'The Heart of the Rainforest' may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning your vacation. Of course, there are many people who like adventure travel and would rather go on a mountain trek for two weeks, than spend their holiday on the beach. But even when they choose Peru as their holiday destination, a tour of the central and southern parts of the country, where one finds the ancient Inca culture, seems more obvious than a visit to the North.
Obviously, the rainforest is by far the most important reason why tourists come to this region. The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, named after the two rivers that cross through it, is the main attraction.
But for those who lack this kind of adventurous spirit, there are many things to do and see in and around Iquitos that will give you an excellent impression of nature as well as the culture of this area. Villages like Padre Cocha can easily be reached by boat. Tribes like the Bora and the Yagua live here, at about a half hour boat ride from Iquitos and are visited daily by tourists. In Padre Cocha, you can visit Pilpintuwasi, the butterfly farm and animal orphanage. Here, 43 different species of Amazonian butterflies are bred, but there is also a variety of animals, like a grown jaguar, some snakes and caiman, some water turtles, and even a very rare manatee, which is a critically endangered species. Several species of monkeys and parrots walk and run about freely.
Another great place to visit is Quistococha. This is a lake with a nice, white-sanded beach, a park and a zoo, with a lage number of Amazonian animals. There are some pavillions and it is very popular with the local youth, who come to swim, play football and volleyball.
In Iquitos itself, the 'floating city' of Belén is definitely worth a visit. Because of the rising water levels, the houses here are built on stilts and on rafts, allowing them to float on the water during the high water season. It has earned Belén the nickname 'Venice of Peru'. Belén is also famous for its regional market, where products from throughout the jungle are sold.
Even though it cannot be reached by land, Iquitos is an important university town. Especially the national university UNAP draws thousands of new college students every year en thus impacts the cultural life of Iquitos. Iquitos is a festive town, surprisingly open-minded, with a very young population. It has a fun and exciting nightlife of many bars and discos and a large, thriving gay community.
If you want to know more about this city, its people and about the Amazon rainforest, you can visit our partner website www.ikitos.com. There you will find a lot of fun, interesting and useful information in English and Spanish. San Pedro Lodge offers a variety of day trips and tours in and around Iquitos. Please, check them out here.