I have been struggling to find ways to begin this blog post because it is so hard to put into words how incredible my vacation to Iquitos was. It was a trip where I was forced to turn off my cell phone for 5 whole days due to limited signal and electricity and just experience every new site, taste, smell, and feel with absolutely no distractions – especially related to the horrifying politics of the United States today (a privilege not many have) . It was deeply personal and absolutely perfect.
Iquitos is located in the very north of Peru in the departamento or “state” of Loreto. It is the largest departamento in all of Peru and is blanketed by the vast Amazon River and jungle, which is home to several indigenous tribes that still live without contact to the outside world. I found my home two hours away from the closest city where the Marañon River marries the Ucayali River to form the immense Amazon River.
Jorge and I kicked off our vacation at one of the most famous restaurants in all of Peru called Al Frío y Al Fuego. We arrived at the restaurant only to find that it is located in the middle of the Amazon River so they offered a complimentary boat service to drop us off at the dock of the restaurant. We enjoyed ceviche and Maracuyá Sours all while floating on this tiny restaurant/island in the middle of the Amazon. It was absolutely surreal.
We then ventured to the beautiful Samiria Ecolodge by means of the Marañon River. Fun Fact: Samiria Ecolodge is where Chelsea Handler does Ayahuasca in her show Chelsea Does Drugs (The lodge was very proud of this fact as they still have all of the Hollywood lights outlining their jungle pathways). It is a lovely lodge made up of a large main house and 10 bungalows that overlook the Pacaya Samiria Jungle Reserve.
At Samiria, we were greeted by an amazing guide, Marcos, who introduced us to the Ecolodge that has just enough electricity for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because of their commitment to the environment. Each day was planned so that we could experience the beauty and nature of the jungle in Pacaya Samiria. Some of my favorite parts were birdwatching, swimming with pink dolphins, jungle walks, and piranha fishing! I also loved canoeing down the river and experiencing how people live so far from civilization.
After our time at Samiria Ecolodge, Jorge and I still had a day to explore more of the city of Iquitos. We spent our day going to La Isla de Los Monos, which is an island which was converted into a monkey rescue to rehabilitate monkeys that are rescued from the exotic animal trade. The center works with the monkeys to eventually release them back into their natural habitats. It is a large island with over 300 monkeys, sloths, birds, and other animals that populate all 450 hectares of land. The monkeys especially loved nuzzling in Jorge’s head of hair and were clinging on to him as we left.
On this trip, not only did I get to cross jungle adventures on the Amazon River off my bucket list, but I got to have a memorable and life-changing experience in a country I love. In the United States, we just think of Machu Picchu when we think of Peru, but I am learning that there is so much more to this amazing place and I still have so much more to see.