Iquitos’ cultural attractions, while limited, dwarf those of other Amazon cities: especially boosted by the arrival of two new museums. The cheery Malecón (riverside walk) runs between Nauta and Ricardo Palma: despite the below diversions, perhaps the main sight!
Remnants of the rubber-boom glory days include azulejos, handmade tiles imported from Portugal to decorate the mansions of the rubber barons. Many buildings along Raimondi and Malecón Tarapaca are lavishly decorated with these tiles. Some of the best are various government buildings along or near the Malecón.
Cruising the Amazon is an expensive business: the shortest trips can cost over US$1000. It’s a popular pastime, too, and advance reservations are often necessary (and often mean discounts). Cruises naturally focus on the Río Amazonas, both downriver (northeast) toward the Brazil–Colombia border and upriver to Nauta, where the Ríos Marañón and Ucayali converge. Beyond Nauta, trips continue up these two rivers to the Pacaya-Samiria reserve. Trips can also be arranged on the three rivers surrounding Iquitos: the Itaya, the Amazonas and the Nanay. Operators quote prices in US dollars. A useful booking website for most of the following is www.amazoncruise.net.
The range of accommodations in Iquitos is as broad as a cruise ship seems when bearing down on a canoe: basic budget to five-star luxury are catered for, with a plethora of enterprises attempting top-end and failing.
Mosquitoes are rarely a serious problem in town, so mosquito netting is not always provided.
The best hotels tend to be booked up on Friday and Saturday, and on major festivals such as San Juan. The busiest season is from May to September, when prices may rise slightly.
Due to the competition, even budget hotels have decent standards, many offering bathrooms and fans. Every place pertaining to be mid-range or higher has air-con and a private bathroom, normally with hot water. Prices tend to rise around holidays.
The city has excellent restaurants, but be aware that many regional specialties feature endangered animals, such as chicharrón de lagarto (fried alligator) and sopa de tortuga (turtle soup). Paiche, a local river fish, is making a comeback thanks to breeding programs. More environmentally friendly esoteric dishes include ceviche made with river fish, chupín de pollo (a tasty soup of chicken, egg and rice) and juanes (banana leaves stuffed with chicken or pork and rice).
For self-catering supplies, visit Supermercado Los Portales.
Drinking & Nightlife
Iquitos is a party city. The Malecón is the cornerstone of the lively nightlife scene.
There are a few stands along the Malecón selling jungle crafts, some of high quality, some (not always the same ones) pricey. A good place for crafts is Mercado de Artesanía San Juan, on the airport road − bus and taxi drivers know it. Don’t buy items made from animal bones and skins, as they are made from jungle wildlife. It’s illegal to import many such items into the US and Europe.