LORETO - IQUITOS
Loreto is the largest yet least populated department in Peru. It is covered by dense vegetation and by primary and secondary jungle with low hills and slightly rolling landscape, crisscrossed by the many rivers of the Amazon River basin, which is born at the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers.
Iquitos, the capital of Loreto, is the main port city on the Amazon River and the largest city in the Peruvian jungle. Different indigenous people groups like the Cocama, Huitoto, and Bora first inhabited the area. Then there came the Jesuit missionaries who founded the city. At the end of the nineteenth century was when Iquitos experienced its greatest economic glory due to the rubber industry. The economic bonanza meant that luxurious buildings like the art noveau Palace Hotel and the Iron House, designed by the famous French architect Gustave Eiffel, were constructed there.
In contrast to these buildings, you find the homes in the Belen neighborhood that are constructed on top of rafts and pylons to protect them from the flooding of the river. One of the best attractions in Loreto is navigating on the rivers and lakes and enjoying the beautiful beaches.
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (2,080,000 hectares), the largest reserve in Peru, is located 183 kilometers from the city and is home to numerous plant and animal species, many of them in danger of extinction like the charapa river turtle, the giant river otter, the black caiman, and the river dolphin.
Likewise, the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve (58,000 hectares) protects the largest concentration of white sand forests, or varillales as they are known in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. This happens to be one of the best areas to go for bird-watching. //In addition to these national reserves, there are also numerous private reserves, which have been created to satisfy all tastes.