Iquitos, Peru


To write about the city of Iquitos and the sorrounding areas gives me great pleasure. I have always been a huge fan of the Peruvian section of the Amazon River rainforest, of which this city is it’s entering port. During the late eighties I had the chance to have a small property in the nearby village of Santo Tomás, to which I used to go every friday afternoon, from the office to the Lima airport for a nice sunset flight and back early monday morning on the earlybird. At that time we where fortunate enough to have very cheap fares, the cost is much more to stay in Lima for the weekend than go to Iquitos. The three or four years that I had the opportunity of doing these trips were fantastic and unforgettable. My house, a small cottage on an island of the Nanay River, was made out of wood with knitted palm tree leaves as roof. We also had the gorgeous canopies made out of cotton cloth that we had hand painted by local villagers with their typical geometrical designs.


Iquitos is the capital of the department of Loreto, it was founded in 1757 under the name of San Pablo de los Nepenanos. It was the first river port on the Amazon River, part of its surrounding territory is still inhabited by different tribes, nomad and semi-nomad groups with different languages and customs, that face the same habitat and have developed very similar means of life, mostly based on hunting and fishing.

The Jesuit missionaries, who penetrated the most hidden places of the forest and founded villages like Borja, Jeberos, Lagunas, etc, established the first western settlements. Later, the commerce between Peru and Brazil grew, but it was since 1880 that the progress of Iquitos really took place because of rubber exploitation. The buildings that can be seen in the city are a sample of what Indiginous people in native dressthe economic prosperity produced. The oil exploitation started in 1938 and nowadays there are important oil reserves and projects for the rational use of forest resources.

Nowadays there are several native groups that live in the rainforest; many of them are in permanent contact with the outside world. These groups generally live on the banks of the Amazon, Napo, Ucayali, Marañón and Nanay rivers.

Iquitos is located at the northeast region of Peru at an altitude of343.2 ft (104 m) above sea level. The annual average temperature is 79.3ºF/26.3ºC (maximum of 96.8ºF/35ºC and minimum of 62.6ºF/17ºC). It rains all year round; however, the rainy season is really in the winter (November to April). Summer is from May to October.

To arrive in Iquitos you must fly from Lima (1h 45 min approximately), and there are also flights from the cities of Tarapoto and Caballococha. You can get there by river from the Pucallpa’s port of La Hoyada (1.6 miles/2.5 Km away from the city) through the Ucayali river, making stops in the ports of Requena and Contamana. There are two types of crafts: Speedboat (Small, fast boat. The trip takes 2 or 3 days approximately, depending on the river current.) or "La Chata" (Big boat with room for 250 persons approximately, but a slow trip that takes from 4 to 7 days depending on the river current).


The Iquitos airport is called Crnl. FAP Francisco Secada V. It’s located on Av. Abelardo Quiñones Km 6 Distrito de San Juan, Iquitos . Phone number: (51, 94) 260151, fax: (51 -94) 260245. The airport parking lot does not have special reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities. All entrance doors are wide enough. There are four curb cuts on the sidewalks, two at the airline check-in counter area and two at the luggage claim exit area. All the curb cuts have a steep slope. The check-in counters of all the airline companies are 4.1-ft. (1.25 m) high, and the counter for paying the airport tax is 4.26-ft. (1.30 m) high. It is a two-story building with no elevator, but the second floor is only for administrative use. There are no public phones at lowered height for the use of people in wheelchairs, but the telephones have volume control. There are visual information systems for deaf people. The audio information system gives messages that are not very clear. The airport does not have accessible public restrooms. The route from the check-in area to the boarding gates and planes, and from the plane to the luggage claim area and the street are on the same level. The airport has wheelchairs available on request. The airport does not have jet ways to board passengers to the planes nor a special platform lift. Some airlines have boarding chairs available and trained staff to assist with the transfers.


One of the things to see in the city of Iquitos is the"Casa de Fierro or Casa Eiffel" which is located between Próspero and Putumayo streets, in front of the Main Square. Casa de Fierro (Iron House) was completely built in the Belgian workshops of Les Forjes D´Aisseau and designed by Gustave Eiffel. Rubber worker Anselmo del Aguila bought it at the International Exposition of Paris in 1889. Once dismantled, it was sent to Iquitos in the middle of the rubber period. Also the ex Hotel Palace that is located between Putumayo and Malecón Tarapacá streets. The building was finished in 1912 in Art Nouveau style. It is a building with three floors, considered the best and the most luxurious of the Peruvian Rainforest. The iron grilles of its balconies came from Hamburg, the marble from Carrara and its multicolored tiles from Seville. It was the main lodging center for foreign visitors in the rubber period.
 


There is a great variety of hand crafted goods, such as pottery with geometric drawings, natural dyed and hand painted textiles and a series of tools made from the natural resources found in the region. A nice market to visit is the Saint John the Baptist Handicraft Market located at Av. Quiñones Km. 4 San Juan. The entrance is level and there is a ramp with a smooth slope between the parking lot and the sale stands. All the market has flat paths with enough room for a person in a wheelchair, so you can go all over the place without help. Although the men’s public restroom complies with the measurements of ADA for wheelchair maneuver, the door is not wide enough (26.91 inches /0.69 m wide). This market is recommended if you want to buy regional crafts.

The main feast of this region is the Feast of Saint John (June 24). It celebrates Saint John the Baptist and is of great symbolic value due to the importance of water as a vital element in the entire Rainforest. Activities include typical bands and many regional dishes.


HOTELS

The two main hotels in the city that we evaluated for accesibility are : the Victoria Regia,  this is a 4-star hotel with 42 rooms. There is a parking lot in the street, but there are no special reserved parking spaces for people with disabilities. There are two steps between the street and the hotel entrance, but the staff is willing to help. The reception counter is 3.68-ft (1.10 m) high. The building has an elevator that is big enough to hold a person in a wheelchair plus a companion. The signals and indicators are only visual. The rooms are average size and the entrance door is 31.98 inches (0.82 m) wide. Restrooms are not accessible at the moment, because there is a small step at the entrance and the door is 25.74 inches (0.66 m) wide. Some bathrooms are bigger than others and have enough space to maneuver a wheelchair. The bathtubs have grab bars. There are wooden chairs available to be used in the shower. The restaurant, bar, conference room and pool are accessible. There are no accessible public restrooms. They plan to make some modifications and extensions to the hotel in the year 2001.

The Dorado Plaza Hotel  is the only 5-star hotel in the city of Iquitos. It is located on the Main Square of Iquitos and has 65 rooms; 5 of which are executive suites and 3 junior suites. The entrance to the hotel is level. The elevator is wide and has a handrail, and the control panel is at 4.23-ft (1.29 m) high at its highest point. The elevator controls have raised characters and the elevator signs are visual. The rooms are spacious and the entrance door is 34.71 inches (0.89 m) wide. The knobs are lever types and the fire alarm is visual. Telephones have luminous signs and the TV sets have closed captioning. Bathrooms are spacious and have enough space to maneuver a wheelchair. Nevertheless, at the moment of the evaluation, the bathroom doors were 26.91 inches (0.69 m) wide. The bathroom fittings are lever type and the bathtubs of the suites are Jacuzzi types. Public restrooms, the bar, sauna and gym are not accessible. One can access the conference room without help and the pool area with help. The entrance to the main restaurant is not accessible (8 steps), but a special dining area can be arranged near the lobby and the bar for people with limited physical mobility or wheelchair users. Room service is also available.

One of the reasons to visit Iquitos is to have the opportunity to visit the various jungle lodges, located in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. One of them is the Amazonas Sinchicuy Lodgethis is a rustic jungle lodge located 20 miles away from the city of Iquitos. Access is by boat along the Amazon River which is the world’s longest and widest river.

The transfer to the boat for the 40 minute ride is possible with the use of movable ramps provided by the tour operator. There is a wooden ramp with a very steep slope at the lodge’s entrance facing the Amazon River, which is used during the months that the river level is low (May to October). The same applies for the entrance located on the side of the Sinchicuy River, used when the river level is high (November to April). The entrance to the main house is equipped with a ramp with a steep grade. The width of the door is 4-ft. (1.22 m). The reception counter is 3.34-ft (1.02 m) high. There are 32 rooms and one of them is accessible. This room has a door 37.05 inches (0.95 m) wide. The doorknobs of the room and bathroom are lever-type. The room is quite big and has enough space to maneuver a wheelchair. The bathroom door is 34.71 inches (0.89 m) wide. At the moment of the evaluation, the bathroom was not totally finished and did not have grab bars in the shower or next to the toilet seat. The other rooms and their bathrooms -that have a small threshold- have a door 29.64 inches (0.76 m) wide. The bathrooms of these rooms do not have hot water and the illumination at night is by kerosene lamps. The distances between the room and the restaurant and/or bar, and between the restaurant and the viewpoint are accessible with some help. There is the possibility of making trips to the surrounding areas. Near the lodge there is the community of the Yagua tribe which can be visited. The members of the community make and sell typical handicrafts. On those trips, people in wheelchairs can participate as well. The hotel offers a fixed menu for all the guests. They serve three meals per day and the quality of its cuisine is really good. They organize folkloric shows on weekends upon request. The service is extremely warm and the staff is very well trained to handle wheelchairs, as well as in assisting people with other types of disabilities. They have planned to renovate three additional rooms. These will have accessible bathrooms and showers. Definitely, this is place you must visit if you are planning to travel to Iquitos and the Amazon River.

Ramp access from river.Another alternative is the Heliconia Amazon River Lodge  is located in front of the Amazon River, 50 miles (80 Km) away from the city of Iquitos. The trip by speedboat takes about an hour and a half. The lodge has 15 rooms and at the time this lodge was evaluated they were building five new family-type rooms. The access to the boat is possible with the use of movable ramps, provided by the tour operator. There is a wooden ramp with a steep grade at the entrance of the lodge that is used when the river tide is low (between the months of May and October). The access during the rainy season (November to April) is more comfortable, because the river is at the lodge’s level. The main corridor that joins the rooms with the public areas is made of wood planks that have small spaces in between for the drainage of the water during the rain. Unfortunately wheelchair tires can slip through or get caught in these cracks, so that one cannot roll about freely without assistance. There were no accessible rooms at the time of the assessment. The rooms have enough space to maneuver a wheelchair, but the bathrooms are narrow. Room doors are 29.64 inches (0.76 m) wide and the bathroom door is 23.79 inches (0.61 m) wide. The lodge has hot water and electricity until a certain time of the evening. Three meals a day are served and the cuisine is of high quality. They offer trips through the rainforest by roads that are near the lodge, and trips by boat to the surroundings in order to fish for piranha, as well as bird watching and observation of pink river dolphins, unique to the region.


As in all of Perú there are very good restaurants to go to. Some of them are: El Parral, Gran Maloca, Restaurant Cebichería El Nuevo Pavayacu, Fitzcarraldo and La Noche.

In case you neeed any asistance with your equipment you can contact Ortopedia Ayudas Bio-Mecánicas  (can come to the hotel). They sell orthopedic goods and have a wheelchair repair service. If you have trouble with your wheelchair tires contact Comercial Lemans  They sell spare parts for motorcycles, bicycles and tricycles. The service offered is quite useful when one has a tire problem with the wheelchair.


Accessible viewing platform.Places to visit outside town include the Tourist complex of Quistococha. - The complex is located at about 15 minutes by car from Iquitos and covers 369 hectares. It is located around the lake of Quistococha. The Complex has an artificial beach known as Tunchi Playa. Visitors can visit a museum, the aquarium, and a zoo with snakes and other exotic animals. There are paths around the lake and a small dock on the water where one can rent boats. Furthermore, it has a tourist restaurant, a collection of captive birds, children’s park and sport courts. One can request permission to enter the park by car. This way you can avoid the stairs and the steep grade ramp at the entrance. The paths of the entire complex vary in terms of surface -some are concrete, some unpaved- and also in terms of width, but they generally are 35.1 inches (0.90 m) wide. It is necessary to have some help for the tour if the visitor has limited physical mobility or uses a wheelchair. There are no accessible public restrooms.

Santo Tomás. - This rural community located on the banks of a branch of the Nanay river, 10 miles (16 Km) from Iquitos, is the city’s main resort area. The calm waters of the Nanay allow for swimming, water skiing and touring by speedboats and canoes.

Santa Clara. – Located on the banks of the Nanay river, 7.5 miles (12 Km) away from Iquitos. Its main attractions are its white sandy beaches, formed during ebb tides, and its natural landscapes.

Bellavista Nanay. - Located at 3.3 miles (5.2 Km) from Iquitos and about 20 minutes by motor rickshaw. On the banks of the Nanay river, there is a boat dock where one can rent boats to travel along the river and visit the nearest tourist villages of Padre Cocha and San Andrés.

Almendra Port. - Located at 7.6 miles (12.1 Km) away and about 30 minutes by car from the Iquitos airport. The Centro de Investigación y Enseñanza Forestal Puerto Almendra (Puerto Almendra Research and Forest Education Center) is located there. Inside there is the El Huayo Arboretum Botanic Garden with an exhibition of different forest species, natural samples of the Nanay basin. It has ecological circuits and recreational zones where it is possible to take long walks and visit small farms that belong to the local inhabitants.

Rumococha Lake. - Located at 2.4 miles (3.8 Km) southwest and about 15 minutes by car away from the Iquitos airport at the riverbank of the Nanay river. The lake, which has the shape of a very close arch, has very calm waters thus allowing the practice of fishing.

Zungarococha Lake. - Located at 7.5 miles (12 Km) and about 30 min. by car away from the Iquitos airport. The lake is located on the right riverbank of the Nanay River, where one can appreciate a beautiful landscape; one can also swim and travel by canoe.

National Reserve of Pacaya-Samiria. - Located at 93.8 miles (150 Km) away from the city of Iquitos, up the Amazon river and about 8 hours on a speedboat - or 18 hours by peke peke (*). It is located at the confluence of the Marañón with the Ucayali rivers, in the provinces of Requena and Loreto. It is the country’s largest national reserve, the second of the Amazon River Basin and the fourth of South America. It is irrigated by the Samiria and Pacaya rivers that include a great biodiversity of fauna and flora.

Rimachi Lake. - Located in the province of Alto Amazonas, in the basin of the Pastaza river. It has a perimeter of 45 miles (75 Km) and is 33 feet (10 m) deep. It is considered the biggest lake of the Peruvian Rainforest.
 
 

With this third article we conclude the series of articles about accessible tourism in Peru. We know that we have a lot to show but we also know that Peru is not yet a fully accessible country. We are doing our best to turn it into an accessible tourist destination in the near future. Through access-able.com we will keep you updated of the new developments we achieve in the near future. In the mean time you are very welcome to come visit us. Please contact any of the specialized tour operators we have recommended and we are sure you will have a magnificent Peruvian Experience.

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