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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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).
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.
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
is another remote lodge. This lodge is owned by the well respected tour
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.
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
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