To get to Iquitos, you can choose to travel by air or water as Iquitos is the largest city in the world unreachable by road. Iquitos is also the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon. To get to Iquitos by water, you will need to be on a river port such as Manaus in Brazil, Leticia in Colombia or Coca in Ecuador.
Is Iquitos an island?
Did you know that the city of Iquitos is surrounded by water? That means it’s an island. There are several lakes or “cochas” that are surrounding the city, but there are 3 main rivers: the Itaya, Nanay, and the best known for all is the Amazon River. By not having roads that join Iquitos with the rest of the country, the Amazon River is the main route of transport and river commerce, and is a substantial part of the economy of Iquitos City. To get to Iquitos via river boat to Iquitos would take several days. But if you are one of those who are looking for adventure, the river boat option is always open!
Getting to Iquitos by Boat
For those tourists who prefer adventure, or simply have a little more time to appreciate the scenery, you can get to Iquitos by river. If you want to travel by boat, you can first get to Pucallpa. Then, you can navigate the Ucayali River by boat or “motonaves”, vessels that can accommodate up to 250 people. Their duration is between 4 and 7 days. Another alternative with regular cruises is to leave from Yurimaguas, in this case taking between 3 and 6 days.
The fast boats are for quick transport and slow boats are used mostly by locals that offer only basic comfort, namely a very basic cabin or a place where you can hang a hammock. Of course, for locals of the Amazon region, there are other options like slow, wooden and rickety boats full of fish, chickens, geese, and people on their way to market. Lower still on the scale of comfort is a little banana raft. These are often used by locals to travel from places as far away as Manaus (over 1500 km away). You are likely to see these various river vessels on your journey.
Getting to Iquitos by Plane (Most recommended)
Air is by far the most popular and likely method for getting to Iquitos. Usually, visitors first fly to Lima, the Peruvian capital, and then connect for a direct flight to Iquitos. There are few other places for direct flights, although there are talks in the future for a direct flight from Cusco, a destination many Iquitos visitors come from. As with other destinations, for now passengers from Cusco are first required to fly to Lima. The most reliable Peruvian airline is LATAM.
If you’re interested in visiting the Tahuayo Lodge, our favored lodge in Iquitos, the suggested flight from Lima to Iquitos would arrive in Iquitos just before noon. Please enquire with the lodge or cruise on our pages before booking your flights or indeed ask the operator; SAM Corporations to help so you can be absolutely sure. The flight from Lima to Iquitos takes about 2 hours and has spectacular views of the Amazon Rainforest. For most people, this is where they get their first look at the Peruvian Amazon and the feeling of awe is sure to impress no matter how many times you have taken this flight. To see the Amazon River running through the vast green wilderness is a spectacle in itself. If you have booked one of our top rated Amazon tours from Iquitos, to know you will soon explore this incredibly wildlife rich wilderness will add to the excitement.
When you touch down in the C. F Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport in Iquitos, you will collect your luggage from the conveyor belt, be greeted by your tour operator or make your own way into the city. If making your own way, be aware of taxis and illegal tour agencies that may pester you at the airport. If you are after a taxi, my preference is to walk outside the airport and hail one from the road as taxis can be a little pushy in the airport environment. Make sure you check the current price of a fare from the airport to the city, which will be on signs in the airport itself to make sure you pay the correct amount. When I was there, the fixed rate was 8 soles from the airport to the Plaza de Armas in the city. Be careful about taxi drivers who try to take you to hotels, tours, or accommodation that pays them for guests.
Taxis in Iquitos, such as ones for getting to Iquitos from the airport, are mostly little three wheel motorcycles with a carriage on the back for passengers. A city not connected to the rest of the world by road has evolved its unique road life, just one of many unique features that adds character to this charming and fun place.
Wildlife Highlights of Iquitos
Life in the Amazon rainforest takes many forms below, within, and above its leafy green canopy. It is home to big-eyed monkeys rustling amid trees, bright bird species, stealthy river creatures and other ecological oddities. In northern Amazon tributaries, pink river dolphins are but one unique animal that can be spotted in the national parks surrounding Iquitos. Keep your eyes peeled and camera in hand because seeing these rainforest residents in their natural habitat may well be the highlight of your jungle adventure. Jungle lodges surrounding Iquitos are the perfect hub for convenient access to remote jungle reserves.