Coined “the gateway to the Amazon” by local residents, Iquitos is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road. Located in northeastern Peru, Iquitos is a city of contrasts: mud huts and dirt roads run alongside five-star tourist accommodations; elegant restaurants sit next to run-down computer cafés. It is a rural, yet bustling city with a buzzing nightlife—from dancing to live music, there is rarely a dull moment in Iquitos.
The Belen Market is one of Iquitos’s most popular attractions. Covering 20 city blocks, Belen is the largest market in the Peruvian Amazon. The market is always crowded and full of vendors selling everything Amazonian, from jungle produce to cigars and medicinal plants. The market is also a haven for thieves, so tourists should exercise caution.
From Iquitos, visitors can travel to the jungle by boat along the mighty Amazon River. Guides typically stop the boat at different islands along the river, so guests have time to explore before arriving at their final destination. Visitor Mimy De La Sotta remembers the boat ride fondly: “My best experience was navigating through the Amazon River at full speed and stopping at the little villages to mingle with the people,” she says.
Once in the jungle, tourists have a variety of comfortable accommodations to choose from. Most hotels offer a collection of huts, held high in the air atop wooden stakes and interconnected by a series of bridges and canopies. Private bungalows are available for tourists looking for a bit more luxury. Student traveller, Kasandra Marchant, recalls her hotel as, “unique… there were reading rooms with hammocks and mosquito nets, a bar, cafeteria, and all of our bedrooms in these tall, straw huts.” Many visitors describe their accommodations as the perfect balance between wild and indoor life. In the jungle, alarm clocks are replaced by the calls of monkeys and exotic birds, and mosquito nets are an absolute necessity.
The jungle is a wild place. Out in the wilderness, guests can leave the busy city life behind and reconnect with nature. While the jungle brims with exotic creatures and plant life, Iquitos offers a wide array of cultural experiences. This diversity is perhaps the Peruvian Amazon’s most magical quality. When you visit Iquitos and take advantage of the surrounding wilderness, you truly get the best of both worlds.