I couldn’t find much information about Amazon River tours that left from the isolated town of Iquitos, so I’d like to help you guys out if you find yourself looking for the same information. We did a 3-day, 2-night tour of the Amazon while staying at Heliconia Lodge (booked through Viator) and it was fantastic. Here are the details of our tour if you’re curious or looking to plan your own adventure!
9 am: Pick-up from our hostel
Sidenote: they didn’t email us about when they’d pick us up. We had to call them twice to get an answer about when we were leaving, but it all worked out.
Short drive in a (air-conditioned!) minibus to the port.
Boat ride (about 45 minutes) to Isla de Monos, or Monkey Island!
Played with the monkeys for a while – there were at least 4 types, including some I’d never seen before. Also saw some gorgeous birds.
Boat ride (another 45 minutes) to our lodge
We got acquainted with the lodge, Heliconia, which is totally gorgeous!
Laid by the pool and digested 🙂
3 pm: Boat ride
Saw pink and grey dolphins in the mouth of a lake.
Then, went into the lake and fished for (small) piranhas!
I caught about 7, but only managed to pull two into the boat. One was a baby!
Pete caught one too 🙂
On our way back to the lodge, we saw a rainbow, some dolphins, and a baby sloth.
9 pm: Night “hike”
After dinner, we put some gumboots on (basically rain-boots) and went for an hour walk around the property. We saw tons of tarantulas and other massive spiders, enormous ants (that bite!), and a huge praying mantis.
6 am: Woke up for a boat ride
Yikes – early wake up call! It was worth, it though – we watched the sunrise create gorgeous colors in the sky as we took our boat to a new location. It was sprinkling lightly, but we still tried to do some bird and animal watching. We saw plenty of birds, including woodpeckers, kingfishers, hawks, and vultures. We also saw a pretty active 3-toed sloth climbing down a tree branch!
9 am: Day hike
So…Pete and I totally ditched this. While the rest of the group did basically the same thing that we did the first night, but during the day, Pete and I decided to get some shut-eye. I spent the rest of the morning before lunch lounging by the pool. The group did see something pretty cool – a tiny, poison-dart frog!
3 pm: Boat ride
This time, we were on the hunt for something pretty easy to find – giant lily pads.
In addition to these beauties, we saw more sloths and birds. We took another stop to check out a massive rubber tree and rubbed our fingers in the goo.
6:30: Boat ride (again)
This was my favorite boat ride yet! The sun had set around 5:30 and the sky was totally clear. Bonus – there was an incredible full moon!
We would’ve seen more stars without it, but there’s something totally magical about a full moon…over the Amazon…
We drove upstream and our driver turned off the engine. We let the current take us back to the lodge as we listened to the symphony of animals: frogs, toads, nocturnal birds – even giant rats! (The idea of that last one haunted some folks in our group long after the end of the tour)
9 am: Boat ride
We journeyed first to an indigenous tribe’s village, nestled deep into some tributaries of the river. After a briefing by our guide about their history, they played some instruments and danced – first for us, then with us, after they smeared some red “paint” (from seeds) on our faces to welcome us.
They then invited us to practice our blow-gun skills. I gotta say I kicked Pete’s butt in this arena.
After we were officially pouring sweat, we got a chance to shop at their individual craft “stores.” I bought a ton of stuff that added up to only $15! So glad that I could finally buy gifts because we were so close to going home.
Next, we took the boat to a colorful local village that was a mix of indigenous and modern cultures. Best part – we all got to cuddle with a sloth named Margarita!
I had no idea sloths were so freaking soft.
Christian, a very kind German man on our tour, had brought bags of old T-shirts with him. He went from classroom to classroom handing them out to a bunch of very excited kids! The joy was palpable; I wish I had brought more to give than just one tank-top.
1:45: Boat ride back to Iquitos
Our final boat ride was about an hour – I even got an incredible surprise and saw pink dolphins swimming next to us for a while!
You can book through Viator here (like we did). You can also book it through Lonely Planet.
Cost: $345/person (but can go up to $460)
Tip: see Pete’s post about how we got a great deal (and you can too) on this tour!
What to Pack
Bug spray. The bugs. are. INSANE. Do not forget this! We bought natural repellent from Karma Cafe in Iquitos and it worked great.
Flashlight. We used our battery pack (that we mention here) as a flashlight.
Long pants and a long-sleeve shirt. You’ll want to cover as much skin as possible to avoid mosquito and fly bites.
Sandals/flip-flops. It’s nice to walk around the lodge in these.
Swim suit. (If your lodge has a pool)
Cash for tips. You’ll tip your guide and the lodge staff separately.
Cash for village market. In case you want to buy something from the craft market.
Old clothes, crayons, coloring books, children’s toys, etc. You know all those clothes you have laying around, but never wear anymore? Bring those along! The people in the villages we visited were extremely grateful for all donations.
Tips/Know Before You Go
The food is absolutely wonderful. The lodge served some of the best food we had in the continent!
There are other options for seeing the Amazon from Iquitos, although most are more expensive than this one. For example, you can take a boat cruise – I considered the one through Dawn on the Amazon. You can also do a longer tour. If you want to stay in Iquitos, you can do day tours from there – also available through Dawn on the Amazon for about $85.
Any questions about our tour of the Amazon? Was this what you’d expect?