The hub of activity in Iquitos is the main square (Plaza de Armas). Depending on the time of day you will find everything from artisan crafts to exotic fruit popsicles to artists painting a watercolor of Iquitos’ main cathedral. Most people spend a night in Iquitos before or after their jungle lodge experience and chances are that you’re hotel is nearby.
Just a block away from the main square is the Riverwalk. Known in Spanish as the malecon, this street is paved with glazed tiles and features all kinds of activities. If you walk straight to the Riverwalk from the Plaza, passing the Casa de Fierro, you will run into a stairway that goes down to a market that belongs in some adventure movie. Built on wooden planks and lit by a string of light bulbs, this market is the place to buy everything from real tarantulas to piranha statues to hand-painted parrot wall decor. Spending 30-minutes or an hour in this market will surely leave an impression and give you the feeling that you’re deep in the heart of Amazon country, mostly because you are.
Back up the balcony staircase to the Riverwalk you will find fountains and shops and restaurants that go on for a few blocks. Find a place that sells tacacho, which is fried plantains with a side of fried pork, like a better version of bacon. Or, grab a famous rotisserie chicken with a side of plantains. Really, no matter what you grab, it will be unique to the area and will contain some version of plantains.
As you stroll down the Riverwalk, take note of all of the old 100 and 200-year old mansions back from the glory days of Iquitos’ rubber trade. These colonial buildings add flavor to an already fascinating view. Once you’ve gone a few blocks you’ve really seen what there is to see and you can turn back towards the plaza or grab a moto taxi to your hotel. Or, if you’re enjoying the breeze or the people watching, grab a bench and soak in the moment. Either way, don’t miss taking a stroll down the Riverwalk.