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Iquitos is the largest city in the world without road access. Once in Iquitos, you'll understand that the jungle here is king, stretching right down to the mud huts and 19th-century mansions on the banks of the mighty Amazon River. Just 150 years ago this was a mere village, but Peru's rubber boom has transformed it into a city of gleaming restaurants and easy-to-navigate boulevards.
Most hostels in Iquitos have communal kitchens and free breakfast so you can save your budget for a river cruise. Find a hostel with jungle huts for an authentic experience or camp deep in the Peruvian rainforest. For drinks on a rooftop terrace look for an Iquitos hostel in the city centre. Some have free Wi-Fi so you might even forget you're in the middle of the Amazon. There are also Iquitos hostels that organise wildlife expeditions.
The central district of Iquitos has two main streets. Jirón Próspero is the commercial hub where you'll find shops and casinos, while Malecón Tarapacá is the riverfront boulevard of bars and cafés that bustles in the evenings. At the top end of Malecón Tarapacá are museums and other popular sights, while the floating neighbourhood of Belén is on the banks of the Itaya River. To the south, San Juan is the place for Amazonian street food and an energetic Indian market.
Cruises are a major attraction in Iquitos, whether you take an hour boat trip around the flooded streets of Belén or a multi-day trip deep into the jungle. In the city centre take time to see the Casa de Fierro – each piece of this iron house was brought by foot through the jungle. To learn more about the Amazon's indigenous tribes visit the Museum of Indigenous Amazonian Cultures or hire a boat to reach the traditional village of Yaguas, where you can watch tribal performances and buy native crafts. For rainforest trips, hire a guide and spend the day exploring Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve.
To reach Iquitos, fly to Coronel Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport from Lima or take a ferry from Yurimaguas (accessible from Tarapoto by a 2-hour bus ride). This boat ride takes 2-4 days to get to Iquitos. For day trips, most local boats depart from either Puerto Bellavista-Nanay or Puerto Embarcadero, while within the city mototaxis are an efficient way to get around.