Only accessible by river and air and surrounded in every direction by lush green forest, the city of Iquitos is everything you could imagine of a jungle town – magnificent tropical scenery, colourful shantytowns and vibrant native Indian markets. With an ever-growing tourist infrastructure of friendly cafes, lively nightclubs, exceptional seafood eateries, interesting art galleries and exciting carnivals, Iquitos is definitely worth more than a fleeting visit. And for those seeking a spiritual experience, Iquitos provides the opportunity to meet local shamans and undergo a religious psycho-healing session with the potent hallucinogenic ayahuasca vine.
Despite possessing so many attractions of its own, Iquitos is best known as the starting point for excursions into Peru’s northern Amazon region. Immense tropical rainforest is bisected by a maze of rivers, streams and lagoons with wildlife ranging from jaguars, anteaters and tapirs roaming the forest floors and huge anaconda snakes and fierce caimans swimming through dark swamps. This region is ecologically diverse, from lowland jungle characterised by soaring trees and red soil to the virgin rainforest of the incredible Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Scattered throughout the Peruvian jungle are a number of sizeable indigenous settlements with between 35 and 62 different tribes living a semi-nomadic existence. The Amazon River offers the best way of exploring the jungle, either in canoes or motorised boats with local guides, and spending the night in jungle lodges. For the ultimate jungle experience and to see the best of the incredible Amazonian wildlife, aim to spend at least a few nights here.