The undisputed draw of Colombia's Amazonas region is nature, The area boasts lush landscapes, natural parks, dense jungle, large lakes and elaborate river systems. It is also home to all manner of exotic animals including Amazon River dolphins, giant turtles, and monkeys. The buzzing city of Leticia, commonly used as the base from which to explore the area, offers a range of adventure activities such as canopying, rappelling and kayaking. The area is also an important center of indigenous culture, with a number of communities living nearby.
What to see and do in Amazonas
The gateway to Colombia’s Amazonas region is the vibrant city of Leticia, in the country’s far south. Located on the border with Brazil, Leticia is an important trade hub between the two countries and the city exhibits a unique mixture of Colombian and Brazilian flavors. Crossing a road in southern part of Leticia will take you through an invisible border to the conurbation of Tabatinga on the Brazilian side. Wandering into Tabatinga is an interesting experience, particularly for those who have not visited Brazil previously. The difference between this area and Leticia is quite striking with the language, music, food, and goods for sale all varying dramatically.
Crossing a road in southern Leticia will take you through an invisible border to the Portuguese-speaking Brazilian side
Ecotourism is undoubtedly the major draw of Leticia and the Amazonas region in general. There are a wealth of excellent tours and exotic natural attractions to explore. The best way to see these is with a guide or in a small tour arranged within Leticia itself. Some of the most popular options are included below:
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Amacayacu National Park: A nature reserve of nearly 300,000 hectares which is home to a diverse range of birds and animals including jaguars, macaws and parrots, manatees, Amazon River dolphins, tapirs, anacondas, piranhas and the golden lion tamarin monkey. Accommodation is available in the park, as are activities such as tours of indigenous villages, night boat rights, hiking and climbing.
Cahuinarí National Park: A 575,000 hectare national park located between the Cahuinari and Bernando rivers. Notable animals that inhabit the area are black caimans, which grow up to 10m long and are often visible along the banks of the two rivers, and the rare Charapa turtle, the largest fresh water turtle alive today.
Black caimans grow up to 10m long and are often visible along the river banks
San Martin de Amacayacu: A small community of indigenous Ticuna people, located in beautiful surroundings inhabited by abundant wildlife. It can be reached from the trails through the Amacayacu national park or via Puerto Nariño.
Lake Yahuarcacas: A crystal clear lake located on the edge of Leticia, which is home to the pink-coloured Amazon River Dolphin.
Tarapoto Lake: Located about 20 minutes outside Puerto Nariño, or two hours from Leticia, the lake offers a variety of activities including boat trips, sport fishing, and water skiing. The site, surrounded by large rubber plants, also houses giant water lilies and fresh water dolphin species.
The most impressive accommodation options are the treehouses built some 12m up into the jungle canopy
Tanimboca reserve: Just outside Leticia, the Tanimboca reserve is a great place to trek, fish, or to do canopying. If you wish you stay the night here, the most impressive options are the treehouses built some 12m up into the jungle canopy. In Doesel Tanimboca you can also engage in activities such as canopying, rappelling and kayaking. The site has five elevated platforms from which you can observe the wide variety of animal species and birds in the park. You can also hang hammocks and sleep here.
Getting to, from and around Amazonas
Leticia is in the basin of both the Amazon and the Calderon rivers, and is separated from the rest of the country by vast expanses of dense jungle. There are no road connections to the city, and the main river connection only reaches as far as the nearby town of Puerto Nariño. The overwhelming majority of visitors arrived here by internal flight from other parts of Colombia (the flight from Bogota takes a little under two hours), or come from neighboring Brazil and Peru by boat.