Welcome to the remote city of Iquitos, where nature meets civilization. Surrounded by the Peruvian rainforest, Iquitos acts as the gateway into the Amazon. No wonder that you can only reach this outpost by plane or boat. And in fact, life is different in Iquitos. You’ll rarely find cars, but moto-taxis all around. You‘ll find local jungle food instead of the best pizza places. And you seek animals in the wild, rather than an internet connection.

And so we got hooked, traveled to Peru’s most disconnected city, were surprised about its not-so-small size, and then went further into the jungle to explore the lungs of the world.

Discover the best things to do in Iquitos and start planning your trip to the iconic Amazon rainforest in Peru.

Best things to do in Iquitos

8 Best things to do in Iquitos

It’s all about the jungle and without a doubt, the very best thing to do in Iquitos is to explore what makes the world go round – the Amazon rainforest. But there’s more to Iquitos than meets the eye. We’ve spent our shoulder days in between to discover the charm of this vibrant jungle city.

1. Explore the Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon rainforest is what makes people travel to Iquitos. It is by far the best thing you can do when in Iquitos. Yet the city is still a hidden gem for adventures to the Peruvian jungle, as most tourists travel into the Amazon from Cusco. This is a big plus if you are seeking an authentic and uncrowded destination to escape into the lush jungles of Peru.

The rainforest itself is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and covers over 60% of Peru’s territory. It is home to over 10% of the world’s discovered species of plants and animals including many that have never been found elsewhere. Today, more than 500 different indigenous communities inhabit the rainforest and live in this for foreigners uninhabitable territory.

Your trip to the Amazon will be unforgettable the very moment you enter it. It is truly a paradise for wildlife and nature. We’ve seen thousands of bird species, dived with pink dolphins (yes, you read that right!), spotted sloths and monkeys, and were just stunned by the untouched nature of this beautiful place. It felt like a childhood dream came true, but at the same time it also made us think a lot about how we treat our planet today.

Tours to the rainforest start from Iquitos every day. There are plenty of tour operators in Iquitos, but only a few are doing a great job. Research for companies that are operated by locals from the jungle, that don’t involve any animal entertainment, and care about sustainable tourism. Tour prices vary between 100 – 250 USD per person/day. The travel to the Amazon starts with a transfer to the nearby Nauta village and from then on continues by boat into a jungle village.

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Best things to do in Iquitos: Go on a jungle adventure
Best things to do in Iquitos: Go on a jungle adventure
Best things to do in Iquitos: Go on a jungle adventure

2. Visit the Belen Market in Iquitos

For visiting the Belen Market in Iquitos you will definitely need a strong stomach, yet it is one of the most iconic and authentic markets we’ve been on our travels through Peru. On the Belen Market, you can get almost everything that the Amazon has to offer. From chickens and beef to hand-sized larvae and turtle eggs. From hand-rolled cigarettes to pre-packaged Ayahuasca powder. From sweet bananas to delicious camu camu.

Best things to do in Iquitos: Visit Belen market
We’ve been discussing a lot whether we should visit the market, as also crocodile heads and living animals are being sold who should usually be protected. Yet we decided to visit the market without buying anything which we think is unethical. Ultimately it is how the people in the Amazon have lived for centuries.
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The Lost City trek leading through jungle and across rivers

Visiting the Belen Market is one of the top things to do while in Iquitos. Even though the market is open until the late afternoon, go there early to catch the busy vibes of local salesman offering their fresh food. As always, take care of your belongings as we’ve heard that there is some pickpocketing going on. But it’s definitely a safe place to visit.

Best things to do in Iquitos: Visit Belen market

3. Take a boat to Monkey Island

Monkey Island, also known as Isla de los Monos, is a very small island not too far up the Amazon River and home to over 500 monkeys, sloths, caimans, and snakes. All of them were victims of illegal animal trafficking in the Amazon and rescued to be rehabilitated on the island. Even though most of the animals live wild on the island, they are used to people and can be fed and petted.

Visiting Monkey Island is a perfect thing to do in Iquitos, if you are looking for an exciting activity to fill the days before or after your visit to the rainforest. Plan at least a half-day for your trip to Monkey Island and back.

Entrance tickets to the island can be purchased for 50 PEN (≈ 13 USD) at the Office of La Isla De Los Monos in Iquitos. From there take a 30-minute speed boat ride to the island for 30 PEN (≈ 8 USD). On your way back, take a small boat from Monkey Island to the nearby pickup point for 20 PEN (≈ 5 USD) and from there a speedboat back to Iquitos for 25 PEN (≈ 7 USD).

Best things to do in Iquitos: Take a boat to the Monkey Island

4. Walk the Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas is the main square of Iquitos, located in the heart of busy Iquitos. It is surrounded by some of Iquitos’s important buildings such as the Cathedral of Iquitos, the municipality, and the iconic Iron House (Casa de Fierro). Buy yourself a cone of ice cream or coffee at the nearby shops, have a rest from the tropical weather on one of the benches, and watch locals meeting on the plaza.

Best things to do in Iquitos

5. Have lunch at the Iron House

On one of the corners of the Plaza de Armas, you will find Iquitos’ most mysterious building: Casa de Fierro (Iron House). It is a two-story house built out of prefabricated iron and assembled in Iquitos. There is a myth that the house was designed by the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel in 1870. By mistake, however, they have not delivered it to Quito in Ecuador but to Iquitos in Peru. How much of that is true remains a secret, but the fact is that the building definitely stands out. There is also a lovely restaurant on the second floor.

The restaurant is called Casa de Fierro and is open all day, except Sunday, from 11:00 am. to 10:00 pm. They serve delicious Peruvian food and snacks. Sit on the terrace to enjoy the nice views of the Plaza de Armas.

Best things to do in Iquitos: The Iron House

6. Enjoy the views from the Promenade

Walking along Iquitos’s promenade is another best thing to do. Enjoy the beautiful view of the bay where the Itaya and Amazon rivers meet. We found it one of the most beautiful places in Iquitos, as in the narrow and busy streets of the city you can easily forget that you are midst of the jungle. It’s best to visit the promenade at noon or before sunset to have the best views.

From the Plaza de Armas, you can easily walk to the promenade or take a TukTuk instead. Locals are often approaching you to take you to the nearby Belen market. In case you are looking for a guide to show you around, this is a good place to get one.

Best things to do in Iquitos

7. Try local Jungle Food

The jungle has a lot of delicious food to offer. When you are in Iquitos and wandering through the Belen Market or already on your expedition through the Amazon there is plenty of food to be discovered. So prepare your taste buds for a whole new experience.

Typical fruits of the Amazon include Camu Camu, a berry rich in vitamins and especially tasty as juice, Pequi, a yellow and sweet fruit used in chicken or fish soups, Capuacu, with its citrusy flavour and creamy texture a perfect ingredient for cakes, as well as many more.

In terms of food, you’ll find skewers with fried and spiced larvae (Suri), soups made with the poisonous juice from the manioc plant (Tucupi), or a dish of mashed plantains and smoked pork (Tacacho con cecina).

And while not all jungle food sounds like a meal you would eat every day, being in Iquitos is a perfect opportunity to try out new things. And to be honest, although we tried out a lot, not everything was to our liking. Still, the Camu Camu juice and Tacacho con cecina were very delicious.

You’ll find jungle food all over Iquitos, in restaurants (such as the Restaurant Fizzcaraldo) and on markets (such as the Belen Market). Just look for the meals you understand the least and give it a try.

Best things to do in Iquitos - Try out jungle food

8. Opt for an Ayahuasca Retreat

Iquitos offers opportunities for taking part in an Ayahuasca ceremony. Ayahuasca is a very strong hallucinogen often used in ceremonies by indigenous people in the rainforest to promote healing, spiritual growth, and self-awareness. Among tourists, Ayahuasca has gained in popularity with people traveling from all over the world to experience the drug.

Some people swear that Ayahuasca has potential medical benefits such as reducing depression and anxiety, but we were deterred by the negative side effects the drug can cause, especially when dosed inappropriately.

In the rainforest, we’ve learned that Ayahuasca lodges provide the local jungle tribe people with jobs, which we find a good thing. However, keep in mind that Ayahuasca is still considered a drug and illegal in a lot of countries. So we strongly advise you to do proper research about Ayahuasca itself and the places, in case you decide to try it out.

Don’t buy any Ayahuasca on the Belen Market. It is known that the quality and dose of the Ayahuasca powder varies a lot. There is always the risk of overdosing and not meeting the required precautions. No drug is worth risking your health and well-being!

How to get to Iquitos?

Iquitos is a remote and to some degree disconnected city. It’s the largest city in the world that is not accessible by road. So the only options to get to Iquitos are by plane or boat. We’ll show you how to get there.

By Plane to Iquitos

While you can’t drive to Iquitos, the city actually has a small airport, the Coronal FAP Francisco Secada (IQT). The airport is directly connected to three Peruvian cities: Lima, Pucallpa, and Tarapoto.

Most tourists fly to Iquitos directly from Lima. There are several daily flights to Iquitos from mainly two airline companies LATAM and Sky, while LATAM is the more reliable option in terms of punctuality and consistency. The price for a round-trip flight ranges between 100 – 260 USD, depending on your date and time of booking. The flight duration is a little under 2 hours.

When you have the choice, take a flight in the morning, noon, or early afternoon. That way you will have a great view of the Amazon rainforest when you are landing in Iquitos.

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Best things to do in Iquitos: How to get to Iquitos

By Boat to Iquitos

While it is also possible to travel to Iquitos by boat, we wouldn’t recommend this option unless you are looking for an adventurous and authentic journey through the rainforest.

To get to Iquitos by boat there are two options. You can choose to take a boat to Iquitos from either Yurimaguas or Pucallpa. Yurimaguas is a small city in the northeastern Peruvian jungle. The boat ride is a 3-4 day journey that takes you down the Huallaga and Maranon Rivers.

From Pucallpa, the journey to Iquitos takes approximately 2-7 days. Pucallpa is a city located next to the Ucayali River. You will need to travel a long way upstream until you reach the Amazon River and pass by the small village of Nauta.

If you are looking for even more adventure, there is also the option to reach Iquitos from Leticia (Colombia) and Tabatinga (Brazil). But please keep in mind to properly register your border crossing with the country’s authorities.

Generally speaking, there are plenty of different boat companies that offer trips to Iquitos. The tricky thing is that those vary in size, speed, and comfort, so it is important to do proper research. You don’t want to spend a week on a boat that is almost falling apart, slow as hell, or overloaded with people. Some boats have cabins with private bathrooms and air conditioning, but for most, you need to bring your own hammock to sleep in.

Prices for a boat ride vary in a price range of 50-100 USD for a one-way trip and thereby are not cheaper than taking a plane.

Best things to do in Iquitos - Boat Ride

Where to stay in Iquitos?

Iquitos is a comparably large city in terms of its population and size. There are plenty of budget-friendly and a few more luxurious accommodation options. We’ll list the places we’ve stayed and that we found best in their value for money, price, and sustainability efforts below.

Where to eat in Iquitos?

In Iquitos there are plenty of restaurants, from simple eateries to more established restaurants and coffee places. When you’re done tasting all the local specialties from the Amazon rainforest try our those three restaurants in Iquitos that we’ve found to be the best during our trip to Iquitos.

Best things to do in Iquitos: Where to eat in Iquitos

How to get around in Iquitos?

In Iquitos transportation is different. Due to its remote location and the fact that the city is only reachable by plane or boat, little cars are driving around Iquitos. But that doesn’t mean that there is no transportation at all. The preferred mode of transportation is called Mosquito. Mosquitoes are what the locals call the moto-taxis or tuk-tuks. There are thousands of them and rides are very affordable.

A ride within the city center usually costs a few soles, while the airport transport is priced at 20 PEN (≈ 5 USD) during the day and 30 PEN (≈ 8 USD) at night. Also, there’s no need to prebook or reserve a tuk-tuk in advance, as they are always everywhere. Just wave for them, and they will take you wherever you want to go.

Besides tuk-tuks also local taxis are available in Iquitos, but you don’t need them. Taxis usually take you to Nauta, the only other town connected to Iquitos. You pass Nauta when going to the Amazon rainforest, but most tours will collect you in Iquitos and prearrange your transfer.

Best things to do in Iquitos: How to get around in Iquitos

When is the best time to visit Iquitos?

Iquitos is located midst of the Amazon rainforest, making it a hot and humid travel destination. The Amazon has a dry and rainy season. You can visit Iquitos all year round with both seasons offering different, but equally worthwhile experiences. Most people, however, prefer traveling to Iquitos during the dry season.

The dry season, also referred to as the low-water season lasts from June to October. During this time, rivers have less water, and jungles are drier, allowing for more on-foot exploration. Since it is the sunnier season, humidity and temperatures are the highest peaking between 31°C-37°C (88°F-98°F). Rainfalls during the dry season are not uncommon, but less often compared to the rainy season.

The rainy season, consequently referred to as the high-water season, lasts from November to May. During this time, the already wide rivers span across the dense jungles of the rainforest. Explorations are mainly by boat, therefore less walking is required. Humidity and temperatures are slightly lower peaking between 30°C-33°C (86°F-91°F). Because it is the rainy season, precipitation is more common. Still, showers are rather short but intense. In turn, more flowers and fruits grow that attract animals, making it easier to spot wildlife from the boat.

During our visit in early October, the weather felt like spending a mid-summer day in the desert. At night, before sunrise, and when it rained occasionally, however, temperatures were cooler and quite acceptable. Be aware that there is no best time to have an easy walk through the jungles.

While the dry season is an ideal season to explore the rainforest with the least rain by foot, the rainy season benefits from the possibility of exploring a wider area by boat. In both seasons Iquitos and the Amazon are not too heavily crowded, with even fewer tourists traveling to Iquitos during the rainy season.

Travel Time


What does it cost to visit Iquitos?

Staying in Iquitos is very affordable. Accommodation and food start with as low as a few dollars and transportation within Iquitos or to the airport with 1-5 USD is cheap. The majority of your budget will be spent on activities in the Amazon rainforest. However, tours to the rainforest are mostly reasonably priced between 100-200 USD per day, all-inclusive.

Expect to pay around 500 USD for a week in Iquitos if you are traveling on a budget, up to 1.300 USD a week if you seek a luxurious stay.

Based on our experience, we’ve listed a breakdown of the average daily costs you can expect below. Note that flight prices are not included in the estimation, as they vary depending on the time of booking and actual travel date.

How many days to stay in Iquitos?

Most people stay in Iquitos in between their jungle adventures to the Amazon rainforest. Staying for a maximum of 2 full days is enough to explore all of the best things to do in Iquitos.

You could explore the city’s main square, try the local food, and visit the Belen Market on your first day. On the second day travel to Monkey Island for a half-day and close your trip with a good dinner at one of Iquitos’s restaurants.

In total plan for 5-6 days in Iquitos, whereas we would recommend spending at least 3-4 of them in the rainforest.

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Best things to do in Iquitos

Is Iquitos safe to visit?

It is safe to walk around in the city center of Iquitos. Take the usual precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings and valuables, and try not to walk alone after dark. Watch out for pickpockets, especially if you are visiting more crowded places such as the Belen market.

Best things to do in Iquitos - Is Iquitos Safe?

Is Iquitos worth visiting?

Iquitos is a unique city midst of the Peruvian rainforest, completely inaccessible by road and a perfect place to explore the dense jungles of the Amazon. Travelers from around the world visit Iquitos for the unmatched biodiversity, nature, and wildlife of the rainforest.

A visit to the rainforest is an unforgettable experience. An experience, that we thought would be totally different before we actually went there. Not only were we surprised about how hot and humid it can get on Earth, but also about the unmatched diversity and symbiosis of nature and wildlife. It was amazing to see how people in the rainforest live today, be it in Iquitos or small villages inside the jungle. How they care about nature, but also how they cope with climate changes, technology, and tourism.

Having said that, we believe visiting Iquitos is definitely worth for everybody seeking a memorable adventure in the dense jungles of the Amazon.

Best things to do in Iquitos