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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Iquitos, Peru - Gateway to the Peruvian Amazon

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

This is the largest city in the world which you cannot reach by vehicle (not located on an island). You must fly here or reach by boat via the Amazon River. I took the aerial approach.

Iquitos is located in Peru on the Amazon River. It has a population of nearly a half million people, most of whom are indigenous people.

The large city exists mainly due to the rubber industry. In the late 1800's the rubber industry was booming. Many of the indigenous people here was used as slave labor to propitiate the profits.

Later, the rubber tree seedlings were smuggled to Southeast Asia. The price was no longer competitive for this remote city to export and the economy died. It was later replaced by other local goods such as wood and fish.

This is a very poor city with the average day worker making less than $4,000 per year. They certainly welcome the tourists who make the journey their way to add to the local economy

I flew from the capital city of Lima into Iquitos. My arrival at the airport:

Arriving into the principle square of the city it is like many cities I've visited where locals assemble to sell their goods.

Cars and trucks are expensive here. Transporting goods by air and via the Amazon adds a prohibitive cost to a local earning $4,000 per year. As a result the motorbike was the primary means of transport for those lucky enough to own one.

Carrying goods on the head is a common practice here as well as many areas of the world.

The Piranha fish is on display here. These are abundant in the Amazon. I'll share my fishing trip post for these soon.

Near the river was this small arena. I enjoyed walking here in the evening to join the locals in the evening show. Instead of watching television, many would gather here for evening entertainment. Sometimes it was locals putting on a show, or sometimes it was a simple story telling.

I don't speak the language so I never understood the stories. No matter, I was there to watch the locals interact.

The areas around the town where tourists would travel were well maintained and visually appealing. But as you'll see later, don't look behind the curtain!

Rickshaw or tuktuk as it's called in Thailand was the primary taxi service. They were also used in transport of goods and produce.

Fish along with locally grown food such as bananas were a common staple.

It could get quite busy in the open markets in the evening. Many are without refrigeration and buy their food fresh each day.

The Peruvians are certainly a colorful people as is often on display here:

Many of the vehicles you'll find here are vintage. Cars are a premium and must be maintained for years.

But, as I mentioned, motorbikes are the common form of transportation, even for families.

Getting outside the tourist areas and into the real Iquitos, the poverty of the city is evident.

Homes are of poor construction and built with what materials can be found or salvaged. Most would not withstand a good sized windstorm.

On one of my walk adventures to places I probably shouldn't go, I found this path to the river.

It looked deserted so I decided to follow its path.

On the way to the river I encountered a group of younger people crouching in the grass smoking ganja. They surprised me as they were so quiet. I think I startled them as well. They waved me over to join them but I just kept walking, hoping they would not pursue. I enjoy interacting with locals in most situations, but I have boundaries. I could hear them laughing soon after I passed,

I finally reached the Amazon river. Not so appealing a destination:

There was a police presence in the city, but not in the remote areas.

However, I'm unsure how much help they would be:

I'm glad I didn't have to test their readiness.

I didn't spend too much time in this city. My destination was beyond the city and into the Amazon. But that's another adventure.

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Roger Wells
Roger Wells
Oct 04, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Do you research these places before you go or do you just wing it. It blows my mind how you find these places and just seem to go through them at ease. Your a braver man than I. I would always worry that I would be robbed going into these poor places. Thanks 🙏

Oct 04, 2023
Replying to

I used to do a lot of research beforehand. This one I did not. Nor do I anymore. I think you’ll find a natural course more enjoyable. If you research, you’ll likely end up in all the tourist traps. That’s a good question, though. The answer is really much longer. Maybe I’ll do a post on it one day.

Thanks for the comment!


Mike Wells
Mike Wells
Oct 03, 2023

Poverty is everywhere. In this city it is terrible that there leader whom you think should be doing the right thing for the people. He decides to sell out the people and make himself wealthy. Sad that even in America this happens.

Oct 04, 2023
Replying to

This is a unique city in the world. One I wouldn’t mind returning. In fact it’s the only place in Peru I would return. I would not return to Mach Pichu. But that’s just my personal preference.

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