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The Colombian Amazon covers over 20% of the country’s territory and extends through 6 departments: Amazonas, Caquetá, Guainia, Guaviare, Putumayo, and Vaupés. Quite big, isn’t it? Don’t worry; we have been traveling through the Amazon for 15 days, searching for the best experiences to share.
Thanks to this guide, you can decide which cities to visit in the Amazon, add unique experiences to your itinerary, and avoid the most common mistakes travelers make before and during their trip to the Amazon.
Read on to find out if this destination is for you.
👉 Pssst, if you are a bit worried about planning a few days in this part of Colombia or if you are afraid you won’t make the right choices, you can also ask Bruce to organize it for you. He is our Colombia travel expert. Ask him to send you a free quote.
There are many authentic destinations to discover in the Colombian Amazon. Leticia is by far the most popular and easily accessible destination.
The towns in the Amazon region are often modest and small. While this is not where you should spend your days, these towns will be the link to incredible experiences in the surrounding jungle and the indigenous communities along the Amazon River (the longest and widest river worldwide). Here is a brief overview of the destinations you can visit in the wildest region of Colombia:
Leticia is the capital of the Amazonas department of Colombia and the southernmost city in the country. Located between the jungle and the largest river in the world, Leticia is the best starting point to get into the Amazon rainforest. From there, you can take a boat to go to nature reserves, indigenous communities, and ecolodges. You will also find accommodations to rest and many agencies that sell tours. Be cautious, however, as many only take you around the city without really exploring the jungle. Leticia forms the triple Amazonian border with Tabatinga (Brazil) and Santa Rosa (Peru).
How to get there: Direct 2-hour flight from the capital city of Bogota. Airlines: Latam and Avianca. Entrance fee: 36,000 COP
Nicknamed “the green lung of Colombia,” this charming little town of few streets is the second most important city in the Colombian Amazon. Here you can quietly experience the everyday life of the locals—motorized vehicles are not allowed. You’ll find fewer agencies than in Leticia, but it is still possible to arrange some excursions, such as heading to Lake Tarapoto to try to spot dolphins, visiting indigenous communities, staying overnight in the jungle, and so on. I recommend staying here instead of Leticia if you do not plan to book a multi-day jungle tour.
How to get there: 2h by boat from Leticia (only 3-4 departures per day, the last one leave at 1h30 pm). Price: 8 USD/35.000 COP + 3 USD/12.000 COP entrance fee.
A lovely 10-minute boat ride on the Amazon River takes you to the other town: Santa Rosa de Yavari, in Peru. There is no border control. The town is not very interesting, but it is perfect to taste Peruvian gastronomy and exotic amazon fruits and watch local people go about their daily lives.
How to get there: 10 min. by boat from the dock in Leticia – about 1.5 USD/ 6.000 COP
Tip: Brisas del Amazonas is one of the best restaurants.
It is the third city on the Amazon’s triple border (Brazilian side). Easily confused with the other two cities, you can identify Tabatinga because the street signs are in Portuguese. You can stop by if you have a few hours to buy cheap souvenirs such as chocolates and cachaça and taste Brazilian cuisine. The restaurant Tres Fronteras serves typical delicious dishes.
How to get there: A tuk-tuk from Leticia.
On the banks of the Amazon River, you will find Mocagua, an indigenous community of the Ikuna, Cocama, and Witoto ethnic groups. The community works together to show visitors their culture, typical dishes, and ecotourism activities such as hiking in the jungle, canoeing, bird watching, and visiting the monkey rehabilitation center.
How to get there: Take the boat to Puerto Nariño and tell them you want to stop at Mocagua. 1h30.
Tip: La Ceiba is an excellent place to stay.
You can also share with the Tikunas in San Martin de Amacayacu. The natives of this community have built lodges to receive visitors who want to discover their culture or just want to spend the day. You can go hiking in the jungle, bird watching, and participate in workshops such as handicrafts and fishing.
How to get there: Two hours by boat from the dock in Leticia to the Bocana Amacayacu stop (3 daily departures, the last one at 1h30 pm), then a private 20-min boat (or 4 hours walking).
Tip: I recommend you stay at the excellent Casa Gregorio.
Near the Amacayacu National Natural Park, on the banks of the Amazon River, you will find this multi-ethnic community inhabited by some 800 people, mainly of the Tikuna ethnic group. You will be able to see how the inhabitants live together and buy their handicrafts carved especially in palorojo, a reddish wood. They will welcome you with a typical dance.
How to get there: 1h30 boat ride from Leticia.
This indigenous community inhabiting Atacuari is located 5 hours away from Leticia, near the Peruvian border.
Mitú is the capital of the department of Vaupés – a neighbor of the department of Amazonas. Located near the border with Brazil, this small and humble town is surrounded by the vast Amazon jungle and inhabited by indigenous peoples such as the Tukano. Its stunning and unique landscapes are filled with rich and diverse flora and fauna. Here you can spot more than 500 species of birds, navigate the Vaupés River, taste exotic fruits, bathe in freshwater springs and enrich yourself with the ancestral wisdom of its native communities. How to get there: The easiest way is a direct flight from Villavicencio or Bogotá.
Araracuara is located in the middle of the Colombian Amazon, between the limits of the departments of Caquetá and Amazonas. One of its attractions is the great canyon of Araracuara and its waterfalls. The indigenous communities there live from fishing. The urge to support their families requires them to go on a small raft in the middle of the immensity of the Caquetá River in search of food. The viewpoint of Las Guacamayas is another impressive spot. It is a canyon where colorful macaws nest. You can watch them play, fight and fly. It is an ancestral place, nestled in the middle of the jungle and the Caquetá River, where tourism is still underdeveloped, making it a destination for the more adventurous. It is necessary to be accompanied by someone from the community.
In this section, you’ll find the most authentic experiences you can do in the Colombian Amazon.
👉 Don’t forget to read our article about the best jungle tours from Leticia.
Many wild animals are hunted in the Amazon to be domesticated, sold, or to entertain hundreds of tourists. Not only does this affect the lives of the animals, but it is also a threat to the Amazon’s ecosystem.
Foundations such as Maikuchiga in Mocagua or Musmuki (Vista Alegre) rescue animals that are victims of illegal trafficking, rehabilitate them, and then return them to their habitat.
One way to support them is to visit them. You can make a reservation with the Mocagua community to see rescued monkeys and sloths.
The nature reserves allow you to easily connect with the Amazon nature, do ecotourism activities, and relax with the vibrant sounds of its animals.
The three reserves you can visit in the Colombian Amazon are:
Tanimboca Reserve is located about 30 minutes from Leticia. You can do kayaking, bird watching, zip lining, or sleeping in tree houses 12 meters high.
Victoria Regia Nature Reserve, 15 minutes by boat from Leticia. Here you can observe the largest aquatic flower in the world: the Victoria Regia and its lotus flower, which opens its petals at sunset. It is undoubtedly a great place to take a memorable picture. Did you know that this plant can support 40 kg?
Wochine, a 2-hour walk from Puerto Nariño, is a large farm preserved by a Tikuna family. Here you can see the famous pirarucu (giant fish) of the Amazon, Victoria Regia plants, turtles, caiman, and a 150-year-old ceiba.
Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu is the first Natural Park in Colombia created to protect the biodiversity of the Amazon region. Its territory is MUCH larger than Bogotá, so imagine all the cultural richness, fauna, and flora that inhabit it.
With a guide from the Park, venture along the trails and be ready to observe birds, the lion tamarin (the smallest primate in America), walking trees, the symbolic ceiba tree that can grow up to 40 meters high, indigenous communities, and much more.
How to get there: Guides from the community of San Martin or Mocagua offer to take you there.
In the heart of the Amazon, between the departments of Caquetá and Guaviare, you will find the majestic Serranía de Chiribiquete Natural Park.
This hidden jungle treasure is one of the best-preserved sites on earth. Today it is a natural and cultural World Heritage Site, a title shared by only 39 places on the planet.
It is as breathtaking as the rest of the Amazon, yet almost no one has been there. It has impressive rock formations (tepuis), cave paintings dating back over 20,000 years, an incredible number of wildlife species, and secluded indigenous communities.
How to get there: Chiribiquete can only be seen from the air, with permission to fly over it from the National Park and the Colombian Air Force. Departures from San José del Guaviare.
The museums of the Amazon seek to transmit and preserve the bonds and traditional knowledge between the jungle and the indigenous communities. The best of them are:
Mundo Amazónico (Leticia) to learn about ancient wisdom, Amazonian plants and their medicinal uses. With various interactive activities such as the botanical garden, the visit to a traditional maloca, the aquarium, and the ecological trails, you will have a great time while learning before exploring the high forest.
In Puerto Nariño, the Natutama Interpretive Center is a site that allows you to learn more about the richness of the Amazon’s flora and fauna and its different landscapes according to the seasons: low-level water and high-level water. The center also features life-size wooden sculptures of animals and various cultural elements of the Tikuna indigenous community.
One of the best adventures you can have in the Amazon is to walk in the dense jungle at night.
It’s the best time to listen to the scary jungle noises and observe tarantulas, insects, and bioluminescent fungi growing on the ground. It feels like taking a trip to Avatar.
Ensure you don’t forget your flashlight, rubber boots, insect repellent, and long clothing. And, of course, your local guide!
The experience will be better from a remote ecolodge.
The Amazon, in South America, is home to the most significant animal biodiversity in the world, yet you could see it all or nothing. Remember that the animals are roaming free— it’s not a zoo. Most of them sleep during the day and hide from humans.
I understand your eagerness to see animals. Still, you should not support tours or places like Monkey Island (isla de los micos) that keep the animals in poor conditions to entertain tourists.
The best thing to observe wildlife is to go early into the jungle with a local guide.
Among the animals you might see are the lion tamarin, crocodiles, pink dolphins, gray dolphins, freshwater turtles, jaguar, howler monkeys, harpy eagle, sloths, hummingbirds, caimans, macaws, toucans, typical fish like the piranha and the Pirarucu— the emblematic fish of the Amazon that can reach more than 2 meters.
More than 130,000 species of plants are found in the Colombian Amazon. You will encounter many trees, exotic fruits, and plants capable of curing any disease.
The most emblematic flora include:
Visiting the Amazon is also an opportunity to taste exotic fruits. I recommend you head to the main market in Leticia and look for the following:
Sunsets in the Amazon are magical. So, in the late afternoon, go up to the Puerto Nariño lookout point to watch the sun sets behind the Amazon River and the immense jungle surrounding the town. You’ll have a 360-degree view.
In Leticia, hundreds of birds fly over Parque Santander while the sky shows you a unique colorful picture. Climb the church’s top for a better view, or go to Mossh Bar for a drink while enjoying the show.
Or you can go to the banks of the Amazon River to embrace the last rays of the sun.
Credit: Rafael Estrella
Horror movies made famous piranhas and their speed to devour humans.
In the Amazon, locals often catch them for food. You can go with your local guide to try it. Just be careful when removing the hook from their sharp teeth.
This activity is easier during the low water level season.
The triple Amazonian border is composed of Tabatinga (Brazil), Santa Rosa (Peru), and Leticia (Colombia). Although they are 3 different countries, they feel like one because they share the same Amazonian culture, and there is no border control.
Of the 3 cities, Leticia is the most touristically developed.
You can pass from one city to another on your own. You don’t need to stamp your passport if you only go for the day. You can have breakfast in Tabatinga, lunch in Santa Rosa at the Brisas del Amazonas restaurant, and dinner in Leticia.
If, on the other hand, you would like to go further into the Amazon of Brazil or Peru, you can opt for a tour. You will visit Benjamin Constant (famous for its exotic fruits) and Islandia (the “Venice of the Amazon”).
Lake Tarapoto, known as the home of incredible biodiversity, was declared a Ramsar site in 2018.
Pink and gray dolphins are the main reasons to convince tourists to sail on Tarapoto lake.
If you are brave enough, don’t hesitate to swim in its calm waters. The experience will be better if you go to sunrise or sunset with a local guide.
How to get there: 20 min. by boat from Puerto Nariño.
Tip: you will have a better chance of seeing dolphins during low water season.
It is one of the activities that can be done when the river level rises. You navigate through the calm waters of the rainforest while witnessing its incredible magic and passing between majestic trees. Here there are no sounds but the wind, the birds, and the river.
The experience makes you feel lost in the jungle and away from the modern world. This is my favorite activity in the Amazon (and it is much easier than hiking ^^).
I did it twice. At Axel’s ecolodge and from Victoria Regia Nature Reserve.
If walking through the jungle at night is already an adventure, imagine sleeping in the wilderness. Yes, amigo, it’s on another level.
It is clearly not an experience for everyone.
You’ll walk for many hours (sometimes in the rain), see scary animals like tarantulas, and fight thirsty mosquitoes.
Afterward, you will prepare dinner on a wood fire with your guide. You will sleep in a hammock under the canopy and wake up to the first sounds of the jungle, with birds singing and monkeys screaming. Here everyone wakes up early, even you!
All in all, this is an unforgettable adventure that only you can experience in the Amazon. Yes, it is worth it. But you have to be mentally and physically prepared.
Also, ensure you do it with a good agency/guide who will take you deep into the jungle, not the city’s outskirts.
After spending 15 days in the Amazon and trying every possible way to enjoy it, I discovered that the best option was to stay in remote eco-lodges.
They are far from the cities, in the middle of the jungle, yet you have a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in after a day of adventure.
My favorite ecolodge is Axel’s eco-lodge. It is located in a nature reserve in Brazil, 3 hours from Leticia.
Here everything is included. From the first day, I had a personal guide who took me to live my best experiences in the Amazon, from going into the jungle at dusk, staying overnight, and kayaking in the flooded jungle.
There are other good ecolodges in the Amazon. Still, my favorite was Axel’s because it is far enough away to have an authentic experience, and you can choose your activities whenever you want.
And we come to the most crucial part, the food! After all, what would Indiana Jones do without a good meal?
Fortunately, Amazon is full of new and delicious flavors. The cuisine is based on products sourced from the river and the jungle and is often linked to indigenous cultures.
Among the most typical dishes is the pirarucu. It is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. It can only be found in the Amazon basin, so be sure to try it. It can be enjoyed in different ways: grilled, ceviche, and chicharrón.
The mojojoy is perhaps the most exotic thing you can eat in the Amazon. This fat larva, the size of a finger, is a delicacy among the region’s native people. It’s very high in protein. It can be eaten roasted or alive as it moves between your fingers.
Piranha is another fish that attracts the attention of tourists, mainly because of its fame in movies. It is usually eaten cooked or fried, accompanied by yucca, plantains, and traditional salads.
Patarasca is one of the most delicious dishes of the Amazon. It is a fish marinated with Amazonian vegetables wrapped in banana or bijao leaves. These give the fish a juicier flavor.
Among the most majestic canyons of the Amazon is the Araracuara Canyon, located between the department of Caquetá and the Amazon: 6 kilometers long, 80 meters high, and 30 meters wide!
The Jirijirimo River is formed by a series of massive waterfalls in the Apoporis River, between the limits of the department of Vaupés and the Colombian Amazon.
I share my best tips for your trip to the Colombian Amazon.
My best recommendation to observe animals in the Amazon is to get far away from the city.
The animals are in their natural habitat, and like hiding, so you must be lucky to see them.
There are many insects and mosquitoes in the Amazon, especially in the high water season, so the government recommends getting vaccinated against yellow fever at least 10 days before traveling.
There are also red zones for malaria; although tours do not go there, you should protect yourself from mosquitoes. When we were in the Amazon, we decided not to take the malaria pills, as they cause harmful side effects such as diarrhea.
It is up to you to take the medication.
Inside the cities, you can move around by tuk-tuk, mototaxi, cabs, or walking —except in Puerto Nariño, where they do not use motorized transport. However, to go from one destination to another, such as going to the jungle, visiting indigenous communities and nature reserves, and even from one city to another, you will almost always do it by boat.
The seasons in the Amazon are divided into two: high water season and low water season.
The high water season runs from January to mid-June. Heavy rains flood some areas of the jungle so that most activities will be done by boat and kayak. Mosquitoes and humidity are also more common.
The dry season is between the end of June and December, it still rains, but the sun comes out more. The river level decreases, and it is the opportunity to see more animals and do more hiking.
Generally, it is less rainy and humid in June, July, August, and sometimes September.
So when to travel to the Amazon depends on what you want to experience. At any time, it will be amazing.
Okay, you’ve decided you’re going on an exciting adventure. It-s time to decide what to put in your bag. The less stuff you pack, the easier it will be to get around the rainforest.
I share with you the list of things that were indispensable on my trip to the Amazon:
Considering that there are not many daily flights to and from the Amazon and that you’ll have to take boats, I recommend at least 5 days.
The Amazon is the ideal playground for adventurers. Every year it attracts more and more travelers.
Some prefer to wait until they are in Leticia to choose their activities thinking they will get the best deals. I don’t recommend you do this because some local agencies are illegal and the quality of the tours offered varies greatly from operator to operator.
However, you don’t need to book 4 days with an agency if you don’t have the budget. There are some activities you can do on your own. Go to a nature reserve and spend a few days in an indigenous community.
Another excellent option is to book in advance a remote ecolodge on the banks of the Amazon River. In fact, my stay at Axel’s Ecolodge is one of my best memories of the Colombian Amazon.
So, are you ready for adventure?
We traveled through part of the Amazon for more than 15 days. Find our best tips for exploring each of the destinations below.
Amazon, Colombia destinations, Leticia
Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by Adrien Bergue