungle for hundreds of years. The Boras perform traditional dances, the Yagua give lessons in shooting their hunting weapon of choice, the blowgun. Both tribes sell handicrafts made from jungle seeds and other products.
The villagers live a life of isolation in order to preserve their culture. However, they use the money from tourism as their means to buy medicine for the children. Accessing San Andres is simple if you take a mototaxi to the port of Bella Vista Nanay and from there rent a speedboat for an hour or two to the village.
 
Pink river dolphins
 
The pink dolphins are some of the most popular wildlife found in the Amazon. There are two places close to Iquitos where pink and gray dolphins are frequently spotted. If you have a couple of hours to kill, then why not go and look for the mystical mammals.
The best place to see them is the point where the Amazon and Nanay rivers meet at Bella Vista Nanay. Schools of dolphins are often spotted just a few hundred yards away from the port.
 
 
Iquitos City Tour
 
Exploring the city is best done on foot accompanied by an English-speaking guide. The best place to start is in the Plaza de Armas with a stop at La Casa de Fierro (The Iron House). The house sits on the corner of Putumayo and Prospero and was built by Gustav Eiffel (the man behind the Eiffel Tower in France).
If you are a history buff, you can explore more than 85 historical attractions around the city such as the Palace Hotel, Museo Amazonico, Masonic Temple, Iglesia de la Consolacion Chapel, and the Seminary of St. Augustine.
 
Amazon Golf Course
 
The nine hole jungle at the Amazon Golf Course will test your skills with a number of challenges. Featuring some of the most perilous sand traps in the world—filled with sun bathing caimans; water hazards stocked with biting piranhas; and some red tailed boa constrictors in the rough, there is no better motivation to lower your handicap. The Amazon Golf Course is the only course in the world where golfers are issued a machete to carry in their golf bags. 
Found just 30 minutes from the Plaza de Armas and at only $25 for 18 holes (includes balls, clubs and machete) this golf course on the last outpost of civilization is considered one of the best adventure golf destinations.
 
Iquitos is definitely one of the most interesting cities in Peru. Though it is sometimes overshadowed by the pull of Cusco and Lima, this Amazonian capital is not to be missed.
 
 

 

 
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