Iron houses built by Gustave Eiffel…floating slums on colorful rafts…golfing in piranha-infested waters: this is Iquitos, the largest city on Earth inaccessible by road, and one of the strangest in all of Peru. Centuries of isolation have made this jungle frontier town unique in its culture, as well as a bustling departure point for excursions into the heart of the Amazon.
Originally a Jesuit mission founded in the 18th century, Iquitos went through rubber and petroleum booms to become a thriving jungle metropolis. Today traces of its former splendor are still visible in its azulejo-covered mansions, as well as the restaurants that line the colorful riverfront.
It’s also from that riverfront that one of Iquitos’s principal attractions departs: Amazon cruise ships. Elegant and unhurried, these vessels take travelers into a world of pink dolphins, early-morning mists, and stilt-raised huts along the water’s edge. They’re perfect places to sample jungle cuisine, or lie out in a hammock under the stars.
Another Iquitos signature are the jungle lodges, which take you deeper into the region’s mystery. Located several hours outside the city, these bungalows allow you to climb the rainforest’s canopy, meet indigenous locals, and study the rich wildlife of this vast ecosystem. They’re staffed by teams of expert naturalists, to get you up close with the birds and mammals that swarm through the trees.
Iquitos’s locals speak of the “the jungle, its spell.” Visit this magical region, and you’ll discover just how hard breaking that spell can be.
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