Dawn of Eden’s Jaguar-Odyssey participants are greeted at the airport and transported to the center where they are introduced to the sacred energies of the temple grounds. There are some interesting sites in and around Iquitos, however, and participants of the Jaguar-Odyssey will be able to experience some of these during the course of their program. Individuals traveling to Iquitos on their own (outside the context of a Dawn of Eden program), might be interested in our “Tips for Visiting Iquitos.” We offer this information as a public service with the hope that it might enhance your time in this delightful jungle city. To view more (and larger) photos of Iquitos, visit The Iquitos Gallery.
Iquitos, Peru, widely known as the gateway to the Amazon, is the largest city on earth that can only be reached by river or air. This fascinating fact is one of the reasons Lonely Planet (the travel guide company) rated Iquitos a “Top 10” city for 2011. Approximately 500,000 people live in this jungle-metropolis, right in the middle of one of the world’s largest rainforests. It has become a trading center for rainforest tribes and families that live in the surrounding jungles. The rubber boom (1880 to 1912) exploded the population of Iquitos followed by an oil boom in the 1970s, but the latest boom for this vibrant city is tourism.
Upon arrival in Iquitos, one is struck by the hectic pace of Peru’s jungle-capital. Thousands of motorcars (three-wheeled motorcycle taxis), which serve as primary means of transportation in Iquitos, are found cruising the streets. Riding in these motorcars can be something of an adventure, but it is advisable to keep your hands and feet inside the motorcar. There are no fixed rates and sometimes the drivers will bargain. However, they often ask more of tourists so it is helpful to get a feel for what are more typical rates. Two soles is common for a short ride. Longer rides, like from the airport to the Plaza de Armas, typically range from twelve to fifteen soles or more. Low cost bus transportation is also available.
Tourists invariably find their way to the Plaza de Armas as it is a principal gathering place for locals and tourists alike. This well-groomed park is surrounded by hotels, restaurants, ice-cream parlors, Internet-cafes, banks and a number of other businesses. One of the centerpieces of the Plaza is a circular fountain (seen in the photo) which sprays huge jets of water into the air. The fountain is illuminated at night. Also facing the Plaza are buildings with a colorful history like the “Iron House.” This landmark building was designed by Gustav Eiffel who designed the Eiffel Tower as well. During the height of the rubber boom, the city of Iquitos purchased the building and imported it, section by section, to bereassembled in its current location.
Nearby, is another favorite attraction in Iquitos known as “The Malecón” or more popularly, “The Boulevard.” This scenic promenade, which overlooks the river, is a social hub for the people of Iquitos. This is especially true after sunset when many of the locals come for a stroll or to meet friends at one of the many bars and restaurants. Local artisans sell their crafts up and down the Boulevard, and it’s an ideal venue for a little people watching.
Iquitos is generally considered a safe place for travelers, and violent crime is quite rare, but tourists should always be on guard for thieves. Pick-pockets, deceitful vendors and scam artists are inclined to target unwary travelers. When walking around Iquitos, it is advisable not to display valuables, especially if visiting the Belén Market one of the most popular attractions in Iquitos.
The Belén Market is a bustling open-air market that sells everything under the sun. If you decide to visit the market, be sure to see the Pasaje Paquito, a vendor-aisle dedicated to selling a wide diversity of traditional jungle medicines and exotic plant remedies. You will find an endless variety of tonics and elixirs being promoted and sold for healing, rejuvenating, and energizing the body. Everything from Ayahuasca to aphrodisiacs is available here. It is best to have a guide or someone who knows the market but be vigilant and attentive to your belongings in any case.
You may also wish to visit the floating city of Belén (known as the Venice of Peru) which is situated in the floodplain of the Itaya River just below the Belén market. In this exceptionally poor riverside community, the houses float with the six-meter rise of the river during the wet season. Most of the residents live in abject poverty, without electricity, clean water or sanitation.
As Iquitos is the gateway to the Amazon, river boat excursions and jungle tours are always enjoyable, and these activities are generally safe if you have a reputable guide. It’s best to avoid people you meet on the streets who are attempting to pass themselves off as guides as many of these people are scam artists. A better alternative is to look for an established tour-guide business, or if you know a local you can trust, ask for their recommendation.
Popular nearby destinations include the Butterfly farm near Padre Coche (a 20-minute boat ride from Iquitos) or a quick visit to see some Amazonian natives. The Bora and Yagua Indians are also about a 20-minute boat ride, and either of these objectives may be reached by chartered boat from the Bellavista Nanay port.
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Be careful changing money
You will likely need to change some money at some point during your visit. In the streets of Iquitos, particularly on Calle Prospero near the Plaza de Armas, you will find scores of money changers wanting to change your dollars to soles. Be wary of these money changers! Sleight of hand counting, phony exchange rates, rigged calculators, and counterfeit bills are commonplace. Unless you know the money changer, it is a safer bet to change your money at a bank. You will not get as good a rate as on the street, but you won’t be taken advantage of either. Interbank has a dedicated facility for changing money located at the corner of Prospero and Sargento Lores.
Dawn of Eden® is the only fully licensed shamanic center in Iquitos that is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. The Dawn of Eden Church is the only church in Peru dedicated to the transformation of human consciousness utilizing the sacred plants Ayahuasca and Huachuma as a sacrament.
Dan Reynolds, Dawn of Eden®