In the middle of the Peruvian jungle, on the banks of the Marañón River and very close to the largest river in the world, the Amazon River, is the city of Iquitos.
A large city, 370,000 inhabitants, whose main attraction is to immerse itself in its Amazon jungle. Not so long ago it was considered one of the richest cities in the continent because it had a very important commercial development during the so-called “rubber fever”, but today it is only history.
The Amazon has become one of the seven natural wonders of the world, which has made Iquitos an essential tourist destination.
We arrived from Lima by plane on Friday evening. At this time, for safety reasons, it is not allowed to move to any lodge due to low visibility across the Marañon river, so we spent the night in the city.
We had a very rich fish (paiche) in one of the restaurants near the port, as well as some typical drinks with exotic fruits to celebrate our first trip to the jungle.
The next day, at nine o’clock in the morning, they came to look for us from the agency on a motorcycle with a roof, very typical of the jungle, called mototaxi. And, truthfully, it was quite an experience. There are thousands in Iquitos.
We arrived at the port area of Iquitos, on the banks of the Maranon River, from where we take the boat that would take us to our lodge inside the jungle.
After crossing the Amazon River for an hour, we arrived.
Lodge in the jungle
We had chosen a medium price, which covers the basic services for a weekend: room with mosquito net, acceptable food service and a guide for a group of 7 people.
During our weekend in Iquitos we realized several activities where we were able to discover the charm of the Amazon.
- Canoe ride
The experience is spectacular by the sights and sounds of the Amazon: monkeys screaming and jumping among the trees; parrots, macaws and an infinity of birds; sloths moving slowly…
Although it can be a little complicated to ride the canoe, walks and visits native communities have their charm through this medium.
- Piranha Fishing
This activity is one of the most striking and exotic we did. Some pieces of chicken to use bait and ready to fish! Not to do anything, just drop the bait and wait a few seconds, which is what it takes to get closer to nibble some of the dozens of piranhas that were in the water.
The luck was going our way at that moment. We were able to fish a red-bellied piranha, the biggest and ravenous of the river.
And, as you can see in this video, the fame of piranha teeth is more than justified!
- Visiting local communities
They also took us to several local communities in the area. They live in cabins and houses that resemble today’s homes(however humble they may be).
However, some of these communities have prepared a representation of how they lived long ago. In it, they show you their dance and typical music.
They also explained to us how they hunted with blowguns using the venom of certain frogs at the points of the darts. They did blowgun blows to a tree and the most interesting thing for us was that they let us try.
And as a reward, if you hit the tree, they let you take a picture with them.
In one of these communities, we could see what a girl’s mascot was: a sloth! What a combination, a girl with a desire to play and the quietest animal in the world.
Although tourism has recently been boosted in this area, life in these communities is simple. You can see people fishing in different parts of the river.
One of the riches of this area is sugar cane. In addition to using it to obtain sugar and make rum, in the jungle area is taken as a natural drink, directly obtained from the cane. The process of “squeezed” is totally manual and quite curious…
- Animal recovery center
Rather it is a tourist place to take pictures with various species of the area: monkeys, toucans, parrots, coatis, sloths, iguanas, matamata turtles and even an anaconda.
We already knew the fame of this snake, the heaviest in the world, but one thing is to hear the legends about it and another thing is to see it. The most daring people put it on their shoulders, of course with the help of the workers of the center … and the most prudent as we approach a moderate distance.
The sloth is one of the most common animals of the jungle and it is not difficult to see in some of the walks that we realize. To distinguish them from the foliage of the trees the guide screamed or whistled loudly, causing the animal was moving a little. In this way, you could distinguish it well and, with a powerful zoom, make a good photo.
Of all the genera of turtles present in the jungle, the Matamata is the most aggressive. It inhabits in shallow waters and traps the fish with its powerful bite. That’s why the locals are careful when treading in swampy areas…
Iguanas of good size are also observed. Generally, they are enjoying the sun and they do not mind too much of the tourists. However, if you get too close, they will move their heads in a threatening manner.
Everything in the jungle is huge. Insects are not fall behind…
- Pink Dolphin Watching
It is one of the best-known attractions of the jungle, although not so much outside it: Who knew that there were pink dolphins?
These dolphins, also called bufeos, live in the watersheds of the Amazon and Orinoco. Their main characteristic is the pink tone of their skin, which makes them unique in the world.
The people of the jungle have a lot of respect for them and there are several legends around them. The one that the guide told us talks about transformations of these animals in men during the nights of full moon. Then they approach the towns, they seduce the women and, in some cases, they leave them pregnant… A stilted explanation to justify unwanted pregnancies…
To see them we travel by boat to the fishing zones of these animals. With a little luck, some of these beautiful animals will emerge and come close enough to be observed. They do not stay long on the surface, so be prepared.
- Visit to a Shaman and Ayahuasca rite
Shamans are the people who claim to be the nexus of union with the spirit world. They have a series of rites, the main one being ayahuasca. A hallucinogenic drink made mainly with a type of liana and several shrubs.
We only talk to the shaman, but we do not participate in any ritual. We do not recommend because of the danger that may involve being under the influence of such a powerful hallucinogen.
There is near the city of Iquitos a rescue center, rehabilitation and release of specimens of aquatic mammals and wildlife, being the main attraction the visit to the manatees present in the center. The hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (except Monday, which is from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.). We could not go since we went to Iquitos only for a weekend, but we will tell you if you have more time.
We loved the magic of Iquitos and the Peruvian Amazon. And, if you have already decided that you want to travel to Iquitos, we recommend reading our 10 tips to keep in mind and configure your travel to Peru right now.
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Kiss and hugs.