Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The City in Peru That You Can't Drive To...Iquitos
It's the fifth largest city in the South American country of Peru. There are over 300,000 people living there. What's the catch? You can't reach it by overland road or railroad. There are only two ways into and out of this amazing large city with everything you would look for in a South American adventure. You either fly or you come by the mother of them all--the Amazon River.
The streets here are busy with tuk tuks and cars and trucks. You can get around by wheeled transportation all over the place and can even take a tuk tuk taxi to and from the airport. It doesn't give the impression that it is somewhat cut off from the world at all. But yet it sits at the confluence of the Amazon and the Nanay Rivers in the middle of the largest rainforest in the world. Why?
Many decades ago, this area was the premiere location for getting your rubber. The Europeans wanted rubber for tires and many other things, and this was the place to get it. As normal, the Europeans enslaved a lot of the locals and made them harvest the sticky white sap from the rubber tree so that they could make a fortune in the tire business and in boots and many other things that were made from rubber. The place was a big rich area where people came to seek their fortunes whether it be as a business owner, a rubber baron, or for the locals just to have a job. But, as with all boom towns, eventually the Europeans found a way to transplant the business to a more accessible location and the prosperity came to a halt. There is still some rubber business in the area, but not much. What this place has turned to is largely ecotourism.
There are many historical things to see in this amazing town along the shores of the river. There are all of the colonial buildings, including the iron building that was designed by Gustav Eiffel at the height of the rubber empire. There are many museums and historic hotels around town to look at that give you a glimpse into the colonial times of good old Europe.
Visiting the native villages is another thing that is very popular with tourists. You can visit them on most tours, but it should be arranged. Don't just show up and expect these folks to perform like monkeys. Make arrangements ahead of time and pay well and they will be happy to show you their ancient lifestyles. There are a few different ones around, so contact your tour operator to find out more.
One of the ways that you can get to Iquitos is to fly in from Lima, the country's capital. You will not find yourself on a jumbo jet and you will not find modern facilities at the airport in Iquitos. What you will find are larger prop planes and older jets that are still in amazing shape landing at the airport where you will walk down steps and across the tarmac to the terminal building. It's like a step back in time and quite charming.
Probably the most popular way to experience Iquitos is by cruise. It's 2,000 miles to the Atlantic Ocean from Iquitos and quite a way to Nauta where many tours begin and end along the river. In most cases, you will fly in to the airport from Lima and take a cruise that begins and ends in Iquitos. Remember, this place is fairly well isolated, but at the same time connected. It's a strange and wonderful configuration that you will find in only a few locations around the world.
While the water transportation and the cruises are wonderful, it's the local stuff that always appeals to me. Belen is the floating village that is always open for business along the river in Iquitos. They sell a lot of things from food to local spirits to souvenirs and more. You will need to find transportation to the village, but you can hire a boat or even rent a canoe if you like. There are restaurants and shops in Belen and it's a fabulous adventure. Make sure that you travel wisely however, this is not the kind of place that you want to send your children to by themselves or something like that. And, make sure that you visit at the right time of year, because the village can go from floating on the river to sitting in the mud during the drier season.
But, as usual; I had something in particular in mind when I looked into this trip. Number 1, take a boat along the Amazon. It's amazing with all the rainforest, the wildlife, the pink dolphins and such. Enjoy this amazing wonder. Did you know that if you put the next largest 8 rivers in the world together that there would be more water in the Amazon? It's truly amazing. It's like an ocean flowing in one direction with two banks full of forest and animal life. Stay at a resort and enjoy luxury in this city. Remember, this is an adventure. You have to take a boat or fly. This is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road.
That being said, after the national reserve, the butterfly sanctuary, the dolphins, the museums, the hotels, the architecture, the resorts, the boats, the shopping, the hustle and bustle of the city; you will want to relax and enjoy dinner and a drink. And I have just the spot for you. This is one of those Adventure for Anyones that you should do just to say you did it. You should go out to dinner at Al Frio y Al Fuego. It's a floating restaurant and bar that sits right on the Amazon. What's the big deal? I don't know. It's one of those places that has great food, live entertainment and a pool. That's right. A pool sitting right on the river. You can go, eat, drink and swim over the Amazon. It's a bit unusual in my mind that somewhere 2,000 miles up the river is an isolated city of 300,000 people where you can go out to eat on a floating restaurant with a pool, but there it is. Amazing, and something that anyone can do. Think about it. You know you want to do it just so you can tell your friends that you did it and watched pink dolphins while you were at it. Anyway, that's my Adventure for Anyone in Iquitos.
So, if you need an adventure and want to do something that none of your friends have done; consider coming to Iquitos, Peru. You will have an adventure like few others and at the same time get to see some of the wonders of the world and stay in luxury if you choose. You can take a cruise, try exotic cuisine, see rare animals, and do some great shopping. Come, see the amazing city of Iquitos, have dinner and go swimming over the Amazon, and experience something that few others get to brag about. Come and visit Al Frio y Al Fuego, take a swim and enjoy!