THE BIGGEST ISOLATED CITY IN THE WORLD: IQUITOS, PERU
A giant city in the middle of the rainforest
Iquitos? Where is that? If you are asking yourself this right now, you think the same as I did! Before we traveled to Iquitos on a cargo boat we had never ever heard about this city. BUT Iquitos is not just a normal city. It is said to be the biggest isolated city in the world!
Typical bus in Iquitos built from metal and wood
Iquitos is located at a branch of the Amazon River in the Peruvian Amazon Basin. Officially it has 400,000 inhabitants. With the surrounding villages it even counts more than 900,000 people. Isn’t it incredible for a place that is totally surrounded by rainforest?
The only street connection that exists leads to the 100 km away city Nauta. That’s it. Iquitos can be reached solely by boat or airplane. Food, machines, building material, clothing, medicine, cars, animals… all that and much more only arrives by these two means of transportation.
A CITY WITH UPS AND DOWNS
Iquitos looks back on a history that is characterized by golden glorious times and dark hard times. From 1870 on the rubber boom brought wealth into the city for 30 years. But as quickly as the boom started, it vanished again. Rubber seeds were smuggled to Malaysia and the whole business moved away from Iquitos. In Asia it was much easier and cheaper for harvest rubber.
During the glorious booming time a lot of beautiful houses were constructed that have survived until today. Especially along the esplanade, around the main square Plaza de Armas and the main shopping street Avenida Próspero some Art Nouveau Facades can still be found.
At Plaza de Armas the catholic church is especially beautiful when the sun sets and lights illuminate the facade.
Former Hotel Palace at Iquitos esplanade
At the beginning of the 1960s the discovery of oil and the timber industry brought once more a lot of money to Iquitos and the city underwent another period of economical prosperity. During the last years the tourism industry has become more and more important. With its unique location Iquitos is the perfect place for starting a trip into the Peruvian rainforest.
Boys sitting on the Plaza de Armas
WHERE DOES ALL THAT NOISE COME FROM?
Everywhere in the city you hear the noise of the thousands of mototaxis, motorcycles or scooters rushing through the streets. Cars are definitively an exception. Just wave with your arm and within seconds a mototaxi will stop for you. A drive within the center usually costs 2 soles ($0.70).
You want to get an idea of the sounds in Iquitos? Watch our “No comment” video!
STROLLING ALONG THE ESPLANADE
One of Iquitos highlights is the esplanade which is just one block from Plaza de Armas. During the day tourists are having a coffee or lunch in one of the various restaurants. As soon as the sun starts to set and the temperature gets more comfortable locals love to spend their time at the shore of Lake Zungarococha. Street artists and street vendors form the picture of the esplanade at dusk. Kids enjoy a ride in one of the cute mini mototaxis and adults listen to the jokes of the different entertainers.
BELÉN – A GIANT MARKET
Belén is one of the four districts of Iquitos and consist of a giant market where you find everything you look for… and much more. Uncountable stands with fruits, spices, vegetables, meat, clothing, homewares dominate the market.
A part of the market is built on stilts above the water
There are also “special” areas where you get all ingredients for traditional medicine. As the public hospitals do not have a good reputation amongst locals and are often too expensive many of them believe in the power of traditional healing methods.
A shocking part of the market is the area where all types of animals are offered. A lot of the species are prohibited to sell but as we heard people try to earn money with everything they find in the rainforest… sloths, snakes, birds, caymans and much more. We decided not to visit this part because we were sure that we would leave the place with a sad feeling.
Oh! Who are you? We couldn’t take our eyes off this cute little monkey
Brother and sister we met in the market hall. They were so proud that we took a pic of them.
So, the next time when somebody wants to show off with the fact that Mexico City is the largest city on earth, you can impress with the biggest isolated city in the world: Iquitos, Peru!
Have you ever been to Iquitos? And what impressed you most? Let me know and leave a comment!
Thanks for reading and safe travels!