Want to visit the neighborhood of Bethlehem, also known as the Amazon Venice? Here are five things you can not miss during your stay.
Visit Bethlehem Market
It is an emblematic place in Iquitos, where you can find fish, meat, fruit, hand-rolled cigarettes, natural medicine, chili peppers and many exotic things that will surprise you for sale. The market is recognized as the floating city, but this part is high out of the water. You can start your tour at 7 am, when the area is emptier. The high water season (December to March) is ideal to visit Bethlehem and all the neighborhood, to see the wooden houses on stilts that are submerged in the water. In the harbor you’ll find small boats available, called peque-peque, to explore. You can also go with a guide, Allpahuayo Mishana offers a complete tour for $20 per person.
Museum of Indigenous Cultures and Historic Boat Museum
In these cultural attractions you’ll find information on two important contributions to the history of the Amazon Capital: The Museum of Indigenous Cultures, offering a beautiful collection of art and crafts of various native communities who lived and still live in these jungle rivers. The private collection was put together by the owner of the beautiful Hotel Casa Morey. The exhibition is on two floors and is undoubtedly the most comprehensive museum of the city. The hotel manages the Museum of Historic Boats, where the main attraction is a wooden boat anchored since the early twentieth century. The Ayapua, constructed it in 1906, was used by the rubber workers. The era of the rubber boom in Iquitos was when they abounded beautiful houses with tiles and eccentricities that can be seen along the Malecón. It was also the beginning of the loss of the identity of indigenous communities, who were exploited and discriminated against. The visit includes the Fitzcarraldo, a video by Werner Herzog talking about this peculiar period of time, as well as a 15 minute ride on a dinghy to have a view of the city and the common areas of the Casa Morey from the river.
The refreshing coconut water in the Amazon
The heat and humidity can reach high levels in Iquitos. Between noon and 4 pm you can opt to take a nap under the fan, since there is little activity among the locals at this time. When you go into town, you will find carts selling coconut water, the perfect drink for the heat. The preparation is as follows: peel the coconut, make a hole in the middle and it’s ready to be enjoyed with a straw. If you want, you can split it in two and eat the inside of the fruit, the best remedy for the hot weather! You can find them on calle Sargento Lores, one block from the Malecon or by calle Arica.
The beautiful creatures of CREA!
To see the animals, before you had to visit the Orphanage Pilpintuwasi Farm, about 30 minutes away by boat on the Nanay River from Bellavista port. Now you have another option, the CREA center (the Amazon Rescue Center). At km 4.5 of the Iquitos-Nauta highway, alongside the IIAP, they began a project to rescue manatees. These river animals were close to extinction, however, specialized scientists managed to rescue the babies to raise them and bring them back to their natural habitat. You can see the little ones taking a dip in the tub, at lunchtime and being bottle fed. The center currently houses other species such as turtles, monkeys, sloths, birds, among others. Slowly it is becoming a center for all the animals that have been rescued by police after illegal hunting. These animals receive the best care for all their needs. Definitely a job that is worth supporting.
We recommend getting to CREA by bus (take bus 49, at the cross of Jiron Prospero with Jose Galvez, in front of the University of the Peruvian Amazon). Remember, the buses in Iquitos are made locally from wood. It is customary to travel with the windows open to the rhythm of tropical music, an experience you can not miss!
The best sunset on the Malecon!
You can not end your visit without enjoying one of the best sunsets in the Peruvian Amazon. You can see the sky painted with orange and pink hues, finishing in a reddish tint reflected on the Itaya River, opposite the Malecon.
The Malecon is full of vendors, clowns and craftsmen and is the perfect time to bring tourists and locals together. To enjoy the view, you can relax on the terrace along the Malecon. The best spot is at the Amazon Cafe, it is perfect for the moment.
Iquitos has a unique, strong identity, and people have a contagious joy. At the end, you will know that your visit was the best decision of the trip.