During our time visiting the Amazon Region of Peru we had many very memorable excursions that were unlike anything else in Peru. Iquitos is a city full of life, culture, unique gastronomy, and bountiful wildlife. Every day we had a new and exciting outing with our professors giving us the opportunity to explore the many unbelievable sights.

The Floating City

The floating city of Belén is one of the most extraordinary places in Peru. When we first arrived in Belén, it appeared to be just like every other neighborhood in Iquitos. Our guide, however, explained to us that during the rainy season in Iquitos this entire neighborhood is submerged in water. During this time, water levels raise up to the second story of every house. To accommodate for these extreme weather changes, families then move their belongings from the first floor to the second floor of their houses. Families who live closer to the river however have accommodated in a different way by building houses that actually float on the water. Our group had the chance to tour this community on wooden boats with local guides who told us about their experiences growing up next to the Amazon River. Daily life in this community is intertwined with the many resources that the river has to offer. Fishing provides the main source of food and jobs, boats serve as school buses for children and taxis for parents on their way to work, and families wash their clothes just outside of their floating houses. This beautiful city was full of life and energy surrounding the powerful Amazon River and our group was lucky enough to learn about such a unique location.

Belén Market

Only a couple blocks away from the river edge lies the bustling Belén Market. This market is a cluster of dozens of streets lined with stands stacked high with a vast assortment of meats, drinks, fruits, medicine, herbs, clothing, and many goods our group had never heard of. Our local guides walked us through the tight and busy streets as we passed giant paiche fish caught that morning, buckets of edible jungle grubs, amazon fruits like camu camu, aguaje, maracuya, and a rows and rows of traditional medicines that are made for every sort of ailment imaginable. The people who work in this market wake up as early as 3:00am to begin setting up their stands. Shoppers arrive soon after to buy fresh meats and ingredients for the day. The Belén Market is buzzing with people from all around Iquitos who travel to this area just to buy the many goods provided along these streets. The sights, smells, and tastes of Belén are rich with the culture and life of the Amazon River.

Mika Nagamoto studied abroad in Lima and Iquitos, Peru, in summer 2018: