For many visitors, Iquitos amounts to little more than a way station on their journey to the Amazon. As a result, the city has fewer good hotels than its environs have attractive jungle lodges. Things are improving, though, and Iquitos finally got its first high-end hotel a couple years back. Midrange hotels are more expensive than similarly equipped hotels in many other parts of the country, but discounts are frequently available at most top-level and midrange hotels.
All but the cheapest hostales (inns) will usually arrange for a free airport transfer if you pass on your arrival information ahead of time. Even so, be careful whom you tell at the airport that you're expecting a certain hotel to pick you up; always make sure that the driver already knows your name before going anywhere with him.
The following are tour operators and lodges with good reputations in the area. The list is not by any means exhaustive; there are dozens more agencies and lodges, but reports on many of them are less than stellar.
- Explorama Lodge, Av. la Marina 340, Iquitos (tel. 065/252-530, or 800/707-5275 in the U.S. and Canada; www.explorama.com). The longest-established jungle-tour company in Iquitos (now into its 5th decade) and owned by an American, Explorama operates three lodges and a campsite, ranging from 160km (100 miles) to 40km (25 miles) downriver from Iquitos. The company has one of the best reputations of the Northern Amazon lodge operators, bolstered by good guides, very good facilities and food, and a range of flexible activities. The company's first lodge, Explorama Inn (80km/50 miles from Iquitos), is large and attractive, with two long wings and a lovely restaurant/bar and communal area. Explorama owns the jungle's most luxurious lodge, Ceiba Tops (40km/25 miles from Iquitos), a jungle resort hotel with air-conditioning, a spectacular pool with a slide, and a Jacuzzi. There are trails nearby, and boats can take you out onto the river for dolphin-spotting and fishing, but Ceiba Tops is much more about relaxing in style surrounded by jungle. Near Explornapo (the Explorama lodge deepest in the jungle), there's a splendid canopy walkway, one of the longest in the world. At a height of 36m (118 ft.) and a rambling length of 500m (1,640 ft.), it alone is one of the highlights of a visit to this part of the Peruvian Amazon. It's possible to mix and match lodges; a popular plan for many travelers is several days at Explornapo (or, more adventurous still, the rustic Explortambos campsite) followed by a couple days of relative luxury at Ceiba Tops. Prices range from $270 for a 2-day/1-night trip to Ceiba Tops to $890 for a 5-day/4-night trip to Explornapo. Web specials as well as special programs are frequently available.
- Paseos Amazónicos, Pevas 246, Iquitos (tel. 065/231-618 or 01/417-576 in Lima; www.paseosamazonicos.com). This company operates three well-run lodges, Tambo Amazónico, Sinchicuy, and Yanayacu. The farthest, Tambo Amazónico, is 180km (112 miles) upriver from Iquitos on the Yarapa River; the other two are much closer and focus on quick in-and-out tours. The Sinchicuy (30km/19 miles from Iquitos) is one of the oldest established lodges in the zone. Yanayacu lodge is 60km (37 miles) from the city. The company is honest and professionally run, and offers good and clean budget- to midrange standard tours in rustic shared lodges. The lodges are offered by several Peruvian and international travel agents and tour operators. Adventurers might be interested in the company's camping trips to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, one of the best opportunities to rough it and catch glimpses of Amazonian wildlife. A 4-day/3-night trip to the Amazon Sinchicuy and Tambo Yanayacu lodges starts at $311, while 2-night trips to the nearer lodges cost $168.
- Tahuayo Lodge, Amazonia Expeditions, 10305 Riverburn Dr., Tampa, FL 33647 (tel. 800/262-9669; www.perujungle.com). One of the most outstanding Amazon ecolodges in Peru, this low-impact ecoproperty, associated with the Rainforest Conservation Fund, lies on the shores of the River Tahuayo, about 4 hours from Iquitos. Outside magazine has touted it as one of the top-10 travel finds in the world. It is the only lodge with access to the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve, a splendid area for primate and other wildlife viewing (it counts 500 species of birds). Because of its remoteness, it recommends visits of at least a week; programs are individually tailored. The 15 cabins are open year-round, and the lodge offers an excellent schedule of excursions ranging from rugged (jungle survival training) to relaxed; most enticing are zip-line canopy ropes for treetop viewing. An 8-day/7-night trip is $1,295 per person (additional days $100).
- Yacumama Lodge, Sargento Lores 149, Iquitos (tel. 065/235-510, or 800/854-0023 in the U.S. and Canada; www.yacumamalodge.com). Yacumama is an American-owned, first-class lodge with a handsome main house, private bungalows, solar power, and ecosensitive flush toilets deep in the Amazon -- 186km (116 miles) upriver on Río Yarapa (a tributary of the Río Ucayali). It's on an excellent 7,000-hectare (17,290-acre) forest reserve with a cool 10-story canopy tower; the treetop perspective is nearly as spectacular as the Explorama canopy walkway, although you miss the possibility of walking above the trees. In operation since 1993, Yacumama has built a solid reputation with its environmentally sound engineering, good jungle treks, and possibilities for dolphin sightings, and the company dedicates a percentage of its profits to conservation efforts. The company offers Machu Picchu/Cusco program extensions. A 4-day/3-night stay starts at $750.
- Yarapa River Lodge (tel. 065/993-1172, or 315/952-6771 in the U.S. and Canada; www.yarapa.com). Associated with Cornell University (which built a tropical biology field lab for students and faculty here), this terrific conservation-minded lodge -- two-time winner of a World Travel Award as the top resort in Peru -- is 177km (110 miles) upriver on the Yarapa River, an Amazon tributary, near the Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria. Surrounded by pristine jungle and oxbow lakes that teem with wildlife, the beautiful lodge features full solar power, composting, and flush toilets with a waste-management system. Both lodge facilities and guides are first-rate and among the finest in the Peruvian Amazon; spacious private bungalows are almost luxurious. A 4-day/3-night trip (with private bathroom) runs $1,020 per person; a 7-day/6-night trip is $1,575 per person. Travelers can opt for an overnight in the remote Pacaya-Samiria National Park Reserve, 4 hours away by boat.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.