Located in the Loreto region, Iquitos is the largest city in the jungle of Peru, with a population of about 400,000. Located on the Amazon River, it is just 100 meters above sea level even though it is more than 3,000 kilometers from the mouth of the Amazon on the Atlantic Ocean. Iquitos has long been a major port in the Amazon basin. It is surrounded by three rivers: the Nanay, the Itaya, and the Amazon.
The city is generally considered the largest in the world that cannot be reached by road, only by airplane or boat. Most travel within the city itself is via motorcycle or mototaxi (auto rickshaw). Transportation to nearby towns often requires a river trip via llevo-llevo, a small public boat.
The climate is hot and humid, with an average relative humidity of 85%. The wet season lasts from around November to May, with the river reaching its highest point in May. The river is at its lowest in October.
An example of Spanish style rubber boom era architecture in Iquitos, with the Amazon in the background
Iquitos was established as a Jesuit mission in the 1750s, and in 1864 it started to grow when the Loreto region was created and Iquitos became its capital.
Iquitos was known for its rubber industry through the first decade of the 20th century, and there are still great mansions from the 1800's, including the Iron House, designed by Gustave Eiffel. The boom came to an end when rubber seeds were smuggled out of the country and planted elsewhere. The 1982 movie Fitzcarraldo, about the life of rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, was filmed near Iquitos. There are also many floating houses on the Amazon and its tributaries. During the 1990's, gays fled the repressive police in other cities of Peru to live in this frontier town. Many now live in BelÚn which can be accessed by foot in the dry season but is accessible only via boat in the wet season. Iquitos has become important in the shipment of lumber from the Amazon Rainforest to the outside world, and it offers modern amenities for the residents and tourists in the area. Other industries include oil and rum production.
Iquitos has a growing reputation as a tourist community, especially as a jumping-off point for tours of the Amazon jungle and the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, and trips downriver to Manaus, Brazil - the other rubber-industry city in the interior of the Amazon basin - and finally the Atlantic Ocean, which is 3,360 kilometers away.