Getting there & away
Iquitos is Peru’s largest and best-organized river port. You can in theory travel all the way from Iquitos to the Atlantic Ocean, but most boats out of Iquitos today ply only Peruvian waters, and voyagers necessarily change boats at the Colombian–Brazilian border.
Cargo boats normally leave from Puerto Masusa, on Av La Marina about 2km or 3km north of the town center (maybe closer if the water is very high from May to July). Chalkboards tell you which boats are leaving when, for where, and whether they are accepting passengers. The Henry boats to Pucallpa leave from their own port nearer to town. Although there are agencies in town, it’s usually best to go to the dock and look around; don’t trust anyone except the captain for an estimate of departure time. Be wary: the chalkboards have a habit of changing dates overnight! Boats often leave hours or even a few days late.
Upriver passages to Pucallpa (four to seven days) or Yurimaguas (three to six days) cost US$20 to US$30 per person. The journey takes longer when the river is high. Boats leave about three times a week to Pucallpa, more often to Yurimaguas, and there are more frequent departures for the closer intermediate ports. Some boats have cabins and charge more for those.
You can often sleep aboard the boat while waiting for departure; this enables you to get the best hammock space. Never leave gear unattended; ask to have your bags locked up when you sleep.
If you’re in a hurry, Expreso Loreto (23 4086, 24 3661; Loreto at Raimondi) has fast motor launches to the border at 6am every two days. The fare is US$50 for the 12-hour trip, including lunch. Other companies nearby offer similar trips.
Amazon Tours & Cruises has weekly cruises on comfortable ships that go from Iquitos to Leticia, Colombia, leaving on Sunday. Most passengers are foreigners on a one-week, round-trip tour, but cheaper one-way passages are sold on a space-available basis.
Iquitos’ small but busy airport currently receives flights from Lima. The airport is closed between 9am and 6pm because of flocks of vultures in the vicinity of the airport and the subsequent danger of bird strike. Until the problem is resolved, you can only leave and arrive at Iquitos outside of these times.
Three main airlines link Iquitos with the outside world. LAN (23 2421; Próspero 232) operates the best and most expensive flights. Star Perú (23 6208; Napo 256) and Aero Condor (23 1086; Próspero 215) also operate flights to Lima. At the time of writing, Star Perú was planning to set up regular flights to Tarapoto (US$68). All airlines operate jet aircraft, though the more modern airbuses of LAN warrant the more expensive airfare over the less comfortable aircraft of the other two companies.
Charter companies at the airport have five-passenger planes to almost anywhere in the Amazon. Rates are around US$300 an hour. Other small airlines may have offices at the airport.
The airport departure tax is US$3.57/10 for domestic/international flights.
The airport is about 7km from the center of Iquitos. A taxi ride will cost around US$4, a mototaxi around US$2.