The world’s greatest jungle attracts more and more travelers from all over the globe. We spent 15 days traveling through the Amazon to discover its best secrets. In this guide, I share with you my best tips to avoid the most common travel mistakes and have the best Amazon experience from Leticia—the most famous city in the Colombian Amazon.
Located in the extreme south of Colombia, this small city is the southernmost part of the country and the capital of the department of Amazonas. It forms Colombia’s triple border with Peru (city of Santa Rosa) and Brazil (city of Tabatinga). It is located on the banks of the Amazon River – the longest and largest river in the world.
Travelers come to Leticia because it is the gateway to the incredible world of the Amazon rainforest. Its biodiversity, rich indigenous culture, and the Amazon River make it an authentic experience that almost any traveler would crave.
Notre carte de Leticia, Colombie
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Best months to visit Leticia
Use the information below to decide when to come to the Amazon. But do not worry if your dates aren’t flexible. The Amazon is still amazing at any given time.
January to mid-June
In the Amazon, there is a high water season and a low water season. Your activities will change depending on the water level.
Heavy rains feed the high water season from January to mid-June. During this period, the Amazon River floods vast sections of the jungle. It’s an excellent opportunity for kayaking and boat tours.
Here is a list of events you can attend:
La Feria piscícola del Amazonas is celebrated during Holy Week. You’ll be able to see and taste all the region’s fish. But keep in mind that Easter is high season.
On April 25, Leticia celebrates its birthday with cultural, religious, and sporting events.
The Amazonian Confraternity Festival is in July. It celebrates the close ties between Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. You can enjoy parades, contests, the coronation of Miss Amazonas, and cultural displays from each country.
Mid-June to December
The low water season, with less rainfall, starts from the end of June to December. Beaches along the Amazon River start appearing, and although there is still humidity, it is more manageable. You’ll do more trekking and fishing. It might be easier to spot wildlife.
The high season is in July, August, and from mid-December to the end of January.
Here is a list of events you can attend:
In November, the International Festival of Amazonian Popular Music “Pirarucú de Oro” takes place to enjoy the Amazonian rhythms and culture.
How to get to Leticia and around
The only way to get to Leticia from Colombia is by plane. And there are only direct flights from Bogota (2 hrs). You will land at the international airport of Leticia: the Alfredo Vasquez Cobo.
Airlines: Latam & Avianca.
Average price: about500.000 COP/pers. Round trip.
Tax entrance: 35.000 COP – 8 USD /pers. – to pay at the airport
You can reach Colombia on a slow boat if you are coming from Manaus (Brazil) or Iquitos (Peru). But you must stamp your passport if you plan to continue your trip through Colombia.
To get between Leticia and Puerto Nariño, you can take public boats for an economical price. Keep in mind that there are only 4 daily departures; the last one leaves between 1:30 and 2:00 pm. You can also reserve a private boat, but it will be much more expensive.
If you book a package with an agency, they will generally transfer you by boat. It is the most suitable way of transportation in the Amazon.
The Tuktuk is another means of transportation in Leticia. It is ideal for getting around the city (2-3 usd/6-12.000 COP) or visiting nearby places of interest, such as Tabatinga to drink a caipi.
The public bus drives along the only road in Leticia (only 30+ km). There are various departures from theParque Orellana.
In this small reserve, you can observe the largest aquatic flower in the world: the victoria Regia/Amazonica. It seems hard to imagine, but its green leaves can support a teenager (40k)— better not try it, though! If you go between March and July, you can see its lotus flower, which opens at sunset.
Where:15 min. by boat from Leticia or a 3-hour walk during the low water season.
Tanimboca is a nature reserve near Leticia, with different activities in the middle of nature: zip-lining, tree climbing, kayaking, and tree houses where you can spend the night.
The cabins are built in the trees a few meters high. The beds are comfortable, and you’ll wake up to the sound of the wildlife. It takes 20 minutes to reach them from the reserve entrance, and the path can sometimes be slippery.
How to get there: 11 km. from Leticia, 30 min. by tuk-tuk (15 – 20.000 COP).
This ecological park introduces you to the world of Amazonian botany and its traditions through 6 exciting activities. You will explore Mundo Amazonico with a native guide and no more than 10 people in a group.
Here you can sip Amazonian tea and taste dishes prepared with traditional cooking techniques; see native fish such as piranha and macana; go bird watching, hiking while enjoying the Amazon rainforest, and much more. So it is also a perfect place for families with children.
At the reserve, they lend you rubber boots but don’t forget to apply repellent, and bring binoculars and clothes to protect you from mosquitoes.
Price: Package from 100 to 180,000 COP
Tip: If you want a tour in English, book in advance on their website.
Duration: 30-40 min. for each activity.
How to get there: a 20 min bus ride to Km 7 (about 20.000 COP).
Leticia shares a border with Santa Rosa, and although the town is not very attractive, you can still stop by and eat a delicious ceviche on the Amazon River or any other Peruvian dish. You can pay in Colombian pesos.
You do not need to stamp your passport if you only visit for the day.
How to get there: a 10 min boat ride from the dock in Leticia — 1.5 USD/ 6.000 COP.
6# Cross the border to Tabatinga in Brazil
Tabatinga is the Brazilian town that borders Leticia. You can get there by road, on foot or by tuk-tuk. In fact, you won’t realize you’re crossing to Brazil as there really is no border control.
The town is not very attractive, but you can buy cheap Brazilian cachaça and other inexpensive souvenirs. There are also several discotheques to enjoy at night, although I do not recommend them as it is known to be unsafe.
Here you can also pay in Colombian pesos, and you don’t have to stamp your passport if you just want to spend the day.
Tip: If you go for lunch, the Tres Fronteras restaurant serves typical Colombian, Brazilian, and Peruvian Amazonian dishes.
7# Visit Puerto Nariño
From Leticia, hop on a boat and navigate the Amazon River for two hours until you reach Puerto Nariño, the second most important municipality in the Amazonas department.
This small municipality, located on the banks of the Amazon, is pleasant, authentic, and exceptionally peaceful. Indeed, motorized vehicles are not allowed here.
Climb up to the mirador for a 360-degree view of Puerto Nariño and the vastness of the jungle. Unless you plan to book a multi-day tour into the Amazon, I recommend staying here instead of Leticia.
In Puerto Nariño, there are fewer tour operators and English-speaking guides, but you can still organize day tours to visit the community of San Martin, the Amacayacu National Natural Park, sail on Lake Tarapoto, and try to spot pink dolphins. You can also visit museums such as Natutama and Wochine to discover more about Amazon wildlife.
How to get there: Departures from the dock in Leticia. There are only 4 departures per day, the last one leaves between 1:30 pm and 2:00 pm.
Prices: About 8 USD/35,000 COP for the boat trip + about 3 USD/12,000 COP for the entrance fee.
Tip: Buy your ticket at least one day in advance.
Note: There are no ATM in Puerto Nariño.
8# Should you go to Isla de Los Micos (monkey island)?
No, you shouldn’t.
Hundreds of tourists come to this small island to observe the monkeys, but we decided not to go there following the explanations we received about this place.
Indeed, monkeys would have been captured then introduced on the island to make this piece of land a paying tourist area. Today, the island is a prison for the monkeys who cannot leave it.
The Fundación Maikuchiga is a better option. It is a rehabilitation center for monkeys and sloths rescued from illegal trafficking. It is located in the indigenous community of Mocagua. About 30 min. by boat from San Martin.
9# Encounter the native communities of the Amazon
The culture and wisdom of the Amazon are embodied in its indigenous communities. Spending at least one night among them to understand their lifestyle and admire their traditions and connection with nature is an authentic experience you should not miss if you visit Leticia.
Of the 102 native tribes in Colombia, 64 are spread throughout the Amazon rainforest, with the Tikuna ethnic group being the most representative.
These are 5 indigenous communities that you can visit on your trip to Leticia:
San Martín de Amacayacu: Two hours from Leticia, near Puerto Nariño, live the Tikuna natives. This community of about 600 people offers a few typical lodgings where you can sleep. There are also cultural and ecotourism centers to discover their culture and the surrounding jungle.
Atacuari: A 5-hour boat ride from Leticia, near the Peruvian border, you find the community of San Juan de Atacuari. It is less visited due to its remoteness, but a few agencies still offer to bring you there.
Santa Sofía: This community is located near the Amazon triple border and is much more basic than San Martin.
Macedonia: One hour from Leticia, you will find this multi-ethnic community of about 800 people belonging to the Tikuna, Cocama, and Yagua ethnic groups. Many visitors go there attracted by its beautiful handicrafts and cultural displays.
Mocagua: This community is 2 hours from Leticia. About 800 people of the Tikuna, Cocama, Yagua, and Uitoto ethnic groups live there. They are very committed to sustainable nature tourism. You can visit Maikuchiga, a rehabilitation center for monkeys victims of illegal trafficking, organize jungle treks and visit their museum.
Do not hesitate to visit them with a local guide to understand them better and support this lovely initiative.
It is good to remember that these communities live in wooden houses, in the middle of nature, and in all simplicity. They also suffer from government neglect. Therefore, you will not find luxury amenities.
Open your mind and receive with respect all they have to teach you.
10# Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu
It is one of the best parks you can visit near Leticia. To give you an idea, the 293,000 hectares are home to some 400 species of birds and 150 species of mammals, including pink dolphins, jaguars, and the world’s smallest primate – the lion tamarin.
You can also appreciate the imposing Victoria Amazonica and many giant native trees that can reach 40 meters high. For instance, you can climb 30 m high on a platform located on top of a huge 300-year-old ceiba tree and have an incredible view of the Amazon rainforest.
Although not all of the Amacayacu territory can be visited, there are several ecological jungle walks, activities, and attractions that you can explore with a guide.
You can enjoy the park during the day or spend the night in one of the park’s indigenous communities, such as San Martin.
How to get there: 2 hours by boat from the dock in Leticia. Apparently, you could take a boat to Caballococha and stop in the middle of the trip at the park’s entrance.
11# Animal watching
The Amazon is the most diverse and largest rainforest in the world, meaning there is a rich diversity of wildlife to observe. However, remember that these animals are in their natural habitat, not in a zoo for entertainment. In other words, you don’t decide what you wanna see.
You might see birds, pink and gray dolphins, crocodiles, snakes, caimans, tarantulas, monkeys, fish, sloths, and much more in the Amazon.
How and where:
It is best to hike into the jungle or navigate the Amazon River with a local guide.
Visit Lake Tarapoto to try to see dolphins.
Night walks are easier to organize if you stay in a remote ecolodge.
Early mornings are always the ideal moment.
Amacayacu Natural Park is an excellent place for animal watching
Piranha is one of the dishes of the Amazon, and so many locals know how to catch them. You, too, can fish your dinner with a local guide, your stick, and your rope. It’s not that easy, but it’s a lot of fun. Just be careful that their sharp teeth don’t tear off a finger. 😉
Tip: It will be easier to fish when the river level is low.
13# Kayak in the flooded jungle
Kayaking is one of the activities you can do when the river level has risen. You will navigate through the flooded jungle with your kayak while passing through the trees. Due to the dense vegetation, the river current disappears to give way to large lagoons of calm and silent waters that make you feel away from the world. It was my favorite activity to do in the Amazon.
14# Multi-day excursions in the Amazon rainforest
You can go into the jungle for several days with a native guide. You will walk in the middle of the world’s largest rainforest, sleep in a hammock, fight insects, cook on a wood fire and wake up to the sounds of birds and monkeys.
Good agencies will take you far enough away from the city to try to observe animals in their habitat and take you to different natural reserves and indigenous communities.
Never do it on your own, or choose cheap companies, because you won’t be covered by insurance, or you will be taken around Leticia without really getting into the jungle.
Although Leticia is the most important city of the Colombian Amazon Region, it is not that big, nor is it exciting in itself. It is, however, the best place to look for a local agency.
I recommend staying in Puerto Nariño (2h. from Leticia) if you are not planning to book a multi-day expedition in the Amazon. It is a much quieter and nicer town, mainly because motorized vehicles are not allowed.
However, it is more complicated to organize tours here because fewer agencies are present.
In the deep jungle
Your best option to experience the magic of the Amazon rainforest is to stay in an ecolodge. They are modest but comfortable and adapted to the environment. You will have to take a boat to get there.
The stay includes full-board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and experiences.
The farther you are from Leticia, the more chances you have to see wild animals.
Decameronis a luxury hotel with modern facilities and spacious air-conditioned rooms. There is a large swimming pool to relax in. The price is expensive, but breakfast and dinner are included. In downtown Leticia.
Wairais located in the center of Leticia. Its modern facilities offer 2 small pools, comfortable rooms with all the amenities -including air conditioning. Its restaurant serves delicious dishes, and the staff is very friendly.
Amazon B&B offers standard rooms and bangalows. Not all have air conditioning, but they do have a fan. The decor is more "Amazonian", with a beautiful central garden and hammocks. It is close to Santander Park.
This small hostel has an excellent quality-price ratio. It is only 10 minutes from the city center and has a swimming pool to cool off at the end of the day. The attention of the owner is the highlight of the hotel.
Axel's ecolodge is my favorite accommodation in the Amazon. You'll be in the middle of the jungle (3h from Leticia). You have everything included: transportation from Leticia, breakfast, lunch, dinner, lodging, and tours with a private guide. The best thing is that you can decide the experiences whenever you want: in advance or when you get there.
Calanoa is the most upscale accommodation in the Colombian Amazon. It is a hotel with well-designed wooden cabins located near the river. It is 1h 30min by boat from Leticia and 30 min from Puerto Nariño. They also offer their own excursions.
Going out in Leticia, Colombia
Tierras Amazónicas (Leticia): Amazonian dishes from Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, such as mojojoy worm and Pirarucú fish – the most typical dish of the region.
El Salto Angel (Leticia): More refined options with local dishes, international options, and desserts.
Restaurantes 3 fronteras (Tabatinga, Brasil): Typical dishes from the Amazon triple frontier. Its specialty: fish, grilled meats, and Brazilian beverages.
Brisas del Amazonas (Santa Rosa, Perú):It offers Peruvian Amazonian cuisine such as ceviche, chicharrón pirarucú, pisco and chicha morada.
Mossh Bar: Small bar in front of Parque Santander in Leticia, perfect to have a drink at sunset and watch hundreds of birds flying over the park. Music from Colombia and Brazil.
Discoteca Kahlua: To enjoy music from Colombia, Brazil, and Peru. On Fridays, there is a show of garotas – Brazilian dancers.
La Comara: A club in Tabatinga with a lookout point to appreciate the sunset over the Amazon River.
Practical Tips For Your Trip to Leticia
1# How many days in Leticia?
There are not many flights in and out of Leticia, so you will not be able to enjoy the first and last days of your trip fully. Also, remember that you will be in the jungle. The journeys are usually long and by boat. So I recommend at least 5 days to enjoy several tours, and 7 days to go to different places and experience a bit of everything.
2# Weather in Leticia
The temperature in the Amazon is between 24 and 34 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that the Amazon is always very humid, although more manageable in summer. Also, you should know that it rains a lot in the Amazon. Even during the “dry” season (July – December), there are several short rainfalls during the day. These are followed by sunshine and strong heat.
3# What to pack for your trip to the Leticia?
Here are some recommendations:
Because of the humidity and rain, I recommend you take several T-shirts and socks that dry quickly.
Take a backpack instead of a suitcase.
Cool long-sleeved shirts and light long pants for trekking and mosquito protection.
Comfortable clothes for after the effort.
Raincoat for rain.
Rubber boots (if you can) and waterproof walking shoes.
Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat/cap to protect you from the sun
A flashlight – there are several tours to visit the jungle at night
A zip bag or Waterproof bag to protect your electronics from the rain
Medication in case of emergency for diarrhea, headache, or stomach ache.
Remember that the lighter you travel, the easier it will be to move around. Tip: The guides recommend wearing bright colors. Dark colors attract mosquitoes.
4# Is it safe to travel to Leticia?
Traveling to Leticia and its surroundings is generally safe. We never felt unsafe, and it is a place very visited by national and foreign tourists. I only recommend not crossing borders from one country to another late at night and not going into the jungle without a local guide. Like every city in South America, don’t display your valuables. 👉Choose the right travel insurance for Colombia.
5# Internet in Leticia
The internet in Leticia is very, very slow. Even in upscale hotels, you will have trouble logging into your social networks and uploading photos of your trip. Look at it as an opportunity to connect with the energy of the world’s largest rainforest.
Some hotels do not have wifi; others have wifi only at the reception or offer an hourly rate.
The cell phone operator with the best coverage in Leticia is Claro.
You do not need to stamp your passport if you only spend the day in Brazil or Peru. But if you decide to stay overnight in any of these countries, you will need to stamp your passport at Migration Colombia and in the country you are entering. Upon your return to Colombia, you will need to go through Migration again. Opening hours: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm (Here)
→ Vaccines: The yellow fever vaccine is supposed to be mandatory to enter the Amazon. However, we were not asked for the certificate. Even so, I recommend you get it. You should do it at least 10 days before traveling. Don’t forget your certificate. They also recommend taking protection against Hepatitis A, typhoid, and malaria.
→ Malaria: In the Amazon, some areas have a high risk of Malaria. Fortunately, the tours do not go there. Although it is advisable to take malaria pills, we decided not to do so on our 15-day trip because the pill has many side effects, including diarrhea. It’s not great to be sick in the middle of the jungle 😉
→ Water: The water in the Amazon is not drinkable, so I recommend drinking bottled water and eating in recommended restaurants.
→ Physical condition: It is best to have at least a moderate physical condition for your trip to the Amazon. According to the tour, you might have to walk considerable distances, especially if you go during the low water season. If you go on a private tour, you can go at your own pace. Always check with your agency first.
The Amazon’s humidity is the perfect environment for mosquitoes, so be prepared to face them.
Bring repellent. We use Nopikex (although it has DEET) because our French blood seems to be an aphrodisiac delicacy for them.
Your armor should be long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Dark colors attract Mosquitoes, so you should wear light, bright colors.
Vaporub is a good addition. It refreshes your skin, and the smell is unpleasant for mosquitoes.
There are several ATMs in Leticia. There are also foreign exchange booths at the borders, but we never use them. I always prefer to use ATMs to get Colombian pesos. Remember that the internet is bad, so you might be unable to pay by card. I recommend bringing cash to restaurants and stores. In Puerto Nariño there are no ATMs.
10# Leticia’s history
Leticia was founded as a river port in 1867 by a Peruvian military man named Benigno Bustamante. At that time, the city was called San Antonio, but only a few months later, it was renamed Leticia on the whim of an engineer in love with a Peruvian woman from Iquitos named Leticia Smith. So initially, the inhabitants of Leticia were Peruvian. Leticia became part of Colombia 55 years later, in 1922.
11# Leticia’s people
Leticia is a melting pot of indigenous communities, Colombians, Peruvians & Brazilians. You will be surprised to know that their country is not Brazil, Peru, or Colombia. Their country is the Amazon. In their eyes, borders do not exist. They are only imaginary and political. The weak presence of the State also feeds this feeling. Since they all live together in harmony, it is normal to find that the inhabitants speak, in addition to Spanish, “portuñol” (a combination of Spanish and Portuguese). The indigenous communities usually speak Spanish in addition to their native language.