The Colombian Amazon Rainforest covers over 20% of the country’s territory and extends through 6 departments: Amazonas, Caquetá, Guainia, Guaviare, Putumayo, and Vaupés.
And aside from its vastness, it’s also one of the least accessible places in the country.
So where are the best places to visit and the most incredible experiences to be had in Colombia’s Amazon Natural Region?
You’ll find out everything in this online guide.
I have been traveling through the Amazon for 30 days (2 trips, the last one in August 2023) to find the right information and understand the mysteries of this environment that intrigues so many travelers.
Grab your hat, and let’s go.
I wrote a massive guide to explain all the best tours you can organize in the Amazon from Leticia.
Partners in the Colombian Amazon
Since 2015, Tomplanmytrip (us) looks for the best local agencies in Colombia and put you in direct contact with them.
- All-included, with a private local guide and translator (if needed).
- Secluded place on the Amazon river.
Colombia Amazon Rainforest: The Map
There are many authentic destinations to discover in the Colombian Amazon. Leticia is by far the most popular and easily accessible destination.
- San Martín
Best cities and communities in the Amazon region
The cities 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.
1# Leticia: The most famous city in the Colombian Amazon
Leticia is the capital of the Amazonas department of Colombia and the southernmost city in the country.
Located between the jungle and the Amazon River, 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. The airlines are Latam and Avianca.
- Favorite partner: Ramiro’s agency
- Favorite ecolodge: Axel’s ecolodge
2# Puerto Nariño: A peaceful alternative to Leticia
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 departures per day, the last one leaves at 1h30 pm).
3# Santa Rosa: A Peruvian city next to Leticia
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 Amazonian fruits and watch local people go about their daily lives.
How to get there: 10 min. by boat from the dock in Leticia.
Tip: Brisas del Amazonas is one of the best restaurants.
4# Tabatinga: A Brazilian town next to Leticia
It is the third city on the Amazon’s triple border (Brazilian side).
Easily confused with Leticia, 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.
Tip: I love to watch the sunset over the water from la Komara.
5# Mocagua: The most eco-friendly native community
On the banks of the Amazon River, you will find Mocagua, an indigenous community of the Tikuna, Cocama, and Witoto ethnic groups. The community works together to show visitors their culture, typical dishes, and ecotourism activities such as hiking in the Amazon jungle, canoeing, bird watching, and visiting the monkey rehabilitation center.
How to get there: 1h30 by boat from Leticia.
- La Ceiba is an excellent place to stay.
- Don’t forget to check out the Maikuchiga foundation.
- Only Tigo is working (phone signal)
6# San Martín de Amacayacu: The most authentic indigenous community
San Martin de Amacayacu is a community 100% Tikuna, established some fifty years ago along the river Amacayacu.
The local people have organized themselves in such a way that Tikuna traditions and cultures are preserved with new generations.
For example, inhabitants still organize minga to ask their neighbors for help, and children attend tikuna school from age 1 to 5, followed by the more “traditional” school.
It’s a peaceful, secluded place where everyone knows everyone else.
Authentic also means that the 2-3 hotels in San Martin are very basic (some without water for showers in the dry season).
How to get there: Two hours by boat from the dock in Leticia to la Boca de Amacayacu (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.
7# Macedonia: The most visited community
Near the Amacayacu National Natural Park, on the banks of the Amazon River, you will find this multi-ethnic community inhabited by some 1000 people, mainly of the Tikuna ethnic group.
From what I’ve heard, Macedonia has lost its authenticity. The locals now only dance for the tourists.
How to get there: 1h30 boat ride from Leticia.
8# Laguna Tarapoto: The tiniest community in the Colombian Amazon
It’s a community of a dozen houses on stilts with a superb view of Lake Tarapoto. During the high-water season, the land is flooded, and all the inhabitants must travel by boat.
How to get there: 30 min boat ride from Puerto Nariño.
9# Mitú: the capital of Vaupés
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.
10# Araracuara, one of the most remote cities in the Colombian Amazon
Araracuara is located in the middle of the Colombian Amazon, between the limits of the departments of Caquetá and Amazonas. It is an ancestral place, nestled in the middle of the Amazon 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.
The indigenous communities inhabiting the area 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.
One of its attractions is the great canyon of Araracuara and its waterfalls.
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.
Best Things To Do In Colombia’s Amazon
The Colombian Amazon is a paradise for travelers looking for adventure tourism and cultural experiences.
11# Visit a rescued animal foundation
Many animal species are hunted in the Amazon forest 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.
- Where: Community of Mocagua 2 hours from Leticia
- Check their website to contact them
12# Visit Nature Reserves
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 four nature 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.
- Marasha is an eco-lodge located in the Peruvian flooded jungle next to a lake of the same name. You can also visit it with a day trip from Leticia.
13# Amacayacu National Park
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.
The organization in charge of receiving tourists has been closed for ten years. However, you can still enjoy hiking trails thanks to local guides in the communities of Mocagua and San Martin.
You should be able 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, and much more.
14# Serranía de Chiribiquete: The biggest park in the Amazon Basin
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, crossed by several important rivers, is one of the best-preserved sites on earth. More than 4,000,000 acres are protected to reduce deforestation. 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.
15# Museums and Ecological Parks
The museums of the Amazon seek to transmit and preserve the bonds and traditional knowledge between the Amazon 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.
- Museo Etnográfico del Banco de la República (Leticia) is a small free-entry museum with different exhibition halls (including the garden) to discover the Amazonian culture.
- 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.
- If you pass by Mocagua, don’t hesitate to stop at Museo Tikuna. You’ll be greeted by a very friendly owner who puts a lot of effort into collecting the various costumes and objects used by the Tikuna natives.
16# Night hiking trails in the Colombian Amazon
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 pants. And, of course, your local guide!
17# Animal watching in the Colombian Amazon
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.
18# Exotic fruits and Amazonian plants
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.
Exploring the Amazon jungle with Ramiro, I learned a lot about how the natives here use plants to heal themselves.
The most emblematic flora include:
- The Victoria Amazonica is the largest aquatic plant in the world.
- The copal is a tree that the indigenous people use for its resin to light fires, heal wounds, or as incense for rituals.
- The ceiba is not only the largest (can reach more than 60 meters) tree in the Amazon. It is also the protagonist of many indigenous myths about the universe’s conception.
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:
- Camu Camu is a small, reddish, round fruit with 40 times more vitamin C than an orange. It is often consumed in juices and ice cream.
- Aguajé is a fruit with snake-like red skin and yellow flesh. It has 20 times more vitamin A than a carrot.
- Açaí is a small purple fruit the size of a grape. It has antioxidant properties and has gained fame for reducing the signs of skin aging.
- Copoazú, also known as white cocoa because of its cocoa-like flavor, has antioxidant properties and is often consumed in desserts.
19# Collect Sunsets Over The Longest And Widest River In The World
Sunsets in the Amazon are magical, especially during the dry season. Here are my favorite spots:
- In Puerto Nariño, go up to the Mirador 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.
- In Tabatinga, la Komara is the ideal spot to drink caipirinhas and watch the sunset.
- In Mocagua, Wicungo is a restaurant with an elevated wooden terrace and an incredible view— 3 min away from la Ceiba.
20# Fish Piranhas
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.
21# Visit Tres fronteras
The triple Amazonian border is composed of Tabatinga (Brazil), Santa Rosa (Peru), and Leticia (Colombia). Although they are three 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”).
22# Swimming in Lake Tarapoto
Lake Tarapoto, known as the home of incredible biodiversity, was declared a Ramsar site in 2018.
Pink and grey 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 won’t see grey and pink dolphins in the Laguna Tarapoto during the low-water season.
23# Kayaking in the flooded jungle
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 eco-lodge and from Victoria Regia Nature Reserve.
24# Sleeping in the middle of the jungle
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.
- Whether with Ramiro’s agency or Axel’s eco-lodge, you decide how many nights you want to spend in the jungle.
25# Stay in an ecolodge in the Amazon rainforest
After spending 30 days in the Amazon and trying every possible way to enjoy it, I discovered that one of the best options 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.
26# Taste delicious (or not) Amazonian specialties
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.
27# Stunning Waterfalls
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.
Colombia Amazon rainforest: Practical tips
I share my best tips for your trip to the Colombian Amazon.
28# Who can explore the Colombian Amazon rainforest
→ I do not recommend traveling to the Amazon with children under 10 years old. There are a lot of humidity and insects, and it is scorching. Adults can handle it, but children can be easily affected. Also, you will have to go deep into the jungle to try to see animals. If you decide to venture out with your little one, don’t forget to protect yourself against malaria and yellow fever. Also, carry medication in case of emergency. For example, children are more likely to drink water while bathing, which could cause diarrhea.
→ Seniors: Some ecolodges allow you to enjoy the Amazon without too much effort. Still, it is better to be in good shape because even getting in and out of the boats requires effort. Boat rides may be painful for your back and articulations.
→ Mentally strong and laid-back travelers: Remember that you will be in the rainforest. The accommodations are rustic; there are insects, humidity, little electricity, and poor cell phone signal. Like it or not, the Amazon is an adventure; you must be prepared for it.
→ For obvious reasons, traveling to the Amazon is not recommended for pregnant women.
29# Tips for observing animals in the Amazon rainforest
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.
- It will be better if you get up early.
- It is easier to observe the animals in the dry season. The jungle is not flooded, and animals gather on the banks of the Amazon.
- Most travelers forget that much of the Amazon’s magic happens high up in the treetops.
- Stay at an ecolodge that has a lookout point. You can easily see the animals, especially the birds, early morning. Axel’s ecolodge has a great lookout point.
- Opt for a private expedition (fewer people). I like Ramiro’s agency.
- If you opt for a group excursion, ensure there are no more than 6 people.
- Avoid cheap excursions with a large number of travelers. They will make a lot of noise, and the agency usually takes you only to the outskirts of the cities.
30# Health & vaccines
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.
31# How to get around in the Colombia Amazon rainforest
Inside the cities, you can move around by tuk-tuk, moto-taxis, 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 always do it by boat.
32# When to travel to the Colombian Amazon
The seasons in the Amazon are divided into two: high-water season and low-water season.
River levels and weather
- November to June (High-Water Period): Imagine a sprawling water wonderland where kayaking and boat tours reign supreme. This is the time when the lush scenery gracefully yields to exploration, offering a fluid path to navigate. It’s also the rainy season.
- July to October (Low-Water Period): As the river levels elegantly recede, an entirely new adventure emerges. Hidden trails and paths surface, making it the season for avid hikers to shine. The river’s retreat reveals pathways that unveil a different side of the rainforest. It’s the dry season, and the sun is scorching. Strong winds called “Tormenta de Santa Rosa” blow at the end of August.
Events to Evoke Your Amazon Spirit:
- La Feria piscícola del Amazonas (Holy Week): Immerse yourself in fish-filled festivities that tantalize your taste buds and widen your cultural horizons.
- Leticia’s Birthday (April 25): Join the jubilant celebrations of the town’s birthday, a mix of culture, religion, and sports that showcase the heart of Leticia.
- Amazonian Confraternity Festival (July): A cultural extravaganza celebrating the bonds between Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. Parades, contests, and cultural exhibitions bring the three nations’ essence to life.
33# What to pack for the Colombian Amazon
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:
- A small backpack (much better than a wheeled suitcase).
- A day bag.
- Repellent to protect you from mosquitoes. We used Nopikex.
- Long sleeves and long hiking pants to protect you from the sun and mosquitoes.
- Short sleeve shirts for when you rest. In the Amazon, it rains a lot, but the average temperature is always high.
- Binoculars so you don’t miss anything.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat.
- Comfortable walking shoes – ideally waterproof.
- Rubber boots. Ask first if your lodge provides them.
- Flashlight for night tours in the jungle.
- Rain cover.
- A small waterproof bag to protect your valuables.
- Sandals for after the effort.
34# How long to stay in 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.
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Since 2015, Tomplanmytrip (us) looks for the best local agencies in Colombia and put you in direct contact with them.
- All-included, with a private local guide and translator (if needed).
- Secluded place on the Amazon river.
Since 2015, Tomplanmytrip (us) looks for the best local agencies in Colombia and puts you in direct contact with them.
- Ideal to understand and explore the Amazon world with a native.
- Well-organized and tailored to all types of travelers.
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