The walk down into Belen and around is worth it even if it is pouring rain as you then get to be as wet as everyone else, see people collecting rainwater and the sodden hooded crows that hunker down on the telephone wires look very miserable. You will get wet but when the sun comes back out you'll dry out in 15 minutes though your camera might not but then if you're travelling without a small drybag for valuables then .....
The Amazon is so full of natural life and fresh energy, and while many people go there to take advantage of the new experience, it is a good idea to join people that provide services such as retreats. I've heard from visitors, to be somewhat wary of frauds that take you for your money such as some local and European organizations. The one that I have had a great experience with is SpiritPathPeru, their website is of the same name. I really feel like I am in excellent hands, and so many people have had great experiences with their group. So they come highly recommended, and they're American that have lived in Iquitos for several years. Otherwise, I am sure that it is possible to find other able guides on the way that provide a portion of what you may be looking for, but without the worries of language barriers and unawareness of local customs.
Wildlife is all around you in the Amazon. There was a tarantula on the roof of the cabin-tent next door. A group (flock? family?) of monkeys swung into the tree above us while we were fishing for pirahna. A flying fish jumped into our boat while we were birdwatching. And that's when we weren't even looking.
Hint: don't wear black. I attracted so many mosquitos my friends had to swat me every 2 seconds like a cow's tail.
We saw a giant Ceiba tree, termites, a catepillar and something called a "Jungle Rat" in a tree. I don't know if that's actually what it was called as our guide didn't speak much English and had a habit of describing all animals by putting the word "Jungle" in front of it ("Look. Jungle Ants!")
Pirahna fishing in the Amazon is pretty awesome. There were so many fish I totally thought the lodge planted them there. But no, it's just that cool. Sneaky lil' things they are, though. They kept stealing the meat on our hooks and swimming away.
Later, the lodge cooked up our catch for lunch. Kinda like sardines.
It was a thrill just to be in the Amazon river.
Worth going if you are in Iquitos. You get to see different birds, animals and fauna.
The lodge we went to had genuine dug out canoes to try. And had opportunities to hike deep in the jungle.
Supersize tip: If you decide to go fishing or want to go fishing. It is best to bring your own equiptment. Just the basics. Also, if you catch a catfish, watch out, their pectoral and dorsal fins spine is poisonous. It's won't do anything if you touch it but if you get poked by one of the spine, the wound and the immediate area will sting a lot and be numb for a few days. Won't kill you. At least I hope not.
Ok, So if your reading info about Iquitos, you must be going to the Amazon then. If not, you should! Iquitos city in itself is big, dirty and pretty bland.
There are plenty of choices of different lodges in the Amazon you can choose from. (check out my tip on our lodge, Jacamar Lodge) Some are close to the city, some remote access by motorboat 4 hours plus away.
You can fish for exotic fish and especially pirahna. Have a chance to swim with pink, freshwater dolphins, hike in the middle of the Amazon jungles, relax on a hammock at the lodge, do a night tour looking for cayman, jaguars and nocturnal animals,...
There is just so much adventure you can do.
Supersize tip: If you wish to get bit by a pirahna, word of advise: Yes they bite and bite ferociously. They have powerful jaws, and try to get bitten on your non dominant hand, preferably one side of the bite is a fingernail so there won't be a chunk of your flesh missing! Seriously! But its worth it. To say you, and got the scar to prove you got bitten by a pirahna in the Amazon.
A little way up the River from Iquitos, this is a small quaint zoo! when we were there, it had 2 anacondas (1 HUGE), a couple of sloths, an ocelot, some snapping turtles, baby alligators- that kind of stuff. fairly muddy, but definitely worth a stop if you are going by
This is the main square here and the center of Iquitos' life. Is located by the river and here is the Cathedral, a few hotels and restaurants and the famous Iron House. Some tourist agencies offering jungle tours are around here too...
Belen is a quarter in the south of Iquitos. It is famous for being buit on wooden sticks over the waters, but not all Belen is a floating neighborhood and not always: only when the river waters rise. It is a colourful touristic place, though very poor and (for me) a little depressive, as you see people living in really extreme conditions.
There is an interesting market here that covers many many blocks and you can find here nearly everything: Shops are divided in sections and there is mainly food and clothes.
You can reach Belen by public bus (any going south from Plaza de Armas), taxi, or boat by the river. There are touristic tours too, but more expensive than coming here on your own and hiring a boat at the shore to wander around.
Of course, the main reason to come here, not only the river but also the jungle around. There are boats for passengers that go up and down the river, if you just wanna ride along it while staying in Iquitos. But most of the people go out of Iquitos to appreciate a more virgin and wild jungle. If you do so, you will have a 3-4 hours canoe ride along the Amazon till you reach your lodge, so you will have enough river then, don't worry!
Sunsets over the Amazon are really outstanding BTW...
If you have been reading in your guide about the "famous Eiffel Iron House", you will be somehow disappointed. It is a nice building, but not really an architectural prodigy, and it is not open to the public, so you just can enjoy it from the outside.
It was built in Paris and brought piece by piece by boat to rebuild it here. It was designed to house the most exclusive social club in Iquitos at the city'd Golden Age, but now is just a private building.
One of the main activities here are the jungle tours. There are many types, from individual tours with personal guides and tents (true adventure) to group tours to "luxury" lodges, with organized excursions to see animals and so. There is a golden rule in any: the further from Iquitos, the more animals you see.
You can book them via internet in advance or just there when you arrive. There are many agencies around the Plaza de Armas, or, if you take a moto taxi, just ask the driver; he will take you to a relative of him who organizes "wonderful trips to the jungle".
Depends on your budget of course, but reserve a minimum of 3-4 days for this activity, maybe more if you wanna go far from Iquitos.
This is popular adn after talking to other backpackers, I´d recommend NOT organizing the tour in Iquitos. Just get a ferry to LAGUNAS, midway between Yurimaguas and Iquitos. There is one good cooperative of guides (ESTPEL) in Laguanas. IN the high season (July August) there is a relative (Michael) waiting by the ferry in Yurimaguas. Don´t pay anything until you´ve negotiated your tour price. The tour is rustic, but great. YOu are paddled in wood canoes and the guides are great (everything is in Spanish). There are a number of hospedajes in Lagunas and even a couple restarunants. The main town is up from the ferry dock (1 sole by moto). The town of Laguanas used to be a big cocaine area more than 10 years ago, but has now transitioned nicely to tourism. YOu´ll get a much better price. 50-80 soles a day for a 4 day trip including food.
This island, about a half-hour from Iquitos along the river, is a frequent stopping off point on the way to the lodges. If you like monkeys, and always wanted to have one or two clamber all over you, this is the place to go. There are a number of different kinds of monkeys, some provided for by the caretaker there. More Pictures
Set up for tourists? Absolutely. Still pretty cool? Yup.