Monday, September 22, 2014

Iquitos, Manu or Tambopata? What is the best place for an Amazon Tour? - Part 1

You are planning a trip to Peru and you remember some of the must see in the country: the Museums and largest water fountains in Lima, the Nazca Lines in Ica, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley in Cusco, the world’s deepest canyons in Arequipa, the Titicaca Lake in Puno and the Amazon rainforest. A lot of information is available on Internet about these destinations, but when you search for the Amazon it can be confusing due there are two options in Peru to start a jungle tour: the Northern Amazon and the Southern Amazon.


Iquitos is the main city in this Peruvian region and the biggest city in world without road access, with around 450,000 inhabitants and the wealth past of the Rubber Boom from 1885 to 1914 is the main city in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and one of the main ports in the Amazon river. Because is a big city pristine jungle areas are inside the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, both offering primary rainforest. Some of the highlights in Iquitos are:

  • Amazon River. The first source of the Amazon River starts in the Quehuisha mountain (Arequipa, Peru) and at Meeting of the Waters of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers, close to Nauta city and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, around 100 km or 62 mi south Iquitos, the Amazon River takes its name. From Iquitos is easy and cheap to take a boat to navigate for some minutes or hours the longest river in the world. As Machu Picchu, the Amazon River is a must-do in your Peruvian experience. Moreover, the award as a World’s Wonder of Nature is in the Boulevard, a riverwalk located one block from the Main Square (Plaza de Armas) of Iquitos. The Southern Peruvian Amazon is part of the basin with some tributaries, but the real Amazon River does not flow there.
  • Nearby places and tribes. Sights as the Amazon river itself, the Momón river, the Nanay river, the Monkey Island, the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Amazon Animal Orphanage, the caiman farm, the Manatees Rescue Center, Quistococha Zoo, indigenous tribes (remember nearby tribes as Boras and Yaguas perform a show for tourists, “real” tribes requires more than 10 day expedition), the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve and four museums are some of the places that you may reach alone from 15 minutes to less than two hours per site, saving money using local transportations, without hiring an organized full-day tour or guide. Visiting those will be enough to keep you busy from 3 to 4 days. Perhaps the only requirement is to know some basic Spanish. Note that these places are in the city or secondary jungle with a lot of humans, hence there are not animals in the wild. If your focus is real nature, your require go a little far away from the city (see Tourist services and costs).
  • River cruises. Iquitos is the only river port in Peru to start a river cruise to the Amazon jungle and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. From affordable to luxury, these vessels are floating hotels that organize some excursions to the jungle near the river or stream they stop. Some cruise companies are Selva Viva by Latitud Sur, Delfin and Aqua Expeditions. Reservations in advance is necessary.
  • Tourist services and costs. The main conurbation in the Peruvian Amazon is base of many tour companies and lodges that offer expeditions to the jungle. Costs for most jungle excursions are lower than in Puerto Maldonado, but take note that most of the tour companies and lodges claim to be in pristine jungle but most are located on the banks of the Momón river, Amazon river or nearby places less than one hour by boat from Iquitos, densely populated areas without animals in the wild. Best ecosystems are more than 70 km (43 mi) south the city, onto secondary waterways, inside protected areas like the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Community Reserve or the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Primary jungle areas require more than 3 hours trip from the city, 2 night stay and are more expensive. Besides, Iquitos has a varied offer of accommodations from backpackers to luxury hotels, river cruises, restaurants, museums, banks, ATMs and nightlife offer. Visitors at Iquitos feel as they are in an Asian destination, in part because the unique character of Iquitos (different to any other place in Peru), and the large number of competitors is the reason for being of many aggressive touts and drivers offering mainly low-quality services along streets and the airport in order to claim for a commision from some companies. See some reliable jungle lodges at The 5 Best Jungle Lodges In The Northern Low Peruvian Amazon For Wildlife Lovers.

  • A crossroads city. Iquitos is isolated by land, but it can be reached by air or river from Lima, Tarapoto and Pucallpa in Peru; from Tabatinga (Brazil), Leticia (Colombia) and Panama city. Some airlines offer affordable domestic flights as Peruvian Airlines (, Star Peru ( and Avianca ( International flights to Iquitos are operated mainly by LAN ( and Copa Airlines ( Also, after an arduous journey by river is possible to reach Ecuador, and combining with land transportations get some northern and southern Peruvian destinations as Chachapoyas, Chiclayo and Pucallpa.

On October 2nd 2014 we were publishing the Second Part of this article, with information on the Southern Amazon Rainforest and the Summary.

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