Iquitos is a modern city of almost half a million people, built on a wide, flat river plain. Only the heart of the city, around the main plaza, contains older, architecturally interesting buildings, but the river port and market area of Belén boasts rustic wooden huts on stilts – a classic image of Iquitos.
It was founded in 1864 at the site of an Indian village and became the chief shipping port for the region during the rubber boom of the late 19th century. After 1912, when production dropped drastically, the city’s population declined.
Iquitos remained stagnant until the 1950s, when interest in the economic development of eastern Peru was renewed. It is the site of the National University of the Peruvian Amazon (founded 1961) and is the cultural, religious, and tourist centre of eastern Peru.
Nowadays Iquitos is most known by tourists for the jungle expeditions, in the Peruvian Amazon, that depart from the town.