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Iquitos: The heart of the Amazon region

Iquitos is a city submerged in the Peruvian Amazon Region, which seen from the air, spreads out like a huge, green seemingly endless cloak. Liked to the world only by air and by the Amazon River , Iquitos is the capital of Loreto, the largest department of Peru . It is located 3,646 km from the Atlantic Ocean and 1,859 km from Lima , the capital of Peru . Seemingly far away, this city and its surroundings constitute one of the most important tourist attractions in the area.

The Jesuits founded Iquitos in 1757 under the name of San Pablo de los Napeanos. It was the first port on the Amazon River . As in the case of many other towns founded in the Region during the 18th Century, Iquitos was the point from which evangelists began preaching their religion to the native people of the area.

Until approximately 1870, the city’s population was less than 2,000 inhabitants. However, in only 10 years, Iquitos exceeded 10,000 inhabitants. In 1880, hundreds of people migrated to this place, attracted by the rubber boom. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city and river port became well known in international markets, which fostered the incorporation of a large number of foreign companies, as well as the presence of Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese and Germans. The opulence of those days is still noticeable in some of the city’s buildings.

In 1971, oil exploitation was begun together with several projects for the use of forest resources. Surrounded by the best preserved forests due to its geographic isolation, the Iquitos Region shows features inherent to the Amazon eco-system and native groups which, in contact with civilization, live mainly on the banks of the Amazon, Napo , Ucayali , Marañón and Nanay Rivers .

This part of the Peruvian Amazon Region is home to one of the largest hydrographic system in the world, the Amazon Basin , which begins in the Andes Mountain Range ( Arequipa ) where the Amazon River is born, the river with the largest volume of water in the world. It is formed by the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañón Rivers , close to the City of Nauta.


Iquitos History

Being the birthplace of the Tiahuanaco Culture, one of the most important pre-Hispanic cultures and the utmost expression of the Aymara people, Iquitos is considered to be a town of legends.

According to one of them, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, who received instructions from their father, the Sun God, to found the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, emerged from Lake Titicaca . The Inca Empire was divided into four regions -or suyos- one of them being Collasuyo, which spread over the entire Plateau of Callao, including Iquitos .

When the Spaniards reached Cusco in the mid 16th century, they heard of the great mining wealth of this region, especially gold and silver. The bloody battles ensuing in the 17th century over the possession of the Laikakota Mines (9 km west from the City of Iquitos) forced the Viceroy, Count of Lemos, to travel to the area and to pacify it, resulting in the founding of the present City of Iquitos, capital of the department, Founded on November 4, 1668, it was named San Carlos de Iquitos.

With the passing of time, in their effort to evangelize the native people of the Peruvian altiplano, Spanish priests erected beautiful churches, with artists from Iquitos implanting their original style.


Iquitos Location

North forest, 347 feet above sea level (106 m.a.s.l)

Altitude Iquitos

347 feet above sea level (106 m.a.s.l)

Population in Iquitos

367,000 inhabitants

Distances from Iquitos

627 miles (1,009 Km) from Lima , by air

615 miles (990 Km) from Pucallpa , by river

The Weather in Iquitos

The Region of Iquitos has a warm and humid climate throughout most of the year, with abundant rainfall between November and April.

The average temperature is 26°C, although it can reach 36°C.

Iquitos is accessible by air. There are daily flights from Lima (1 hr 45 min) and other less frequent flights from Tarapoto (50 min), Pucallpa (1 hr) and Yurimaguas (40 min).


How to arrive Iquitos

Iquitos can also be reached by river from Nauta (on the Amazon River ), Yurimaguas (on the Huallaga River ), Requena, Contamaná and Pucallpa (on the Ucayali River ), Leticia ( Colombia ) and Tabatinga and Manaus ( Brazil ).


Iquitos Gastronomy

Typical Food of Iquitos

When you arrive to Iquitos you will be able to enjoy a great cuisine on the base of a great variety of regional products, such as meats of species as the deer or the majás, fish like the “paiche” or the “dorado” (fish variety), exotic fruits, etc.

The main and most traditional popular plates are:

“Juanes”: Pottage made with rice, pieces of poultry meat, eggs, olives, aromatic herbs and spices, all wrapped up in “bijao” (plant from the jungle) leaves and boiled in clay pots.

“Inchi capi”: Exquisite soup prepared with peanut, pieces of poultry meat, aromatic herbs and spices.

“Nina Juanes”: Of similar characteristic to the juanes, the only difference is that they are made with chicken meat and they are roasted.

“Sarapatera”: Kind of stew prepared with “Charapa” (Turtle variety) meat, spiced with onions, garlic, green banana, and spices. The final cooking of the stew is made in the shell of the turtle and it is served in the same shell.

Fish: There are a great variety of presentations and the “paiche” is recommended (fish of more than 2 m. length and 130 kg. weight) the zúngaro, the dorado, that are those of finer and exquisite meat. You can try them in cebiche (raw fish marinated and cooked in lemon juice), roasted, or in stews.

Salads, you must try the one prepared with “chonta” (kind of palm tree) or palmettos.

Desserts, yucca donuts, and great quantity of regional fruits such as “cocona”, pineapple, “aguaje” (fruits from the jungle), “maracuyá”.

Iquitos is also famed by the variety of its liquors and beverages, prepared with the maceration of herbs, wood and other regional elements that are known to have an aphrodisiac character.

The beverages are “pusanga”, “chamico”, “siete raices” (seven roots), “huitochado”, etc.

Masato (drink based on crushed cooked cassave fermented with

sweet potato or sugar).

Chuchuhuasi (eau-de-vie based on a bitter, astringent root, very popular in the entire Jungle region).


Attractions in Iquitos

Atracctions surrounding areas

Pacaya Samiria National Reserve – Iquitos

Located in the area where the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers converge, this is the country’s largest reserve, with 2,080,000 ha. and the fourth in South America . It was established in 1982, to preserve the abundant and varied wildlife. Its countless lakes, swamps and aguajales (watering trough) serve as shelter to132 species of mammals, mainly rodents and monkeys; 330 species of birds; approximately 220 species of fish, main source of protein for the inhabitants of the Region, and approximately 150 species of

reptiles and amphibious animals. Prominent are the charapa turtles (podocnemis expansa), the paiche (or pirarucu – Arapaima gigas, the largest freshwater fish in the world), the Amazonian manatee or sea cow (trichechus inunguis), the red river dolphin and the black river dolphin, the otters and the black caiman (melanosuchus niger ), all of them presently endangered species. The Reserve can only be reached by river and it takes al least one week to visit it, including three days to access and exit the area.

Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserved Area – Iquitos

This area is located on the banks of the Nanay River , in the community of Mishana, in an area of approximately 57,667 ha. Established in 1999, to preserve eco-systems which are unique to the Peruvian Amazon Region, such as the varillal and chamisal brushwoods, which are home to endemic species of plants and animals, many of them still un reported or without description. It is easy to reach this area, as it is near the Iquitos – Nauta road, and ideal for scientific research on the essential ecological processes of the tropical rain forest.

San Juan – Iquitos

This is a native community situated south of Iquitos , where there is an important festival in commemoration of Saint John the Patron Saint, on June 24. Different typical dishes are offered, and it has a handcrafts market where one can find popular art objects from the different areas of the Region.

Santa Clara – Iquitos

This is a hamlet located on the banks of the Nanay River , 12 km from Iquitos . Its main attractions are its white sandy beaches, formed when the river ebbs, and its beautiful landscape.

Quistococha Tourist Complex – Iquitos

Located 6 km from Iquitos , this park has an area of 369 ha surrounding a lagoon of the same name. The complex features a museum, aquarium, serpentarium, small zoos, unpaved roads around the lake and a pier where one can rent a boat. It is varied wildlife includes fish such as paiche (pirarucu), shads (family clupeidae) and bocachica (small fish of freshwater fish, family characidae); birds like the blue and red macaw; and mammals like the otorongo (or jaguar – panthera onca), puma, ocelot, sachavacas (tapirus terrestris), sajinos (tayassu tajacu), huangana (tayassu albirostris), giant otter, as well as some primates and reptiles, among others.

As a sample of the local flora, the park features woods of flooded varsea, better known as aguajales (watering trough), with the hardly flooded banks, where the primary woods are located. This forest houses the main varieties of trees, such as the white cumala, renaco, marupa, cedar and catahua as well as native fruit trees like the aguaje (mauritia vinifera), zapote (quararibea sp.), humarí (poraqueiba sericea) and pijuayo (bactris gasipaes).

The Quistococha Laggon has an area of 56 ha with clear and dark waters due to the organic matter (humic acids) and an artificial beach known as Tunchiplaya. Outside the park is the Mirador Museum with dissected species of animals and an amusement park for children.

Iquitos Festivities Calendar


Loreto Carnival ( Iquitos )

This is a popular festival where, as the legend says, the demons wander around. There is a street pageant, the parade of the humisha (a palm tree decorated with various objects, food and flags) and the people dance to the rhythm of the music and the folk dancers.


21-27, Iquitos Tourist Week

This program includes festivities which are celebrated along with the traditional regional fest of Saint John , when there is a Festival of Typical Musical Groups at the National Folkloric Handcrafts Fair; lively marches, contests and other competitions.

24th, Fest of Saint John the Baptist, the Patron Saint

This is a religious festival in honor of Saint John the Baptist, the Patron Saint, during which there are rural trips to the Community of San Juan and dances and various types of contests are organized. In this fest one can taste the juanes, a typical dish made of turmeric spiced rice and pieces of chicken wrapped in bijao tree leaves.


8-10, Santa Clara ( Santa Clara )

Religious feast in honor of the patron of the hamlet of Santa Clara , located 15 km. from Iquitos . The Virgin is taken out on procession to the riverbanks so that she can bless its waters. Agricultural products and handicrafts are on display and sold here.


5-8, La Purísima (Punchana)

Religious fest in honor of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated in the District of Punchana, with the community participating in different cultural and folkloric activities.