From Iquitos is possible to explore the Amazon Rainforest on board of cruise ships, lodges and travel agencies. There are many companies operating jungle trips and to nearby attractions, but only a few are registered and reputable. It is strongly advisable to check the tour companies registered in iPerú, Tourist Information and Assistance of PromPerú (Peruvian Tourism Board: firstname.lastname@example.org). Then contact with several registered companies directly in their offices, telephone or website. Always ask for your invoice, a copy of the terms of the service hired (written on the bill or in a separate paper containing what you paid for). Never buy tours from people at the airports parkings (outside the Arrival Lounge) or on the streets, you may be ripped off. Please, avoid and denounce scammers.
Cruises are ships with services and facilities of a luxury hotel: comfortable rooms with air conditioning, panoramic windows, outstanding service and more. Cruises stop at jungle and ribereño villages in a short visit to buy handicrafts or see dances, and at the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (depending on the route), to go into the jungle to see wildlife. Cruise operators offer trips from S/.500 Soles/person/day (US$180). It is advisable to book in advance.
A lodge (albergue) is an accommodation inside the forest with more comfortable facilities than a travel agency. Some lodges have swimming pool, air conditioning or Wi Fi for a price between S/.180 to 350 Soles/person/day (US$60-130) for trips to the jungle, Pacaya Samiria or the canopy walkway.
Finally, travel agencies operate budget trips with basical facilities and prices from S/.120 to 180 Soles/person/day (US$45-60) for the forest or S/.200 to 250 Soles/person/day (US$70-90) for the Pacaya Samiria.
Tourism companies’ rates are often all-inclusive (transfer from the city to the jungle, entrance fees, guide, accommodation, activities, food and equipment).
Only in the case of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, in addition to the above, it is possible to contact with the Local Tourism Groups (Grupos Locales de Turismo-GLT), whose rates are between S/.120 a 200 Soles/person/day (US$43-70). They are people living in small villages in the Reserve, which were trained by Peruvian Government, Spanish International Cooperation Agency and NGOs. There are GLT in every Tourism Use Areas. In the case of choosing a GLT contact them in advance (ask in iPerú their contact information).
Except the Amazon rainforest, many of the sights and attractions in Iquitos and surrounding areas are easy to visit on their own for a day trip, using the local transportation system (mototaxi, bus and bus/taxi boats) to reach them. Some of the sites are included in itineraries of the tourism companies make the day trip easier and offer a bilingual guide. Before perform the following itinerary, check the tour company program acquired:
· Day 1: Amazonian manatee oprhanage; Quistococha, San Juan Handricraft Market and the Historic Centre of Iquitos.
· Day 2: Bellavista-Nanay port and market; Nanay River; Pilpintuwasi; Amazon River; Fundo Pedrito.
· Day 3: Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve (IIAP research centre).
· Day 4: Monkey Island.
· Day 5: Nauta city and surroundings (Sapi Sapi lagoon and the Meeting of the Waters).
· Day 6: The Heronry of Fátima (between December to May, during the high river season or creciente).
· Day 7 and beyond: An organized tour to the jungle (min 2d/1n) or the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (min 3d/2n).
Most accommodations in Iquitos are located at the downtown (up to 10 blocks around the Plaza de Armas). There is a 5 stars hotel, and several 3, 2 and 1 hotels and hostels, as well as guesthouses. The referential rates of 3 stars hotel are from S/.80 to 300 Soles (US$28-110); 2 y 1 stars hotel from S/.45 to 150 Soles (US$15-50). Hostels from S/.30 to 120 Soles (US$12-45), and guesthouses from S/.25 a 200 Soles (US$9-70). There are many guesthouses that offer dormitories (backpacker rooms, shared by 6 people) from S/.15 to 20 Soles/person (US$5-7).
FOOD AND RESTAURANTS
Iquitos has many Peruvian, Amazon and international restaurants and prices are low compared with the USA or Europe standards. Most of them are concentrated along the Boulevard, Plaza de Armas and surrounding streets. The first blocks of Fitzcarrald, La Condamine, Napo, Nauta and Putumayo streets have several “pollerías” (restaurant whose specialty is pollo a la brasa, or Peruvian chicken), snacks and cafes. Around the Plaza 28 de Julio are many of the most renowned chifas in the city (Chinese-Peruvian food).
From S/.15 to 25 Soles/person is enough to afford a daily budget or mid-range breakfast, lunch and dinner. With S/.35 a 85 Soles/person is for a splurge restaurant.
In the case of the typical food of the Peruvian Amazon, the most representative dishes are the Juane (the best known is made with rice, but there are more varieties such as cassava, egg or fish juane), the Inchicapi (peanut and corn soup), inchicucho (peanut cream), tacacho (mashed green banana with pork), cecina (an Amazon jerky), chorizo (a local sausage), chonta salad (palm salad), grilled macambo (Theobroma bicolor), etc.
There are soft drinks made in aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa), camu camu (Myrciaria dubia), arazá (Eugenia stipitata soraria), cocona (Solanum sessiliflorum), and other Amazon fruits.
It is possible to enjoy a shot of macerated barks-with-honey drinks as the “7 raíces” (7 roots), “21 raíces” (21 roots), “chuchuhuasi”, “clavo huasca”, “RC” (seven roots), “SVSS” and much more. Popular wisdom attributes them different healing and aphrodisiac properties. These drinks are found industrialized in some supermarkets and bars in Iquitos (downtown) or even in Lima. At Pasaje Paquito in Belén market they are found made in the traditional and homelike way (interesting to see the variety and ingredients of these drinks).
It is very important to consider that although available in several markets, food stalls and even restaurants, hunting and sale of exotic meats (turtle, alligator –lagarto- and carne de monte) are forbidden by law because these are endangered species. Help to protect the Amazon wildlife.
Along the boulevard and surrounding streets of the Plaza de Armas area is the most established nightlife hot spot for tourists in Iquitos, it is full of clubs, bars, cafes, karaoke, and live Latin rock/pop genre clubs.
Centro de Convenciones El Pardo at the Mariscal Cáceres-Paseo de los Héroes Avenue, is another major nightlife destination and draws mainly local crowd but are safe enough for tourists. They offer live show of Peruvian cumbia genre.
The cinema, located just a block from Plaza de Armas (second block of Arica street), screens a range of movies in Spanish and English (subtitled in Spanish). Rates are from S/.4.00 to 8 Soles (US$1.20-2.50), depending the day. At the hall there are arcade game machines.
Travelers must stamp their admission and exit passport only in the Peruvian immigration office located at the borders, not in the cities located inland Peru, where it is impossible regularize the procedure or pay to do it. If the traveler does not have the admission stamp, the only solution is to return to the border where he/her entered, spend a night abroad and come back to Peru. It is very important, because in case he/she continues his journey across the country without the stamp and is discovered, the police shall order the expulsion of Peru.
At your admission, the immigration officer will interview you, according to this will give you from 1 to 183 days to stay in Peru, and will give you the "Tarjeta Andina de Migraciones" (TAM, the Andean Immigration Card, a complementary immigration document that the traveller have to keep until leave Peru).
All the above procedures are free of charge. If the traveler stays longer than allowed, he/she have to pay US$1 for every extra day in the immigration office at the border line when leaving Peru. Always ask for your invoice or receipt for every payment to a public institution. In case the TAM is lost, the traveler has to obtain a duplicate for less than S/.9 Soles (US$3.20) at the immigration offices in the cities or in the borders. Avoid and denounce scammers.
FREE AND OFFICIAL TOURIST INFORMATION
Contact iPerú, Tourist Information and Assistance, run by PromPerú, the National Tourism Board to their 24-hour line (+51 1) 574-8000 or to email@example.com. Visit the official website www.peru.travel.