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Are you planning a trip to the Amazon, but still pondering whether to stay in the Colombian border town of Leticia and what to do there? Check out the exciting sights and things to do in the town and the best day tours from Leticia for inspiration! Take jungle hikes and riverboat safaris, visit nature reserves, meet indigenous tribes, taste Amazonian treats, go zip-lining or kayaking, learn jungle skills, and explore the Amazon surrounding Leticia.
Why You Should Visit Leticia – And Stay At Least 2 Nights
Leticia has received its share of the bad rap, but we encourage you to stay in the town to get another perspective on the Amazon. While many people skip Leticia or stay just one night before their pre-booked Amazon tours, explore Leticia on its own and be ready for many pleasant surprises!
But why to stay in Leticia? Leticia is the southernmost point of Colombia and the capital of the Amazonas region, as Colombians call their stretch of the Amazon. It’s the only city, or more modestly put a town, in Colombian Amazon. The other settlements are merely villages. Thus, it’s different, in good and bad.
Leticia is one of the major ports in the Amazon, and Colombia’s biggest – if not only – shipping point. That makes a real buzz. Leticia has several decent restaurants and nightlife venues. Traffic is crazy, but nature is never far away.
You can even make Leticia your home-base while exploring the Colombian, Peruvian, and Brazilian sides of the Amazon on day tours. You can arrive in Leticia without any plans and arrange your Amazon tours at the spot. More and more tourists opt to stay in the hotels of Leticia and do only day tours – it’s an affordable and comfortable way to explore Amazon. But let’s get started with all the amazing things to do in Leticia!
1. Organize Your Amazon Adventures
Leticia’s location in the Amazon is optimal for arranging day trips or multi-day tours in all three countries: Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. The Amazon adventures that you can take from Leticia are far more authentic than the day-trips of overnight trips from Manaus or Iquitos.
Leticia is well off-the-beaten-path: it’s a small town whisked deep in the jungle, away from from the big cities. That makes Leticia the best place to arrange both Amazon day trips and multi-day tours. As you’re already in the middle of Amazon, you don’t need to waste time on transport!
2. Take a Jungle Hike in the Amazon
Amazon hikes are easy to organize in Leticia. Just pick your favorite location and guide. Some jungle treks require a boat trip to the virgin rainforest, while others start with a short drive to a nearby reserve. For example, Chacara da Coruja Reserve, Reserva Natural Omagua, and Tanimboca Nature Reserve are all just a short taxi trip from Leticia. It’s possible to see caimans, iguanas, snakes such as boas, sloths, armadillos, and a ton of exotic birds like toucans.
Night walks reveal rare nocturnal creatures and should not be missed!
3. Visit Brazil: Tabatinga Border Town
You’re already just a couple of hundred meters from the border, so why not take a walk on the other side? We spent one pleasant afternoon in the Brazilian border town of Tabatinga.
Celebrate the border post of the three countries by hopping from Colombia to Brazil and enjoying a Peruvian lunch at Saõ Jorge. They serve pretty good ceviche and two Peruvian beers, Cuscueña and Pilsen. Before exiting, pop in the garden of “Tres Fronteiras” restaurant and toast with the Brazilian penguin beer. It’s the loveliest restaurant in Tabatinga and competing with Saõ Jorge about the title of the best restaurant in town.
4. Visit Peru: Isla Santa Rosa Border Town
Talking about easy border crossings, why not visit a third country, as well? The Peruvian border town Isla Santa Rosa is just 10-minute boat trip away. It’s a small and shabby fishing village on an island, much less developed than its Brazilian and Colombian counterparts. There’s not much to do, but pose with a Welcome to Peru sign and enjoy a lunch by the riverfront. My favorite dish once again is ceviche made of fresh river fish and paired with Cuscuena or Inca Kola (not sure about the pairing though, but trying that lemonade is a must in Peru).
Leticia, Tabatinga, and Santa Rosa are known as Tres Fronteras (Three Frontiers) area.
5. Visit Puerto Narino Eco-Village in the Amazon
Puerto Narino is a charming eco-village 75 kilometers from Leticia, served by public ferries (2 hours). All Letician tour companies offer day trips to Puerto Narino, but if you’re not short on time, we encourage you to make it your base in the Colombian Amazon. All motorized vehicles are banned, everything is recycled, and every morning the villagers clean together the public spaces. The village has lovely walking paths, brightly painted wooden houses with lovely gardens, restaurants with river views, a couple of pubs, and some quirky sights.
We stayed three happy days in Puerto Narino taking independent jungle walks, admiring sunset in the mirador (wooden tower with a viewing platform at the outskirts of the village), and hiring local guides for boat trips both in the Amazon and its tributaries (including Tarapoto Lake).
6. Tour Tarapoto Lake for Pink and Gray Dolphins and “the Walking Trees”
Tarapoto Lake is best explored on a day trip from nearby Puerto Narino, but can be visited on a long day tour from Leticia, as well. The lake is famous for pink and gray dolphins and “walking trees” (renacos, “arbol que camina”). Guides usually stop at several locations for a short jungle walk. We saw walking trees at two separate locations by the lake. Tours typically include also a swimming stop – if you dare to swim with dolphins and piranhas!
The view to the Amazon from Puerto Narino's Mirador just before sunset
7. Get Squirrel Monkey Overdosed at the Monkey Island (Isla de los Micos)
You will see monkeys everywhere on Amazon tours, but if you cannot get enough of them, visit the Monkey Island! Isla de los Micos is an island in the middle of the Amazon, 45-minute boat trip from Leticia. It’s on your way if you’re heading to Puerto Narino and well worth a visit. More than 5000 squirrel monkeys call the nature reserve their home.
8. Take a Zip-Line and Canopy Tour in Reserva Natural Tanimboca
Take a taxi to Tanimboca Nature Reserve, where you can observe the rainforest on an elevated canopy walk. Four observation platforms are connected with a hanging bridge and zip-lines. Also jungle hikes are available. Snakes are the draw here: boas, pit vipers, and colorful coral snakes.
You can stay overnight in one of the “malokas”, tradional Indian treehouses. Night safaris are included in lodging rates.
9. Visit Marasha Nature Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon
Why not to explore the Amazon behind the borders of Peru and Brazil? You can visit Peruvian Marasha Nature Reserve on a day trip from Leticia. Just 45 minutes in a speedboat bring you to the other side of the Amazon. Boating is our favorite Amazon activity for seeing wildlife, but in Marasha you can also opt to go hiking or fishing.
10. Take a Night Safari in the Amazon
Night safari can be a jungle walk or a boat trip: the best night safaris combine them both! Spotting the eyes of alligator or endangered black caiman in the dark can send shivers down your spine, as well as close encounters with tarantulas and scorpion spiders. Black caimans can grow up to 6,5 meters in length. Night safaris in Saraiva Lakes offer a good chance to spot one of those rare creatures.
11. Take a Boat to Rio Yavari and Sacambu Lake (Visiting Peru and Brazil!)
Rio Yavari (Javari/Javary River) forms a natural border between Brazil and Peru. It’s one of Amazon’s tributaries, which remains unspoiled by tourism. Boat trip from Leticia takes around 2-3 hours.
Most people explore Rio Yavari on a multi-day tour, but there are also day tours available. Leave Leticia at dawn to admire sunrise upon Amazon from the boat and enjoy having the river all by yourself, without tour groups around. Rio Yavari day tours usually visit Sacambu lake and make stops for jungle walks or fishing, also stopping in the Brazilian town of Benjamin Constant at the mouth of Javary River. Pink dolphins love to play around Sacambu lake.
Reserva Natural Heliconia is even further away, on a tributary of Rio Yavari on the Brazilian side. Visiting Heliconia requires an overnight tour.
12. Visit Parque Ecologico Mundo Amazonico, The Amazon World Ecological Park
Learn more about the plants and fruits of Amazon in the Amazon World Ecological Park, a family-owned botanical gardens. There are also jungle trails, an aquarium of exotic river monsters, and Amazon Tea House, where you can sample delicious herbal teas (acai, copuazu, araza, aguaje) and learn more about native remedies.
Mundo Amazonico is just 15-minute drive away from Leticia, and you can take a taxi or tuk-tuk to get there. You can book different tours at the spot, or just walk through the marked jungle trails (short and long option available). The cultural tour gives an immersion in using bow and arrow and blow piping.
13. Pop in the Free Amazon Ethnographic Museum
Get introduced to the indigenous cultures of the Amazon in this brilliant, though small museum. Browse an invaluable collection of ceremonial masks, tools, and weapons. The exhibition reveals, for example, the rite of passage of Ticunas and the ritual use of sacred plants of the Yukuna tribe.
14. Hang Around in Tourist Boardwalk (Malecon Touristico) Before Sunset
Tourist Boardwalk is among the best places in Leticia to watch a sunset over the Amazon. Colorful wooden fishing boats against the muddy banks of Amazon make an adorable scene also in the daylight.
Watch how cargo ships come and go: Leticia is among the most critical ports in the Amazon, after all. Take a seat between locals at the beach boulevard, grab a cheap meal from one of the street food stalls or sip a beer, and feed a stray dog to blend in!
15. Explore the Port Area
To feel the chaotic soul of this border town, spend some time walking around the grittier side of Leticia near the port. Casinos, casas de gambiar, and small hole-in-the-wall restaurants with plastic chairs form a blazing blend. Walk around to watch local life and take some street photos if you like.
Sunset Amazon tour and night safari from Puerto Narino, Colombian Amazon
16. Shop at the “Bazaar” and Carrera 8, Leticia’s Main Drag
Did you forget to pack enough lightweight t-shirts, tops, shorts, and skirts for your Amazon adventures? It’s going to be hot and sticky, so make sure that you can wear light clothes. If you don’t like bugs, you might need convertibles or long lightweight pants. You can also find rubber boots, knives, and other jungle essentials at Leticia’s bazaar-like shops near the port and along Carrera 8, the main drag of Leticia. The bazaar is the best spot for affordable souvenir shopping.
17. Soak in the Local Feel of Leticia’s Main Market Hall (Plaza de Mercado/Mercado Municipal)
Pick exotic fruits from the local market and get a sensory overload of the fresh fish, meat, and overall market frenzy. On Mondays, indigenous tribes come here to sell casabes and other treats. Upstairs is dedicated to cheap food stalls. Mercado Municipal is inside an uninvitingly looking concrete building near the port.
18. Taste the Jungle Fruits & Fruit Juices
Fresh fruits and fruit juices are divine at the Amazon. Try camu camu fruit juice: it’s a true vitamin C bomb! I even carry camu camu extract with me when I travel as a natural source of vitamin C. You don’t want to get sick in the Amazon, so take your vitamin intake seriously!
19. Witness “the Parrot Show” at Sunset in Santander Park
It pays to spend at least one sunset in Parque Santander like a local. Thousands of parakeets blacken the sky when they return to the park to feed and rest for the night. The surreal scene reminds “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock but in a pleasant way. You’ll be safe, but be careful of the droppings. Go there at 5 PM to be ready for the parrot show!
20. Sample Street Food at Santander Park
During the parrot show, Santander Park comes alive with street food vendors. Grab a salty or sweet treat after the parrots have settled and sit on the bench with locals.
21. Climb to the Church Tower for the Best View in Leticia
The most scenic spot in Santander Park is the church tower, but there’s only room for 14 people at a time. The panoramic view expands over the city all the way to the Amazon. A small donation is expected.
22. Take the Region’s Highest Canopy Adventure in Reserva Natural Omagua
Go to Omagua Reserve for the 35-meter high canopy adventure, which consists of zip-lines, hanging bridges, climbing nets, and rappelling. Do I need to say more?
23. Go Kayaking – or Just Visit Yahuarcaca Lakes
Yahuarcaca Lakes is another exciting day trip option from Leticia. You can opt for a kayaking trip or just go with a riverboat. You can also visit nearby indigenous communities during the same trip.
Kayaking in the Amazon gives another perspective on the surrounding wildlife and nature. As you slowly paddle through the flooded jungle, you can expect to spot exotic birds, fish, snakes, and even sloths! If you’re lucky, even the pink and gray dolphins might be on the list. Exotic plants include Victoria Regia, the largest lotus in the world.
24. Go Birding
Take a special birding trip to see exotic birds of the Amazon. Colombia’s Amazon is a birder’s paradise with more than 800 bird species. Ornithologist led birding trips offer chances to encounter endemic and endangered species, such as wattled curassow. Even on a usual jungle trip, it’s common to encounter kingfishers, toucans, parrots, herons, and different owls (during the night).
Even the town of Leticia is a bliss for birders, as you can see orange-headed tanagers together with band-tailed and casqued oropendolas, which all are usually hard to spot.
25. Visit Victoria Regia Nature Reserve (Victoria Amazonica) for Water Lilies
Victoria Regia Nature Reserve (El Jardin de la Victoria Regia) is named after the largest water lily in the world carrying the same name. You can admire the gigantic (diameter up to 3 meters!) leaves of water lilies floating on a lake and walk amidst the botanical garden. It’s a short, 15-30-minute boat ride from Leticia.
26. Take a Tuk-Tuk
This is probably the easiest activity to tick off, as tuk-tuks are the main mode of transport for tourists. They are cheaper than taxis, and as distances are rather short, who would mind taking a tuk-tuk?
27. Eat Casabes
The specialty of Leticia, pizzas called casabe, won our hearts. The dough is made of tapioca or yuca instead of wheat flour. Healthy and tasty, if you ask me!
Originally, casabe is just a flatbread: indigenous tribes are selling this type of casabes in Mercado Municipal on Mondays, and they are also served with village meals. The casabe pizza found in the restaurants around Leticia combines the crispy casabe base with all traditional pizza fillings.
We loved the casabes of Santo Angel so much that we returned there on our last night (which we rarely do). Accidentally we also ate there the other specialty, a fish called pirarucu. It’s absolutely delicious and tastes like chicken, but due to overfishing, it’s not that ethical choice.
28. Eat Mojojoy – If You Can!
This one is only for the bravehearts: mojojoy are fat jungle worms. You can eat them grilled or even stuffed. We didn’t have the stomach.
29. Meet the Tribes – Visit an Indigenous Village
Visit the different indigenous tribes on half-day or full day tours from Leticia. The surrounding jungle is a home to several indigenous Amazon tribes, such as Ticuna, Huitoto, Yagua, Bora, Cocama, Macuna, Tucano, and Nukak.
If you visit Puerto Narino, you have good chances to meet Ticunas, Yaguas, and Cocamas, since 95% of Puerto Narino’s population represent these three tribes. You can visit Ticuna villages also elsewhere, for example in Yahuarcaca Lakes and further upstream from Puerto Narino.
In Mundo Amazonico you can hike to the “maloca” (community house) of Huitoto (Uitoto) tribe to meet their shaman and other tribe members. You can reach Huitoto village also by taxi independently (15 minutes from Leticia).
In Reserva Tanimboca, you can do a 2-hour jungle trek to meet Macuna Indians. On Rio Yavari, you can meet Mayorunas and Yaguas.
30. Learn Jungle Skills – or Take Part in Ayahuasca Ceremony
Many indigenous guides can teach you basic jungle survival skills if you dare to ask. Hipilandia Eco-Hostal has somehow productized jungle crafts workshop, which includes learning how to use a machete, making a natural rope, and climbing in a palm tree, weaving a backpack or shoes from jungle materials, etc.
Many locals can also hook you up with a shaman if you’re interested in ayahuasca ritual. We thought to mention this, as many tourists travel to the Amazon purely to try ayahuasca. However, we don’t recommend using ayahuasca unless you really know what you’re doing, as there are too many risks involved. We didn’t try it and wouldn’t do it ourselves. The internet is full of stories who trips have turned into nightmares after drinking Yage (Ayahuasca), as you can never truly know what’s in the mix and how your body will react. Taking ayahuasca can even lead to death or severe mental illness.
31. Extend Your Amazon Adventures: Take a Boat to Manaus (Brazil) or Iquitos (Peru)
If you feel that there are still too many things to see in the Amazon, take a slow or fast boat to either Manaus (Brazil) or Iquitos (Peru) to extend your trip. Fast boats to Iquitos take 10 hours and to Manaus 30 hours, whereas the epic slow boat to Manaus takes 4 days. If you have time and won’t mind the basic conditions, I’d recommend taking the slow boat for the views.
Boats to Manaus leave from Tabatinga and boats to Iquitos from Isla Santa Rosa. Make sure to get your exit stamp from Colombia before embarking.
Where to Stay in Leticia?
Amazon B&B Hotel is without a doubt the best lodge in Leticia. They have spacious villas and more affordable rooms scattered within a lush garden. We especially loved the breakfasts served in the garden and idling in a hammock at our private veranda.
How to Get to Leticia?
As there are no roads from the Colombian side, you must come in and out Leticia with one of the two daily flights (Avianca/LAN). If you’re coming from Brazil, taking a riverboat from Manaus is one option, and the same goes with Peruvian Iquitos. You can also opt to fly from Manaus to Tabatinga (Brazilian border town).
Have you visited Leticia or Colombian Amazon, if so, what were your favorite things to do?
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