Iquitos, the province capital of the Amazonian region of Peru, is the biggest city in the world that you can’t drive to. Despite having a population of around half a million people, it’s marooned in remote jungle, hundreds of miles from the nearest connecting road. Either you must fly in, or much more interestingly, catch a combined cargo boat / passenger ferry from either of the two nearest river ports with road connections to the rest of Peru – Yurimaguas or Pucallpa. Taking the boat from Yurimaguas is recommended for two reasons: the town is nicer, and safer, than Pucallpa, and the trip from Yurimaguas is a day or so shorter than from Pucallpa, usually taking 2 days and nights, although delays can sometimes add a day or so.
Boats tend not to depart according to a regular schedule, instead they usually leave only once they’re full of passengers and cargo, so it’s wise to allow plenty of time to make the trip. Cabins are available on the boats, but the much cheaper option of sleeping in a hammock on deck is generally preferable since the oven-like cabins are often too hot and stuffy to sleep in. Cabins aren’t expensive, at around $50 for the 2 or 3 day journey from Yurimaguas to Iquitos, so if you are sleeping in a hammock it’s wise to pay for a cabin in order to be able to lock up your possessions securely. Conditions on the boat are basic but adequate, and for those travellers who are happy to travel like the locals do, without a lot of comfort, this trip is highly recommended – it’s a great way to see life as it’s lived in the small, remote villages along the river, where the boats stop to load and unload passengers and cargo during the long journey.