Leticia, gateway to the Amazon in Colombia
Leticia, in the Colombian Amazon is the best starting point for you to enter the lungs of the planet.
The largest jungle, along with the world’s largest river, is a unique experience that, if you travel to Colombia, or are close by, whether it be Peru or Brazil, you should not skip.
When we started planning our trip to Colombia, if one thing was clear to me, it was that I did not want to leave the country without visiting the Amazon, through its door in Leticia.
Of course it was a unique experience, feeling like an explorer walking through the deep jungle, without marked paths, and with a machete (the guide was carrying it) as the only way to get into his heart.
We slept in a contacted indigenous community, and were able to share conversations with them.
Did you know that there are barely two hundred contacted communities in the Amazon? It is estimated that in total it can reach a thousand indigenous communities.
Imagine in that gigantic space of jungle, crossed by the majestic Amazon River, the places that have not yet been explored.
Almost like that, to avoid its painful deforestation.
There was one thing that really fascinated me about this trip to the Colombian Amazon, and that is the sensitivity that its inhabitants have to caring for Mother Nature.
This sensitivity is very marked by the indigenous communities, which have always lived in perfect harmony with nature.
Using the necessary resources for their survival, never abusing them.
And above all, the magic that exists in their beliefs, being the center of all the Amazon’s wildest nature.
How to get to Leticia?
The only way you can get to Leticia from Colombia is by landing at her airport.
They just opened their brand new terminal in 2019, we were lucky enough to land on the second day it was open.
Latam and Avianca are the main airlines that serve this airport, and Bogota is the place to come from.
So, it is quite likely that if you are flying from another city in Colombia, be it Medellin or Cartagena, you will have to stop over at Bogota airport.
You can also arrive by boat from Iquitos in Peru, but it is a several day trip.
When you fly over the Amazon, you will see how impressively large it is, since for more than half an hour we only saw jungle and more jungle.
It’s a treasure we can’t afford to lose, as is happening in Borneo.
Best time of the year to travel Leticia and Amazon in Colombia
This is a very important point to keep in mind for when you go to the Amazon in Colombia.
There are basically two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season.
The dry season is from June to October.
During these months, the rain is so far away that you can see how the flow of the Amazon decreases in the marks it leaves on the shore.
This is the best time to visit the Amazon, since you can do many treks in places that in the rainy season can only be done by boat.
In these months, the best are September and October, since you will be almost alone.
The months of June, July and August, that area gets quite crowded.
We visit Leticia and the Amazon at the end of September.
The weather was hot during the day, and very humid.
But at night there were always storms that cooled down the atmosphere quite a bit.
The rainy season is from November to May.
What to see in Leticia?
Leticia is a small quiet town, very quiet, but divided into two countries.
In Leticia it is always hot, very hot.
So whatever you do, try to take water with you, you’re going to need it.
Cross the border to Brazil
Yes, it’s funny, because you just cross a street, and you’ll see that the signs start to be all in Portuguese.
You have just changed country and language without noticing it, since there is no border crossing to indicate it.
Border with Brazil in Letica, Tabatinga
You are in Tabatinga, the other half of the city that belongs to Brazil.
As the borders are diffuse in Leticia and Tabatinga, you won’t notice anything, and you may not see differences in the language either.
One city, two countries and two languages, so in both cities they speak both Portuguese and Spanish.
This is the biggest park in Leticia, a meeting point for the locals, and also the place where you can take pictures, giving faith that you have been to the Amazon.
Ethnographic Museum The Amazonian Man
If you like museums, you can take a walk around this corner of Leticia where you will find different tools and utensils used by the indigenous people who live in the Amazon.
Obviously, the indigenous communities contacted, resemble their life quite a lot to the western life, but inside the Amazon jungle.
Excursions near Leticia
If you don’t feel like having a slightly wilder experience in the Amazon, and you prefer to see its charms in a different way, from Leticia you can take different excursions to get to know the charms of the Amazon a little better.
Although we had heard good references from Puerto Nariño, we opted for a wilder adventure closer to nature and indigenous communities.
But Puerto Nariño is the town that gives you the option to make other visits that will not leave you indifferent.
This town is located about 70 kilometers from Leticia, and you can only go by boat.
There are several departures a day from Leticia, and they take about two hours.
The last boat that takes you to Puerto Nariño leaves at 14:00pm.
The schedules are restricted because they cannot sail at night for safety reasons.
Some of the excursions or activities from Puerto Nariño include a boat ride in search of pink dolphins in Tarapoto Lake.
We could see them on the Peruvian side of the Amazon.
In the areas of the Colombian Amazon, the monkeys are called micos, hence the name of this island, since there are many of them.
The Isla de los Micos is usually another interesting visit, since by following some trails, you can enjoy nature and these fun inhabitants.
A monkey in the Amazon rainforest
They’re so used to tourists that they approach them without any kind of shame.
And if you have a banana on you, you’ll be the perfect target for them.
There is quite a variety of monkeys, so on your visit to this island, you will get to know the different types of monkeys that live on the island.
Lotus Flower Nature Reserve
Do you want to see the world’s largest lotus flower? If so, you can take a canoe ride through this reserve.
There are also trails for you to enjoy nature more.
Adventure in the Amazon
If you are looking for more adventure, away from the “massification” of tourism, and I put it in quotation marks, because it is not excessive either, you can have an adventure in the Amazon.
What is this adventure in the Amazon in Colombia? Well, getting into the Amazon part of Peru and Brazil, not Colombia.
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Swimming in one of its tributaries, sighting animals such as sloths, pink dolphins or crocodiles.
Search for huge tarantulas, rare spiders, fish for piranhas or go on a trek of several hours through the most impenetrable jungle in the world with the help of an indigenous guide with his machete.
And of course, meet a contacted indigenous community.
This, and much more consisted of our trip to the Amazon, starting from Leticia in Colombia.
First of all, we would like to mention that there are several travel agencies in Leticia that can prepare your trip according to your needs, depending on the time you have and the level of adventure you want.
The first day we left Leticia by the Amazon River, until we got into one of its tributaries, the Yavari and arrived at Sacambu.
This was our first incursion into the Amazon, and we were lucky, since with us on this adventure we had a Colombian couple as our adventure partners, in addition to the indigenous guide.
After a little more than two hours we arrived at what would be our first home in the Amazon, Sacambu.
This place is quite simple cabins (and with mosquito nets) raised on wooden stilts, because of the floods in the rainy season of the Amazon.
The activities we did there, around the Amazon were very varied and entertaining.
Mention to part of our indigenous guide, who told us dozens of stories, important things about the indigenous people, religion, culture, etc.
Without a doubt, a world unknown to us, but at the same time, fascinating.
In Sacambu we went in search of the pink dolphins, which we could see swimming and jumping in the Yavari River.
We swam on a beach that we named Copacabana, after all we were in Brazilian territory.
We noticed when we bathed, like fish, among them piranhas were touching us.
Piranhas!!! no!!! Danger!!!! Well, as long as you don’t have bleeding wounds, the chances of being attacked or bitten are zero.
How much evil American movies have done to many animals.
Our Copacabana beach in Amazonas Brazil
In the evening we went out in a canoe to see crocodiles.
We could see a baby, several “pairs of eyes” coming out of the water looking at what was going on out there.
This activity reminded me a lot of Borneo, since when we were on the Kinabatangan River, which they call the Amazon of Borneo, we did exactly the same thing.
Going back to the piranhas, the next morning we fished for piranhas, yes, it was curious.
I didn’t catch any, two reasons, my lack of skill with the rod and that I was quite sorry to kill them.
It’s true that the morning fishing was the dinner of that day.
Fishing for piranhas in the Amazon
Trekking in the Amazon Rainforest
Without the slightest doubt, this was what I liked best about our visit to the Amazon, getting into the wildest jungle.
With no road to follow, our guide simply went through the brush with a machete, and looked for the direction to follow until we reached Gamboa, the indigenous community where we would spend the next two nights.
During the walk of more than four hours, we sweated and enjoyed a landscape and place unique in the world.
We saw giant macaws, howler monkeys, huge ceibas.
And above all, we had the feeling of being lost and disconnected from the world in the middle of the Amazon.
I think this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had traveling.
Gamboa Indigenous Community
If this indigenous community is so named, it is because it is located on the banks of the Gamboa River, another of the tributaries of the Amazon.
We are still in Peru.
We arrived at dusk, after passing through several chagras (indigenous farming areas).
The first image we found was of young people playing football, this sport is even at the ends of the world.
We enjoyed the sunset, a dinner with piranhas and a well-deserved rest.
We visited the small community early in the morning, hand in hand with a girl we met there.
She showed us every corner and told us some really interesting things about life there.
In Gamboa we also did a trekking in search of sloths, and we saw them, but far away, not as close as in Panama.
Back in the jungle, we saw ceibas, walking trees and the biggest tarantulas I have ever seen.
I’d like to make a little aside here.
I think that when we travel and visit places where there are any kind of animals, it is better to go as unnoticed as possible.
Do not disturb the animals in their habitat, and certainly do not make a selfi with one of them.
One of the conditions we set for this excursion with George of the Jungle was that we did not want the animals to be disturbed.
We had seen pictures of tourists taking pictures with sloths, monkeys or tarantulas.
It may seem silly, but that situation, in the case of sloths, creates a lot of stress for them.
Without a doubt, the highlight was the night we spent sleeping in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.
The sounds of the animals and insects, the campfire while our guide told us more stories about the indigenous culture, was the main course and final, for the last night in the Amazon.
Our sweet room was the jungle, and the bed, a hammock with a mosquito net over it and some plastic to avoid getting wet with the night’s rain.
I just loved it.
Before sleeping, and even before making the fire, our guide took us around the area in search of insects and animals.
We saw scorpions, spiders, giant toads, monkeys…
We listened to their sounds, and fell asleep with them.
An unforgettable experience.
Tips to go to the Amazon in Leticia, Colombia
- You can’t forget to take mosquito repellent, you’re going to need it, because they really bite. And well, it’s not just the mosquitoes that bite, many insects will enjoy your blood, and in most cases, you won’t even notice.
- He’s wearing sunglasses, a hat, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Since morning and evening is the time of greatest mosquito activity, it is best to wear these types of clothes.
- Swimwear and sunscreen should also accompany you on this trip.
- For night walks, and because it always comes in handy, don’t forget to bring a flashlight or headlamp.
- Remember that in some of the places where you sleep, they work with light generators that are not on 24 hours.
- Don’t forget your camera, the Amazon is awesome.
- Bring a waterproof bag where you can keep your camera in case of rain.
Accommodation in Leticia
The only night we spent in Leticia was at the Hotel La Casa de las Palmas, a nice hostel with a nice garden and swimming pool.
If you are going to stay one night in Leticia, it has accommodations for all tastes and prices.
The one we stayed was not bad at all, you can check photos, comments, prices and availability at this link, Hotel La Casa de las Palmas, Leticia.
Also, you can take a look at the map below, where you can see all the accommodations in Leticia.
Characteristics of Leticia
Leticia is the capital of the department of Amazonas.
It occupies a strategic position as it is located on the borders of Brazil and Peru.
It is an important centre for fishing, food processing and tourism.
Number of Inhabitants
Leticia has about 43,000 inhabitants (2010 estimate).
The city of Leticia was founded on April 25, 1867.
It is then named San Antonio, and it constitutes a port on the river.
It was finally named Leticia on December 15, 1867.
It became a customs port in 1900, and was annexed to the Colombian territory in 1929.
It was conquered by Peruvian troops in 1932, during the war between Colombia and Peru.
Finally, the League of Nations successfully negotiated its reintegration into Colombia in 1933.
Leticia is a Colombian city of 5968 km located in the south of the department of Amazonas, on the southern border of the country.
It borders Brazil and Peru and is located 95 m above sea level.
More info : Leticia Wikipedia
How to get around the city?
The city of Leticia offers various modes of transportation.
Bus or Taxi of your choice.
The bus: many bus lines serve the surroundings of the city and the main cities of the country.
Taxi: a motorcycle taxi or water taxi service is available.
What to do?
- Discover the Amacayacu Natural National Park or the Cahuinari Natural National Park.
- Watch dolphins.
- Relax on the shores of Lake Yahuarcacas or Lake Tarapoto.
- Visit Port Nariño.
- Meet the indigenous communities.
- Go shopping.
During a trip to Leticia, as in the rest of Colombia, you are bound to buy scarves (bufandas), a ruana (Colombian pancho), Indian pottery and leather goods as well as beautiful blankets and gold jewellery.
Gastronomy and local recipe(s)
Dishes: Paiche (freshwater fish); Tapioca; Ajiaco de Bogota (chicken, potato and cream cheese soup); empañadas (beef and potato fritters); pastel de pollo (ball-shaped chicken fritter); Tamal (a leaf stuffed with pork, chicken, corn and green beans).
Desserts: Chincha (sweet guava flaky pastry); banana vegetable (sweet or savoury fried banana); Salpicon (fruit salad).
What to see in the region?
Around Leticia, there are various tourist sites to see.
The city of Bogotá and its Gold Museum or its Botanical Garden José Celestino Mutis; the Metropolitan Theater and the statue of Simon Bolivar in Medellin; the city of Pereira and its many tourist places like the Monumento a los Findadores, the Monument Bolivar Desnudo or the Archaeological Museum Jaime Mejia.
It is best for those who wish to travel to Colombia to seek advice from their doctor and to take out medical evacuation insurance.
The local authorities do not require prior vaccination, however, it is recommended to be protected against typhoid fever, rabies, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria-tetanus-polio and yellow fever.
Only hospitals in large Colombian cities are sufficiently equipped medically to deal adequately with all conditions.
In principle, medical treatment is payable in advance before the patient is treated.
Paris time is 5 hours ahead of Leticia time in summer and 6 hours ahead in winter.
What to Do and see in Leticia ?
The capital of Amazonas has several tourist sites to see.
Tourists will mainly go to the Biblioteca del Banco de la Republica.
Other sites such as the Museo Ticuna or the Departmental Zoological Garden will also attract visitors.
Little Amazonian monkeys.
An adventure in the Colombian jungle is above all the opportunity to dive into the lungs of the world, with lush vegetation and wild life.
Sail on the Amazon River and its various tributaries to observe pink dolphins, make a stopover on the monkey island (isla de los micos) or in the various parks (Amacayacu in particular).
Fauna: caimans, parrots, toucans, howler monkeys, armadillos, tapirs, more than 500 species of birds and many other extraordinary animals.
Flora: the most famous is the giant lotus called “Victoria Regia”, but there are also gigantic trees and a multitude of colourful flowers.
Note: To see the Amazon in all its shapes and colors, cross the Peruvian and Brazilian borders, and go day and night (we offer night and day walks with a local indigenous guide).
MEETING WITH THE NATIVES
Market in the village of Leticia.
An immersion in the Colombian Amazon cannot be complete without a moment of sharing with the local people who live in this remote region: Ticunas, Yaguas, Huitotos, Cocamas…
A meeting with a shaman (use of medicinal plants), a cooking class, a fishing demonstration or a visit to workshops (jewellery, fabrics, paintings…) are all opportunities for exchange.
Also, staying in Maloka with local communities is an enriching experience and allows a total immersion in Amazonian life.
Note: Conditions are rudimentary.
For more comfort, stay in a lodge.