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Leticia & Colombia's Amazon

Leticia is capital of Colombia's Amazonas region, and is a small jungle town tucked away in a distant corner of Colombia on the border with Brazil and Peru. This is the gateway to Colombia's Amazon rainforest, and there are jungle lodges and rainforest tours provided. Travellers are increasingly choosing to stay at a hotel in nearby Puerto Narino, a small riverside village that's good place to spot dolphins. The best months to visit are at the beginning of the dry season (July and August), but this is the Amazon so expect rain anytime. If at all possible, the deeper one heads into the jungle, the more memorable the experience, and the more wildlife you're likely to spot. Details on jungle lodges follow.

Is Leticia Safe?

Absolutely yes - the region is hundreds of miles from any of the areas frequented by Colombia's guerillas. Only once was there any guerilla activity in Leticia - FARC (I believe) tried to attack in the early 1990's, but the Colombian, Brazilian and Peruvian governments got wind of the planned guerilla attack, they all grouped together and killed the lot of them (at least this is my understanding). No guerillas ever returned to the region since then. So yes it is safe, and has been for many years.  Having said this, parts of the Amazon are very remote, and going way off the beaten path isn't so safe.

Leticia Rainforest Tours

Year round, there's lots of wildlife to be seen in the Amazon region, including monkeys and dolphins, and array of birdlife and there are also indigenous villages that can be visited. You might also go fishing or caiman spotting. There are numerous tour operators offering day tours and rainforest excursions in Leticia - as a rule of thumb, ignore anyone that approaches you directly, and try to get a suggested tour operator from your hotel in Leticia.

Amacayacu National Park

75km upriver from Leticia is the enormous Amacayacu National Park. You can visit the visitors centre on a day trip from Leticia - the park is about 90 minutes boat trip from Leticia. Various guided treks are possible in the Park. In the rainy season (January to May), much of this region is submerged, and activities possible in the park are rather limited.

Puerto Nariño

This extremely environmentally friendly small indigenous community really focuses upon a green lifestyle. Puerto Nariño is a model for sustainable living. The peacefulriverside village is a very good base for exploring the rainforest, visiting the nearby Amacayacu National Park, going kayaking, visiting other small indigenous Tikuna communities or spotting pink river dolphins. It's an increasingly popular place for backpackers to hang out for a few days and sample Amazonian life. If you can't afford the high prices charged by the remote jungle lodges mentioned later, Puerto Nariño is the best place to head for in Colombia's Amazon.

There's a variety of hotels in Puerto Nariño. The most luxurious is called Casa Selva (website only in Spanish), a recommended cheaper option is Hotel Napu.

Puerto Nariño is 2 hours by boat (about 25,000 pesos one way) from Leticia. There's usually a few departures every day, but spaces can fill up quickly, so try to book a day beforehand (head to the dock in Leticia) if possible. Vehicles are banned in the village.

Amazon Jungle Lodges near Leticia

Give yourself a few nights in a rainforest lodge to truely appreciate the Amazon. Waking up at 5am to the sounds of the jungle and monkeys screaming outside your cabana is a unique travel experience.

When prices are mentioned below, note that they are approximate, and based on two people sharing. Much of the costs of these packages is based on the high cost of fuel to actually get you to the lodge - staying additional nights is often very good value and costs not much more. Generally speaking, the more remote the lodge is, the more memorable the experience likely to be.

Amacayacu (Aviatur) - a very comfortable 8 cabana lodge located inside the Amacayacu National Park (Colombia), 90 minutes boat ride West of Leticia. The photos on Aviaturs website make this lodge look absolutely exquisite. This lodge has a canopy walkway up in the trees. A 3 night package costs about 1 million pesos per person, or you can opt to stay in the dorm rooms for much less. Aviatur also operate a large, luxury boat called Casa Navegante that can be used to cruise down the Amazon and can be slept on. Though I haven't visited this lodge, I've heard the experience is a little "hand-held" - more adventurous travellers should head further afield, deeper into the jungle...

Heliconia Lodge - one of the newer lodges in the Leticia region, Heliconia offers guests the chance to intimately experience the Amazon rainforest at close quarters. The lodge is found on the Brazilian side of the river that doubles as a border between Brazil and Peru, and is three hours by boat from Leticia in Colombia. Heliconia is one of the smaller lodges in the area, with just six cabanas in total. Each cabana has a pleasant porch with hammock, and the bathrooms have one wall missing such that guests feel like they are showering in the rainforest. Excursions that can be taken include rainforest tours, visits to indigenous communities, mud baths / therapy treatments, piranha fishing, boat excursions, nightime caiman spotting, early morning birdwatching tours, dolphin spotting and the scaling of trees for stunning views of the Amazon. Heliconia is one of the most expensive lodges in the Leticia region, and in our opinion one of the the best. When we visited in May 2007, our local guide (Jimmy) really was exceptionally good - one of the best tour guides I've found anywhere in Latin America. The only drawback with Heliconia is that the lodge doesn't have genuine river views (3 night package costs about 850,000 pesos per person).

Palmari Lodge - found in Brazil, this is the oldest jungle lodge in the area and has an associated research facility and very large private nature reserve. This lodge is two and a half hours from Leticia - near Heliconia but not quite so distant. Palmari is the most expensive lodge in the area - the main pro of this lodge is the communal areas with fantastic river views and the tower that can be climbed to watch the sunset over the Amazon rainforest.  If visiting, check that no large groups overlap with your stay. A 3 night package costs about 1.5 million pesos per person.

Amarasha Lodge - Amarasha lodge is one of the most popular lodges near Leticia. Located in Peru and just 30 minutes by boat from Leticia, one doesn't feel so remote here, but prices are significantly less than those of Heliconia and Palmari lodges. The lodge has great views over the water and excellent food, but the restaurant and nature reserve can fill up with day trippers from Leticia, who visit the lodge on day tours. In summary, Amarasha is less expensive, but a less intimate experience of the rainforest (3 night package costs about 550,000 pesos per person).

Zacambu Lodge is another remote lodge. This lodge is owned by the well respected tour operator Amazon Jungle Trips who can arrange a great variety of adventurous packages in the area. Approx US $440 per person (based on two sharing) for a 3 night package.

Decameron operates the Decameron Ticuna resort in Leticia and the Decameron lodge in Amacayacu National Park - the latter offers a rather hand held experience of the jungle. These are more like upmarket resorts than jungle lodges. I personally don't think that resorts and rainforests mix very well but if comfort is of the utmost priority, you might consider staying.

Hotels in Leticia

If you would rather stay in Leticia itself, consider the Anaconda Hotel (used to be the best in town, it's a little dated now though) or try the Hotel Yurupary (costs less than the Anaconda and is supposedly better). Mahatu Jungle Hostel is a new travellers hostal in Leticia - and is probably the best option for backpackers.  The newest (as of 2013) choice in Leticia, is now probably the best - called Amazon B&B. In the jungle just outside of town is Omshanty.

Email me if you know of other jungle lodges in this area of Colombia (or over either of the borders).

Those looking for an extended stay in the Amazon might consider the Amazon Spanish College, where you can learn Spanish in addition to undertaking volunteer work (4-12 weeks) on environmental, educational and social projects.

Getting to Leticia & Travelling Onwards to Brazil & Peru

The only way into Leticia from elsewhere in Colombia is to fly - see the flights page for airline routing information. Tabatinga is just over the border in Brazil - the two cities almost merge into one. Leticia is a much more pleasant place to stay than neighbouring Tabatinga. From Tabatinga one can easily get a boat, or catch a flight to Manaus (with either Trip or Rico airlines) in Brazil's Amazon, or equally catch a boat to Iquitos in Peru, to continue on your travels. 

If travelling onwards, make sure your passport is stamped out of Colombia at the local DAS offices. To enter Brazil, you're supposed to have a yellow fever certificate, though mine was never asked for when we crossed over. For more information see the section on travelling by boat to Brazil or Peru.

Leticia, Colombia:
Leticia, Colombia
River life near Leticia in Colombia's Amazon.

Video of Leticia & Puerto Narino

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