The Mother Church on the Main Square of Iquitos
The church, of neo-gothic style, was built between 1911 and 1924. Its structure, of only one nave, displays a pulpit carved in wood, on the right side. An interesting detail is the Swiss clock installed in 1925.
The city of Iquitos holds, amongst its jungles´ exuberance and the mysterious rumor of the Amazon River, a series of architectural jewels that astonish travelers, as much for the beauty of their shapes, as for their particular style. They are the imprint of the “Rubber´s Barons” who were powerful land owners who turned Peru’s jungle into a real commercial paradise, at the end of the 19th century. As part of that prosperous stage’s heritage, there are some remains of singular design, such as small palaces, richly decorated with Arab mosaics (Rocha, Morey and Cohen Houses), Art Nouveau buildings (Ex Palace Hotel) or the famous residence designed by Gustave Eiffel, built with metal sheets carried by hundreds of men, through the jungle.
The Tarapacá Pier or Boulevard
The famous Tarapacá Pier or Boulevard is located one block away from the Main Square (Plaza de Armas), on the Itaya River’s banks. It dates back to the rubber boom era. It was called that way, in memory of the heroes fallen during the war against Chile. Currently, the pier has been remodeled and has wide sidewalks, small squares, with gardens and a singular “Glory”; a monument to biodiversity and the Amazonian region’s myths and legends. From there, one enjoys a panoramic view of the floating neighborhood of Belén. On the way, we’ll get to know important historical monuments, restaurants and cafés.
The Amazonian Museum
It was built in 1863. In the museum, stand out the succession of large windows ending in semicircular arches and protected by sturdy iron bars, the inside walls decorated with carved wood, and furniture designed in the style of that time period. It holds a collection of over 80 full size fiberglass sculptures, representing the different Amazon’s ethnic groups from Peru, Brazil and Venezuela, along with pictures that portrait the history of the city of Iquitos. The building is shared with the Military Museum.
The Port and Village of Belén
They are located on the Itaya River’s left bank, South-east of the city of Iquitos. Their origin dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, and they are composed of houses built on “topa” rafts that float at water level, during the flood season. With time, the building pattern of houses has changed to fixed houses built on rounded forks and wooden piles of up to 2 floors high. During draughts, both floors are being used and during the flood season, only the second floor is being utilized, as all of Belen’s lower area is flooded and the inhabitants move about on river boats and canoes. This is why Belén is considered as Loreto’s Venice. Tourist boat rides are on offer, on the Itaya and Amazon rivers.
Belén is composed of two areas: The upper area, where the market bearing the same name, is located, and which is the main product supplier, and the lower area, with the informal port which is the jungle’s product trading center. Today, one can observe buildings made of modern materials, in that area.
Quistococha’s Tourist Complex
Quistococha Lagoon lies at the level of Km. 7 of the Iquitos-Nauta Road, South-west of Iquitos (30 minutes by car), and on its shores, stands the tourist complex which covers an area of 369 hectares of natural forest, with an artificial beach, where visitors can take a plunge, tan in the sun, as well as enjoy its white sand and beautiful landscapes. Rowboat rides on the lake and hikes in the surrounding area are on offer.
The Almond Port
The El Huayo Arboretum Botanical Garden is located 12 km. from the checkpoint of Iquitos airport (30 minutes by car), taking the deviation, 100 meters before Quistococha. It is managed by the Puerto Almendra Forest Teaching Research Center. This center maintains land lots, with representative forest species of the Nanay Basin, offering ecological circuits, hikes and visits to the area’s crop growing inhabitants.
It is located 12 km. from the checkpoint of Iquitos airport (30 minutes by car), on the right bank of the Nanay River, and is ideal for swimming or go on a canoe ride, amidst beautiful surroundings. Nearby the lake, there is the small Corrientillo Lagoon, where traditional meals are on offer.
San Juan’s Handicraft Market
This handicraft complex produces and commercializes a great diversity of handicraft proper to the region, such as vegetable fiber textiles, carved wood, different ceramics, with typical designs, paintings on llanchama (Tree bark), typical garments, embossed leather handicraft and typical drinks, among other local products. It has an exhibition space for expositions of the Amazonian culture and a wooden amphitheater, for artistic presentations.
The Bellavista Nanay Pier
This pier is located North of Iquitos (10 minutes by moto-taxi), on the right bank of the Nanay River, and from there, the boats navigate to different destinations, like the Boras de San Andrés ethnic community and the farming communities of Padre Cocha and Manacamiri, where traditional recreational activities are organized for visitors. It is possible to rent boats, for rides on the Nanay River and visit the nearby communities.
The Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm
Pilpintuwasi is a Quechua word which means: House of the Butterflies. It shelters over 40 varieties of exotic butterflies, in a beautiful habitat surrounded by waterfalls and tropical flowers. One can visit the place and observe the butterflies´ interesting reproduction process, along with medicinal and ornamental plants, as well as different species of bird and monkeys, a tapir, an ant bear and an otorongo (Jungle feline)
Boras of San Andrés
Leaving the Port of Bellavista Nanay, 20 minutes on a river glider craft, on the Nanay and Momón rivers, there is the Boras native population, pertaining to the Upper Putumayo’s area which borders Colombia. They migrated to the place they currently occupy, attracted by the rubber exploitation, and still preserve their customs, cultural traditions, celebrations and ceremonies associated with their myths and legends. They use body paint for their dances, the stylized serpent being the favorite design among men and women. The Pijuayo Celebration and Beam Dance are the most important feasts, during which the participants use masks that represent mythical beings and dramatize mythological episodes, on the origin of the world, of mankind and the Bora culture. It is possible to acquire local handicraft, in the area.
The Province of Alto Amazonas (Yurimaguas)
Yurimaguas is located 388 km. South-west of Iquitos, on the river (4 days of navigation), on the banks of the Huallaga River, and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes. Its name is due to the names of the Yuri and Omagua tribes, which, together, form the word Yurimaguas. There, the tourist week is celebrated from August 5 to 15 and its Patron is the Virgin of the Snows. From there, one can visit beautiful beaches, in the vicinity (Draught season), in the Shanusi River Gorge. It is equipped with basic services, to attend visitors.
Lake Rimachi is located 545 km. South-west of Iquitos (13 hours and a half on a river glider craft), in the basin of the Pastaza River which is an affluent of the Marañon River. Lake Rimachi is considered as the Peruvian Amazon’s largest lake, with a perimeter 75 km., a depth of 10 meters and numerous islands which can have a surface of up to 2 hectares. Its waters are cold and dark, but they contain a great ichtiological wealth, with fish like the paiche, gamitana, palometa, paco, sábalo, boquichico, etc. One can also observe dolphins, lizards, reptiles and taricayas. In the vicinity, camungos live, alongside shanshos, pinshas, parakeets and macaws, as well as otorongos, tigrillos, deer, sajinos, monkeys, etc. It is an appropriate place for sports fishing, hikes, rafting and swimming. The Candoshi native community, located near the lake, carries out vegetable fiber handicraft activities, as well as that of wood carving, jewelry and mask making. There are no basic services. So, visitors have to bring their tents, food, etc.
The Province of Ucayali (Contamana)
It is located on the Ucayali River’s right bank, 431 km. from Iquitos (3 days of navigation), and from Pucallpa, 12 hours, on a river boat. In the Shipibo dialect, Contamana means “Palm Tree Mountain” and it is one of the area’s most important river ports. It is equipped with basic services, to attend visitors.
It is located 22 kilometers North-east of Contamana, on dirt roads. The place offers about 20 sulfurous and ferrous water springs, with medicinal properties and temperatures that vary between 40 and 90? C. Nearby those thermal water springs, there is a macaw collpa (Lick), where important flocks of these flashy birds gather daily, to peck at the earth charged with sulfure contained in the water of the cocha (Lake).
The Amazon River
The Amazon River has its origin at an altitude of over 5,000 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.), on the snow-capped Mount Mismi (Department of Arequipa, in Peru) and runs across extensive tropical jungles, on 4,500 kilometer journey. It gathers over 500 navigable affluent rivers, and has an average depth of 50 meters and a width which varies from 4 to 6 km. Great part of its course is not defined, as it is formed by a set of smaller water courses which constitute a network of canals, with numerous islands. It is the world’s largest and most powerful river which forms a huge hydrographic network, unique for its dimensions and great current. It was discovered in 1542, by the Spanish Francisco de Orellana.
It is more accessible from the city of Iquitos, through the Amazon River’s Tourist Corridor, which offers a great biodiversity, and in which different expeditions are being organized, on river cruisers, including visits to the Amazon River’s source and to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Some of these cruisers get to the Colombian and Brazilian border areas. One can also visit the ethnic native Boras, Yahuas and Witotos of Pucaurquillo communities, as well as some farming communities. In the vicinity, it is possible to find eco-tourist lodges, for all tastes, as much for those who seek a comfortable stay (Air conditioned rooms with mosquito nets, as for who are prepared to enjoy an extreme adventure. These oases, amidst the jungle’s immensity, represent a departure point, for hikes to identify medicinal plants, visits to native communities and bird watching expeditions. On the other hand, one can go on a walk on the canopy walkway or hanging bridge, over the trees´ canopy, from which it is possible to appreciate the Amazonian fauna’s beauty.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
It is located 183 km. South-west of Iquitos, and the shortest route to get there, is from Iquitos to Nauta, by road and from Nauta, by the river, all the way to the 20 of February Community (15 hours on a motorized river boat and 4 hours on a river glider craft). In order to get there, one must ask the INRENA (National Natural Resources Institute) for a permit, and pay the corresponding fees. That reserve includes great part of the provinces of Loreto, Requena, Ucayali and Upper Amazon (Alto Amazonas), covering 2 million 80 thousand hectares, reason for which it is considered as one of the largest in the country and South America. It is also known as the floodable forest area (Varzea), and is protected. It is the Peruvian Amazon’s largest region and is limited by two great rivers: The Marañon, to the North, and the Ucayali-Canal of Puinahua, to the South.
In that reserve, there are three hydrographic basins: The Pacaya, Samiria and Yanayacu-Pucate Basins, as well as numerous cochas (Lakes or lagoons), gorges, canyons and tipishcas. There is an average monthly temperature which oscillate between 20? C (68? F) and 33? C (91? F), and annual rainfalls of 2,000 to 3,000 mm, which allows the prolific development of its great biological diversity: 449 bird species, 102 mammal species (Among them, the pink river dolphin), 69 species of reptiles, 58 species of amphibians, 256 fish species and 1,024 species of wild and cultivated plants.
The reserve is the refuge of different endangered species, such as the charapa (Podocnemis expansa), the maquisapa monkey (Ateles sp.), the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), the red macaw (Ara macao) and the cedar tree (Cederla odorata), among others. Likewise, there are several natural resources protection and management projects, such as the repopulation of the charapas and taricayas, on the reserve’s artificial beaches. It is impressive to observe the last phase of this process, which consists in the letting loose of offspring, in the reserve’s rivers, gorges or cochas (Lakes or lagoons), in which an integration atmosphere stands out, with the local population´s active participation. Within the boundaries of Pacaya Samiria, on the banks of the Marañon and Ucayali rivers, over 42,000 people live gathered in 94 inhabited centers and another 50,000 live in the 109 villages of the reserve’s Damper Zone. There, almost everyone dedicate themselves to fishing, agriculture, recollection and hunting.
The Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve
It is located 26.5 km. from Iquitos, on the Iquitos-Nauta Road (30 minutes by car), and 2 to 3 hours on a boat, parting from the port of Bellavista Nanay. This reserve, of just 58,000 hectares, protects the greatest concentration of white sand forests or “varillales”, in which numerous unique plant and animal species live. It also protects a sample of the forests floodable by the Nanay River’s black waters, and which are unique in the Peruvian Amazon.
This reserve contains a huge and peculiar biological richness, among which, numerous endemic plant and animal species of restricted distribution stand out, many of which still lack scientific description. Up to now, over 1,780 plant species have been registered, along with 522 species of butterflies, 155 fish species, 83 species of amphibians, 120 of reptiles, 476 bird species and 145 species of mammals, among which two endemic species of primates stand out: The Guapo ecuatorial (Cute equatorial monkey or Pithecia aequatorialis) and black Tocón (Callicebus lucifer). And continually, new plant and animal species are being discovered
Among bird species, there are about 20 that only live in white sand forests, and which were unknown in Peru, until recently. During the last five years, four bird species have been described, that were new to science, and related to white sand forests (Three species of ant eaters: Herpsilochmus gentryi, Percnostola arenarum and Myrmeciza castanea) and a fly catcher (Zimmerius villarejoi). There is a fifth species which is still in the process of being described (Polioptila clementsi). To these, we sum up another ten bird species unknown before in Peru, like the bella cotinga (Xipholena punicea) and the manakin (Neopelma chrysocephalum).