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Travel to Iquitos, Peru

Amazon Gateway

Seeking a radical departure from home and its stress and fast pace, Americans, Europeans, and Australians are increasingly coming to the Brazilian rainforest to find peace and fresh perspectives.

Most visitors use Manaus as their base. Cut off from the rest of the world except for the mighty Amazon on its doorstep, Manaus is as isolated as a jungle city gets. It takes a grinding 10-day upriver boat ride to reach the next one, the frontier town of Iquitos in Eastern Peru. Now Iquitos is also connected to the rest of the world by plane and is itself a splendid starting point for exploring the surrounding rainforest.

Jungle Lodges. The Explorama group, a company that owns four lodges at various distances from Iquitos, is connected to the Amazon Center for Education and Research. The wildlife-rich jungle canopy can be experienced from the treetops via a suspended walkway 120 feet above the forest floor. An economical alternative is the spartan Amazon River House, a 4-hour upriver journey.

Though all lodges and tour operators promise wildlife viewing, Amazon wildlife has retreated from the busier waterways; those interested must venture deeper into the jungle.

One of the best places for spotting wildlife is the Yacumama Lodge, located on the remote Rio Yarapa nearly 150 miles from Iquitos in thick primary forest. Showers are heated by solar panels, and small bathroom facilities are shared. Several jungle walks leave the site; blinds are positioned along the way for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. Look for macaws and howler monkeys in the trees and pink Amazon river dolphins in the water.

Riverboat Cruises. One of the most comfortable ways to experience the jungle, albeit not up close, is to take a riverboat cruise. The best-established is Amazon Tours & Cruises, which runs boats from Iquitos. A trip to the tres fronteras (three frontiers) region—where Peru, Colombia, and Brazil meet—is a calming journey with several opportunities to swim in the warm river, fish for piranha, take jungle hikes, enjoy wonderful food (usually fish and fruit purchased daily from natives in dugout canoes), and visit small native settlements on Amazon tributaries.

Perhaps most fun is firing up the motorized launch at night, armed with flashlights, to spot and capture river caiman, a smaller relative of crocodiles. The guides do it with their bare hands.

Anyone inspired to help the poor and stoic peoples of this massive region should contact the schools and one of the four hospitals in Iquitos.

For More Info

Explorama, 340 Ave La Marina; 011-51-94-25-2530 in Peru or 800-707-5275 from the U.S.

Yacumama Lodge (run by Eco-Expeditions), 10629 N. Kendall Dr., Miami, FL 33176; 800-854-0023 from the U.S.

AeroPeru flies daily from Miami to Iquitos.

Prices for jungle lodges and cruises can run twice as much when booking from home.

The cheapest way to travel is to take a local cargo boat, many of which go downriver from Iquitos to Manaus, if you don’t mind sleeping on the roof underneath the stars. Bring a hammock.

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