Iquitos is the capital city of Peru’s Maynas Province and Loreto Region. The largest metropolis in the Peruvian Amazon, east of the Andes, it is the ninth-most populous city of Peru.
It is known as the “capital of the Peruvian Amazon”. The city is located in the Great Plains of the Amazon Basin, fed by the Amazon, Nanay, and Itaya rivers. Overall, it constitutes the Iquitos metropolitan area, a conurbation of 471,993 inhabitants consisting of four districts: Iquitos, Punchana, Belén, and San Juan Bautista. It is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road – it is accessible only by river and air.
The area was long inhabited by indigenous peoples. The founding date of the European city is uncertain. Spanish historical documents state that it was set up around 1757 as a Spanish Jesuit reduction by the banks of the Nanay River. The Jesuits gathered local Napeano (Yameo) and Iquito natives to live here, and they named it San Pablo de Napeanos.
The architecture and historical treasures reflect the colonial and early 20th-century European period, and have been a destination for heritage tourism trade in the 21st century. In addition the city is a center of a region for ecological tourism. It has become a major cosmopolitan city with strong roots in the Amazon, featuring a complex history and cuisine, Amazonian landscapes, nightlife, and a growing cultural movement.
In 2012, 250,000 visitors were recorded. Many have been attracted since the Amazon rainforest was ranked as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Iquitos inaugurated international flights to the main hub of Panama City in 2012, with shared destinations with Miami and Cancún. Its international airport is expected to become one of six international air centers of Peru. The city was ranked as sixth on the list of “10 leading cities in 2011” of the Lonely Planet guidebook.
The city can be reached only by airplane or boat, with the exception of a road to Nauta, a small town roughly 100 km (62 mi) south (but this is not connected to the country’s main road network). Ocean vessels of 3,000 to 9,000 tons and 5.5 metres (18 ft) draft can reach Iquitos via the Amazon River from the Atlantic Ocean, 3,600 kilometres (2,200 miles) away.
Most people travel within the city via bus, motorcycle, or the ubiquitous auto rickshaw (mototaxi, motocarro or motocar). This is a modified motorcycle with a cabin behind supported by two wheels, seating up to three persons. Transportation to nearby towns often requires a river trip via pequepeque, a slow public motorized boat, or public speedboats.
2 – 7 Days: Plan a traditional jungle lodge stay or a multi-day river cruise to explore the magnificent ecosystem of the Amazon Jungle