Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest. It is the capital of Loreto Region and Maynas Province. It is generally considered the most populous city in the world that cannot be reached by road.
Located on the Amazon River, it is a mere 106 m above sea level even though it is more than 3,000 km from the mouth of the Amazon at Belm in Brazil, on the Atlantic Ocean. It is situated 125 km downstream of the confluence of the Ucayali and Maran rivers, the two main headwaters of the Amazon River. Iquitos has long been a major port in the Amazon Basin. It is surrounded by three rivers: the Nanay, the Itaya, and the Amazon.
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. It is currently the seat of a Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate.
Iquitos was known for its rubber industry through the rubber boom of the first decade of the 20th century, and there are still great mansions from the 1800s, 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.
Iquitos is home to numerous research projects that cover the studies of ecology in relation to ornithology and herpetology. Cornell University in particular owns a field station dubbed the Cornell University Esbaran Amazon Field Laboratory. Founded in July 2001 under the direction of Dr. Eloy Rodriguez as a research facility dedicated to education, conservation, and the discovery of novel medicinal compounds from applied field chemoecology, the field laboratory strives to Survey and catalog the inventory of biological diversity found along the Yarapa River Basin while providing researchers with field experience in the broad range of disciplines necessary for this task.
Another main goal is to explore potential value-added derivatives of biodiversity. This includes both tangible returns in the form of new discoveries in the biomedical and related sciences, as well as the less tangible goods such as the promotion of ecotourism and an ecological aesthetic, and the corresponding benefits to the local communities, and to participating students and researchers.
Iquitos has a growing reputation as a tourist community, especially as a jumping-off point for tours of the Amazon rainforest 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 km away.
Within the Beln open-air market, tourists may also notice the illegal trade in rainforest primates, parrots, and other wildlife that should be protected by the CITES treaty. Some of these small animals - marmosets, tamarins, spider monkeys - are purchased locally, but many tropical birds, primates, boas, etc. are smuggled into the United States for the lucrative pet trade, according to Kneidel and Kneidel and TRAFFIC: The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network.
Iquitos is served by Crnl. FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport.
Iquitos has two universities: Universidad Nacional de la Amazona Peruana, the local state university, and Universidad Particular de Iquitos, a private institution. It is also home to the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazona Peruana, the Institute of Investigation of the Peruvian Amazon.