Iquitos, city of 500,000, set deep in the Amazon jungle, with no connections to national or international road networks. It is the largest city in the world to be accessible only by boat or plane, and the best place to admire the architecture of the Amazonian rubber boom.
Architecture of the Amazonian rubber boom
Scattered throughout the city, occupying prime corner spots (esquinas), are buildings of delightful colonial architecture.
But how did this city get here? How could a city of this size and grandeur exist in the middle of the Amazon jungle?
The answer: rubber! Iquitos expanded exponentially during the Amazonian rubber boom that peaked between 1879 and 1912.
Iquitos was the headquarters of the Peruvian Amazonian Corporation. It attracted many thousands of merchants and labourers from Spain, Portugal, France, and Germany, who filled the city with buildings influenced by the architectural styles of their homelands.
Many buildings included ornate ceramic tiles in their facades. The tiles were imported from Italy and Portugal, and demonstrate the opulence and affluence of Iquitos during its heyday.
La Casa de Fierro
La Casa de Fierro (the Iron House), rumoured to be designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), is made completely of iron. On show at the International Exposition of Paris in 1889, it caught the eye of rubber baron Anselmo del Aguila, who purchased it, and had it disassembled and shipped to Iquitos, where it was reassembled in 1890.
The Former Palace Hotel
The former Palace Hotel, built 1908-1912, was the first luxury hotel built in Peru. It is considered the apogee of Iquitos architecture.
The Amazonian rubber boom transformed Iquitos from jungle outpost to grand colonial city. In modern times the city is thriving once again, this time on the back of a tourism boom.