A map of the Amazon showing the Tres Fronteras region.

Forward

This report details a 4,334 kilometre (2,693 mile) meander along the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru to the Atlantic Ocean. 

This was truly an epic journey and as such this report was never going to be small. Due to the size of this travel guide I have split it into two parts:

  • Part 1 contains sections on History, Currency, Visa Requirements, Boat Travel and details on destinations in Peru (Iquitos/ Santa Rosa) and Colombia (Leticia).
  • Part 2 of the guide contains details on destinations in Brazil – TabatingaManausSantarém, Belém, Marajó Island and Macapá. 

Enjoy!

Exploring the Amazon around Iquitos.

Exploring the Amazon around Iquitos.

Introduction

Travelling for thousands of kilometres by boat along the Amazon River is one of the more interesting journeys I’ve made during my travel career. In total, I spent 150 hours on six different journeys, traveling by both fast and slow boat from Iquitos in Peru across the South American continent to the Atlantic Ocean – a distance of 4,334 kilometres.

Along the way I made stops in a number of riverside towns and cities, including the Colombian outpost of Leticia (the only Colombia town on the river), and the Brazilian cities of TabatingaManausSantarém and Belém. 

From Belém, I traveled to the sparsely populated island of Marajó – an island the size of Switzerland which is anchored in the mouth of the Amazon River.

Storm clouds over the Amazon River near Belem.

Storm clouds over the Amazon River near Belem.

From Marajó, I returned to Belém then joined my final boat for the 24-hour journey across the mouth of the Amazon River to the city of Macapá. From Macapá I then embarked on a 3,000 kilometre meander back to Manaus via French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela. For details on this journey, please refer to my other post – Macapá to Manaus via the Guiana’s.

My journey down the Amazon River was an incredible journey and one I will not forget any time soon! If you ever have the inclination to make such a journey I would encourage you to do so – at least once in your life!

Amazonian Facts

Known as the "River Sea", the Amazon River inundates surrounding villages during the annual wet season.

Known as the “River Sea”, the Amazon River inundates surrounding villages during the annual wet season.

Some interesting Amazon facts:

  • With an average discharge of about 209,000 cubic metres per second (7,400,000 cu ft/s), the Amazon is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world. The annual discharge volume is greater than the next seven largest rivers combined.
  • The Amazon discharges nearly 25% of all freshwater into the oceans.
  • At approximately 6,400 kilometres (4,000 miles) in length, the Amazon is the world’s second longest river.
  • In places, the river has a depth of 70 metres (250 feet).
  • The Amazon is known as the ‘river sea‘ and during the wet season, it can measure over 190 kilometres (120 miles) in width.
  • The mouth of the river is the widest in the world, measuring 325 kilometres (202 miles) across.
  • The largest city along the Amazon River is Manaus. Located in Brazil it is home to over 1.7 million people.
  • There are no bridges that cross the Amazon, mostly because there is no need since the river runs through rainforests rather than big cities.
  • There are over 3000 known species of fish that live in the Amazon River, including the Piranha.
  • A total of 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in the Amazon Rainforest.
  • The diversity of plants in the Amazon is the highest of anywhere on earth. There have been more than 40,000 plant species recorded that include bananas, mangoes, guava, yams, nuts and spices.

 

Location

The Amazon River, begins life high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, just 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the Pacific Ocean. From its source, the river meanders eastward across the South American continent for 6,400 kilometres (4,000 miles) until it enters the Atlantic Ocean east of Belém, Brazil.

The river and its many tributaries drain the Amazon Basin, which is the largest drainage basin in the world at approximately 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq miles). If the basin was a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world. Brazil accounts for 60% of the total basin area, with Peru comprising approximately 13% and the remainder spread between Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Suriname, French Guiana and Guyana.

 

History

A cannon at the Portuguese-built Presepio Fort, Belem, Brazil.

A cannon at the Portuguese-built Presepio Fort, Belem, Brazil.

Pre-Columbian Era

Archaeological finds, including pottery fragments and stone points, indicate that Native Indian tribes have inhabited the Amazon River area for at least 10,000-11,000 years.

Evidence indicates that the region was home to complex and large-scale indigenous societies, who developed large towns and cities. Archaeologists estimate that by the time the Spanish conquistador, Francisco De Orellana, traveled down the Amazon in 1541, more than 3 million indigenous people lived around the river.

European Era

Amazon River Travel Guide: A map showing Francisco de Orellana's Amazon Voyage. Source: Wikipedia.

A map showing Francisco de Orellana’s Amazon Voyage. Source: Wikipedia.

The first European to fully explore the Amazon River was the Spanish explorer and conquistador, Francisco De Orellana. Born in Trujillo (Peru), Orellana never intended to explore the river.

Orellana initially served as a lieutenant on a larger expedition led from Quito (Ecuador) by his close friend and relative, Gonzalo Pizarro. As the newly appointed Governor of Quito, Pizarro organised an expedition to explore the lowlands of Ecuador where he believed he might find the lost city of gold – El Dorado.

While camped on the banks of the Coca River, a chronic food shortage prompted Pizarro to order Orellana to follow the river to it’s end and to gather food supplies and return as soon as possible. Upon reaching the end of the river (where it joins the Napo River), Orellana found a relatively friendly native village where he was given some food. Orellana intended to return to Pizarro with the food, but his men, not wishing to return upriver to their starved comrades, threatened him with a mutiny if he tried to force them to go.

Orellana and his men continued down the Napo River, eventually reaching the Amazon River on the 11th of February 1542. They sailed the length of the Amazon, reaching the Atlantic Ocean on the 26th of August 1542. Orellana eventually returned to Spain via Venezuela.

As they made their way along the river, Orellana and his men heard stories of fierce warrior women and occasionally encountered such women fighting alongside their men. Orellana named the River ‘Amazon‘ after the mythological Amazons – a kingdom of fierce warrior-women, who had fired European imaginations since the days of antiquity.

The opulent Teatro de Paz (Theatre of Peace) in Belem was built during the colonial era using proceeds from the Rubber boom.

The opulent Teatro de Paz (Theatre of Peace) in Belem was built during the colonial era using proceeds from the Rubber boom.

Although a complete commercial failure, this accidental journey of exploration provided a great deal of information on the Amazon basin and opened up the interior of South America for exploration. Within a century, European settlers had arrived in search of gold and other riches. The Spanish based their settlements on the Pacific and the Portuguese on the Atlantic, while the French, Dutch, and English built settlements in the Guyana region.

One of the biggest booms to occur in the Amazon during the colonial period involved the rubber tree, or Para rubber. Native to the Amazon, rubber had been used by indigenous tribes for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until Charles Goodyear invented the process of vulcanization that demand for this raw material skyrocketed, especially from automobile manufacturers. As a result of the boom, Manaus grew into a booming and opulent metropolis. It was during this epoch that the grand Manaus Opera House was constructed. The rubber boom however came at a price with the enslavement and near genocide of numerous groups of indigenous peoples.

Present Day

Despite government efforts to build a paved road through the Amazon Basin, the river remains the only means of transporting goods to isolated cities.

Despite government efforts to build a paved road through the Amazon Basin, the river remains the only means of transporting goods to isolated cities.

Since colonial times, the remote, and mostly impenetrable, Amazon basin has remained largely undeveloped by agriculture and continues to be occupied by indigenous people.

During the 20th century, the Brazilian government tried to open the region to development by constructing the Trans-Amazonian Highway (BR-230) which was intended to link the coastal city of João Pessoa with the Amazon town of Benjamin Constant. Funding difficulties meant the road could never be completed. The road currently ends in the town of Labrea (south of Manaus) but most of the road remains unpaved and impassible during the wet season.

One negative impact resulting from the construction of the road has been an increase in deforestation. Logging companies can now access areas which were previously inaccessible and the road makes it easier to transport timber.

 

Currencies

The official currency of Brazil - Brazilian Reals.

The official currency of Brazil – Brazilian Reals.

The following three currencies are used in this report:

  • The Brazilian Real (R$) is the official currency of Brazil. Click here to view the current exchange rate against USD$1.
  • The Colombian Peso (P) is the official currency of Colombia. Click here to view the current exchange rate against USD$1.
  • The Peruvian Sol (S/) is the official currency of Peru. Click here to view the current exchange rate against USD$1.

Voyages

Following is a summary of the six different voyages I made along the river. 

Voyage 1 – Iquitos (Peru) to Leticia (Colombia) via Santa Rosa (Peru)

Distance: 486 kilometres/ 302 miles
Duration: ~ 13 hours
Transport Operator: Golfinho (fast boat)
Cost: 200 Peruvian Soles (US$70)

Voyage 2 – Tabatinga (Brazil) to Manaus

Distance: 1,628 kilometres/ 1011 miles
Duration: ~ 30 hours
Transport OperatorLancha Glória De Deus lll (fast boat)
Cost: R$550 – R$600

Voyage 3 – Manaus to Santarém

Distance: 772 kilometres/ 480 miles
Duration: ~ 30 hours
Transport Operator: Slow Boat
Cost: I paid R$700 for a berth in a cabin. Hammock space is available for R$80. Food and drinks are available for purchase.

Voyage 4 – Santarém to Belém

Distance: 792 kilometres/ 492 miles
Duration: ~ 48 hours
Transport Operator: MV Amazonia (slow boat)
Cost: I paid R$700 for a berth in a cabin. Hammock space is available for R$200

Voyage 5 – Belém to Marajó Island (Return)

Distance: 174 kilometres/ 108 miles
Duration: ~ 3.5 hours (one way)
Transport Operator: Ferries depart daily from the Terminal Hidroviário (Pier 9) in downtown Belém.
Cost: R$20,00 in economy class; R$35,00 in 1st class

Voyage 6 – Belém to Macapá

Distance: 482 kilometres/ 300 miles
Duration: ~ 24 hours
Transport Operator: Sao Francisco de Paula (slow boat)
Cost: A shared berth cabin costs R$225(per bed) or you can pay R$60 to hang your hammock outside. As with all boats on the Amazon, you’ll need to provide your own hammock and rope to hang it from.

 

Amazon Boat Travel

Amazon River 'slow boats' docked in Manaus.

Amazon River ‘slow boats’ docked in Manaus.

It’s important to point out that the boats that travel along the Amazon are not meant for tourists – they are the default mode of transportation for goods and people from place A to place B.

The Amazon River is known as the ‘river sea‘ and for good reason – for most of its course, the river is incredibly wide and boats tend to travel down the centre of it, far from the nearest shore. If you dream of sitting on the deck of a boat, observing passing wildlife and villages, then you need to find a smaller river upon which to travel. However, most towns along the river (always located near the confluence of a tributary river) provide the opportunity to venture into the interior on smaller rivers where you can spot wildlife and have contact with local villagers.

Storm clouds over the Amazon River near Belem.

Storm clouds over the Amazon River near Belem.

There are two types of boats which travel along the river, fast boats and slow boats. While slow boats provide transportation along the entire length of the river, fast boats only operate on a couple of sections of the river. Slow boats are cheaper and provide both hammock and cabin space while fast boats provide seating only.

View from my fast boat traveling from Tabatinga to Manaus.

View from my fast boat traveling from Tabatinga to Manaus.

Fast Boats are a great way of covering vast distances in a shorter space of time, unfortunately they were only available on two of my journeys – between Iquitos and Santa Rosa in Peru and between Tabatinga and Manaus in Brazil. Whereas a slow boat covers the 1,628 kilometre (1011 mile) journey from Tabatinga to Manaus in four days, a fast boat completes the journey in 30 hours.

The Brazilian children loved posing for my camera during the boat trips.

The Brazilian children loved posing for my camera during the boat trips.

Slow boats are not built for comfort – they are noisy, dirty and don’t offer a lot of service. Their primary function is the transportation of goods along the river. Often you will spend hours in a remote port while goods are loaded (always by hand) on and off the boat. These boats provide a crucial lifeline to remote communities who have no other connection to the outside world. Accommodation options on the slow boats include private cabins or communal hammock space.

Hammock-class on my slow boat from Belem to Macapa.

Hammock-class on my slow boat from Belem to Macapa.

As I travel with expensive camera equipment, I always paid extra for a berth in a lockable cabin and I normally had a cabin to myself. I appreciated that I could always lock my valuables in my cabin while I was showering or using the toilet.

The Brazilians are generally friendly, warm and kind. It's a pleasure spending time with them.

The Brazilians are generally friendly, warm and kind. It’s a pleasure spending time with them.

Those who travel in hammock class have nowhere secure to store valuables. You will also need to purchase your hammock (R$110) and some rope to hang it from prior to boarding your vessel. There are always vendors selling hammocks at the docks and if you’re unsure of how to hang a hammock, the locals will be more than willing to help you.

Hammock-class on the M/V Sao Francisco de Paula.

Hammock-class on the M/V Sao Francisco de Paula.

Meals are offered on-board with breakfast normally costing R$5 and a lunch/ dinner buffet costing R$10. The buffet’s almost always include rice, pasta, salad and some meat option. The one essential accompaniment to all meals served along the Amazon River is Farofa – a toasted cassava flour mixture.

Farofa

Preparing Farofa in the Ver-O-Peso market in Belem.

Preparing Farofa in the Ver-O-Peso market in Belem.

Farofa is a ubiquitous part of meals served in the Amazon region. Made by toasting cassava flour with butter, salt, garlic, onions, sausage and other savory ingredients, Farofa has a salty/ smoky taste and is the condiment of choice for Brazilians at mealtimes.

 

Visa Requirements

Peru

Peru provides visa-free access for a period of 183 days to 99 different nationalities. You can check your requirements here.

Colombia

Colombia provides visa-free access for a period of 90 days to 98 different nationalities. You can check your requirements here.

Brazil

Brazil provides visa-free access for a period of 90 days to 93 different nationalities, however this does not include Australian, Canadian or United States passport holders, who must apply for a visa in advance.

A new e-visa process is now available for holders of Australian, Canadian, Japanese and United States passports. The processing time for the e-visa is 5 days, with the visa valid for multiple visits (not exceeding 90 days per year) over a two year period.

More information, including a link to the online form, can be found here:

https://www.brazilevisas.com

Brazilian immigration does not issue visas upon arrival so if you find yourself in Leticia (without a visa) you will need to apply for one from the Brazilian vice-consulate who will require ten days to process your application.  You can check your requirements here.

 

Destinations

During my voyage, I traveled from Iquitos to Leticia, then TabatingaManaus, Santarém, Belém, Marajó Island then Macapá. Information for Iquitos and Leticia is provided below, while information on the other destinations is provided in Part 2 of the guide.

Iquitos

The waterways around Iquitos are full of attractions.

The waterways around Iquitos are full of attractions.

Introduction

Iquitos is one of the more interesting destinations on the Amazon River, offering a vast selection of activities not found elsewhere in Peru, most of them focused on the Amazon River and the surrounding rainforest. With a population of 437,000 – Iquitos is considered the largest city in the world unreachable by road and because of this motorcycles and moto-taxis dominate the roads. The only way to arrive here is by boat or plane (see the ‘Getting There‘ section below for more details).

Macaws are a common sight in Iquitos.

Macaws are a common sight in Iquitos.

Besides the Amazon attractions, Iquitos attracts a lot of travelers who come to learn about, and experience, Ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic, plant-based brew that is gaining increasing popularity worldwide.

If you’re arriving from anywhere else in Peru, you can’t help but notice that Iquitos has a completely different feel to it. From it’s tropical, year-round climate to it’s diverse population (including lots of local indigenous Indians), to its remote location which gives it the air of a frontier town. I’ve made two separate trips to the city and would happily return for a third. There is something charming and magical in the jungle air.

Sightseeing

View of the Amazon River at Iquitos.

View of the Amazon River at Iquitos.

There are plenty of sights in and outside the city, including:

  • Casa de Fierro (The Iron House): located on the main square (Plaza de Armas) and designed by Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) – this is one of the more quirky sights in Iquitos. Said to be the first pre-fabricated house installed in South America, the building was purchased at the International Exposition of Paris in 1889 by a local rubber baron who then had it shipped in pieces to Iquitos. The many metal sheets, which comprise the walls, were apparently carried by hundreds of men through the jungle and re-assembled on the main square in 1890.
  • Amazonian Manatee Orphanage: Located 4.5 kilometres from Iquitos on the Nauta highway is this orphanage, which rescues baby Manatee’s (sea cows), whose mothers have been killed by local hunters. A moto-taxi from downtown will cost about S/15.
One of the beautiful stars of the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm.

One of the beautiful stars of the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm.

  • Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm & Amazon Animal Orphanage:, Located near the village of Padre Cocha, a short boat ride from the Bellavista-Nanay port in Iquitos, is this worthwhile attraction (Adult: S/20). Enthusiastic international volunteers will happily show you around the butterfly enclosure, where you learn about the life cycle of these fascinating insects. You are then free to wander around the orphanage to view animals that have been rescued, which includes one impressive Jaguar.
Indigenous dancers at the Yagua Indian Village.

Indigenous dancers at the Yagua Indian Village.

  • Yagua Indian Village: Something that is normally combined with a visit to the Butterfly farm is a visit to this remote, riverside Indian village. Home to a group of Yagua Indians (there are an estimated 6,000 living in northern Peru and Colombia), the village is undoubtedly a tourism experience (especially the staged dancing), but does offer an opportunity to understand a little more about indigenous Amazonian culture.
Handicrafts for sale at the Yagua Indian Village.

Handicrafts for sale at the Yagua Indian Village.

Accommodation

There are plenty of options in town, including larger hotels, and smaller family-run guest houses. Outside of town, there are a number of jungle eco-lodges which are accessible by boat. Booking.com currently lists 123 properties in the city.

Eating Out

This being Peru, there is no shortage of good food and fine restaurants in Iquitos. One of the joy’s of eating here is being able to sample the amazing and unique Amazonian produce. The best place to gain an understanding of this produce is the sprawling Belen Market, the largest in the Peruvian Amazon.

Camu Camu - an Amazonian super fruit.

Camu Camu – an Amazonian super fruit.

One of my favourite Amazonian fruits is Camu Camu, which is considered by health food aficionados as a ‘super fruit’. Famed for its antioxidant properties, proponents claim it’s anti-viral properties can help with cold sores, herpes, shingles, and the common cold. What I do know is that it tastes great in a Pisco Sour.

A different dining experience - Al Frio y Al Fuego floating restaurant.

A different dining experience – Al Frio y Al Fuego floating restaurant.

Of all the restaurant options in town, the most unique has to be Al Frio y Al Fuego. Located on a floating pontoon in the middle of the Amazon River, you access the restaurant via a speedboat which leaves from the restaurant dock in downtown Iquitos. The menu items are inspired by the Amazon and there’s a pool where you can swim and relax. Best time to come is late in the afternoon as the restaurant affords beautiful sunset views of Iquitos.

One of the many delicious meals served at Al Frio y Al Fuego floating restaurant.

One of the many delicious meals served at Al Frio y Al Fuego floating restaurant.

A great place for any meal and a popular meeting place for travelers and local expats is the riverside café – Dawn on the Amazon. Located off the Plaza de Armas, the café offers the best river views, great breakfast, good coffee and Ayahuasca-friendly items.

Getting There/ Away

Air

Iquitos is served by the Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport (IATA: IQT), which is located 11 kilometres south-west of downtown. Since the city is not linked to any road network, most visitors arrive by flight.

Both taxis and (three-wheel) moto-taxis can be found outside the arrivals hall with the former charging S/20 into the centre of town and the latter charging S/10.

The following airlines fly to/ from Iquitos:

Boat

Leticia/ Tabatinga

Travelling downriver from Iquitos to Leticia / Tabatinga, you have a choice of fast boat (13 hours) or slow boat (about 2.5 days). The latter are cargo boats and as such make frequent stops in small settlements along the river to take on and drop off passengers and cargo.

Boats travel downriver to the tiny Peruvian settlement of Santa Rosa, which is located across the river from Leticia and Tabatinga. Upon arrival in Santa Rosa, you get stamped out of Peru and take a taxi boat across the river to either Leticia or Tabatinga.

Update – This article in the Peru Telegraph suggests a newer, faster, full-size ferry is now operating from Iquitos to Santa Rosa, covering the distance in 8 hours. If you have taken this boat I would be interested in hearing about your experience. 

Fast boat

Two different companies, Transtur Golfinho, operate fast boats (tickets cost 200 Peruvian Soles – US$70) five days a week from Iquitos to Santa Rosa, covering the 486 kilometre (302 mile) journey in 13 hours. The current timetable is:

  • Golfinho departs from the El Huequito dock on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 5:00 AM.
  • Transtur departs from the El Huequito dock on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5:00 AM.

Boats arrive in the evening in Santa Rosa where you complete Peruvian immigration formalities before crossing the river to either Colombia (Leticia) or Brazil (Tabatinga).

Slow Boat

If you prefer to embark on a more enduring adventure, slow boats depart from Iquitos, reaching Santa Rosa 3 days later. Cabins cost 80 soles, which includes meals.

Puccallpa/ Yurimaguas

Slow boats travel further upriver from Iquitos to the towns of Puccallpa and Yurimaguas, where you can connect to the Peruvian road network.

Getting Around

Boat

Amazon River Travel Guide: Boats are the primary means of transportation around Iquitos.

Boats are the primary means of transportation around Iquitos.

There are many attractions hidden away in the waterways surrounding Iquitos and the only way of accessing them is via small speedboats which depart from the grimy and chaotic Bellavista Nanay port, which is located three kilometres km (1.5 miles) north of downtown Iquitos at the end of Avenida La Marina.

Road

Despite being cut-off from the rest of Peru, there is still plenty of traffic on the streets of Iquitos.  The most ubiquitous vehicle in town is the mototaxi  a three wheel motorcycle with a small, rickshaw-like passenger cabin in the back. Additionally, regular taxis are available too.

A great way to travel around steamy, hot Iquitos is by open-air bus. These charming antiques from a bygone era run on fixed routes, including to the airport.

Tres Fronteras

A map of the Amazon showing the Tres Fronteras region.

A map of the Amazon showing the Tres Fronteras region.

The Tres Fronteras (Three Borders) region is named for the tri-point where the borders of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia meet. While you are in the area, you are free to move unrestricted without visiting immigration each time but should always carry your passport.

When you are departing a country or moving onto the next country, you need to visit the respective immigration office to be processed.

Santa Rosa

Introduction

There is nothing much to be said about tiny Santa Rosa de Yavarí  (pop: 1,000) – a muddy, damp, mosquito infested place, the town serves as a checkpoint and crossing point for the Brazil-Peru and the Brazil-Colombia borders. The only thing to do here is get your passport stamped and move on.

Formalities

The Peruvian Immigration office is next to the dock and is open during day-light hours.  If you’re arriving from Iquitos, you should get your exit stamp prior to taking a boat across the river to Leticia or Tabatinga.

If you’re entering Peru you need to ensure you have your entry stamp prior to boarding the boat to Iquitos. If you’re taking the 4:00 am fast boat to Iquitos, you’ll need to get your Peruvian entry stamp the day before departure as the immigration office will be closed at the time of your departure and you will not be allowed on the boat without a Peruvian entry stamp.  

Accommodation

There are a few options in Santa Rosa but much better accommodation options are available across the river in Leticia. The only reason you might stay here is if you’re taking the early morning fast boat to Iquitos which departs at 4 AM.

Getting There/ Away

Boat

Santa Rosa is connected to Iquitos by fast and slow boats. The following information is for upriver travel, for downriver travel – please refer to the Iquitos section.

Fast Boats to Iquitos:

Two different companies (Transtur  Golfinho), operate daily (except Monday) fast boats from Santa Rosa to Iquitos, covering the 486 kilometre (302 mile) journey in 13 hours. Tickets cost 200 Peruvian Soles (US$70) with the boats departing Santa Rosa at 4:00 AM. If you’re staying in Tabatinga or Leticia you’ll need to take a boat across to Santa Rosa at 3:00 AM. 

I made the journey downriver with Transporte Golfinho who have departures for Iquitos three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). Tickets can be purchased from their office in Tabatinga:

Transporte Golfinho

Address: Av. Marechal Mallet N° 306
E-mail: jrcbra@hotmail.com

Slow Boats to Iquitos:

Slow boats crawl up the river to Iquitos, arriving 4 days later.

Getting Around

Boat

From Santa Rosa, water taxis make the 10 minute crossing to Leticia / Tabatinga for 2 Peruvian Soles.

Leticia

Introduction

With a population of 37,000, charming Leticia is Colombia’s southern-most town and the only Colombian town on the Amazon River. There are few sights in Leticia, however with it’s tree lined streets and leafy plaza’s, the town has a relaxed ambiance and is a pleasant place to spend time between boat journeys. It’s also an ideal launchpad for Eco-tourism activities in the surrounding rainforest, where you’ll find various Eco-lodges.

The Colombians are very hospitality-savvy, so it’s no surprise that Leticia is the place to stay when in the Tres Fronteras region. You’ll find lots of decent accommodation and dining options in town and lots of service companies catering to travelers. You’ll probably only venture across to ‘edgy’ Tabatinga to take a boat to Manaus.

Formalities

When arriving or departing Colombia, you will need to complete formalities at the Colombian Immigration office, which is located at the airport (3 km north of town).

Sightseeing

Around Town

While there are no real sights in Leticia, the town is a nice place to spend some time relaxing. Parque Santander and Parque Orellana are two municipal parks where you can relax and watch the world go by.

One interesting phenomenon that takes place each evening at sunset is the arrival at Parque Santander of thousands of parrots who roost in the trees for the night. The noise can be deafening.

Marasha Nature Reserve

I spent time at the Marasha Nature Reserve which is an Eco-lodge located on the Peruvian side of the river (you can visit without getting stamped into Peru but must carry your passport) in the tiny settlement of Puerto Alegria.

To access the lodge, you first travel upriver from Leticia to Puerto Alegria where you disembark and, depending on the season either walk (dry season) or canoe (wet season) to the lodge. I traveled during the wet season, so I got to sit back and relax while my Indigenous guide rowed myself and one other guest in a dug-out canoe through a flooded jungle forest. Along the way we passed Howler monkeys swinging through the trees, saw Caiman basking in the sun, Iguana’s and many different types of birds. After an hour of paddling, the jungle safari sadly ended as we reached the lodge, which is perched in a picturesque spot on the banks of a small lake.

While at the lodge you can fish for Piranha from the deck, feed giant Arapaima fish (one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world), make friends with the resident Macaws  and Toucans or spot the local Caiman who lurks around the deck (swimming is not recommended here!)

In the evening you have the opportunity to accompany the Indigenous guide for some Caiman spotting. We found several babies on our night safari and – while very cute – they still pack a nasty bite. Kayaks are also available and hiking trails around the lodge allow you to get close and personal with the wildlife.

Spending time at the Marasha Nature Reserve was one of the highlights of my meander down the Amazon River.

Accommodation

There are plenty of accommodation options in Leticia from hotels to guest houses, hostels and jungle lodges. Prices are very reasonable with a decent B&B charging US$20 per night (including breakfast).

Booking.com currently has 52 properties listed.

Eating Out

Leticia offers, by far, the best dining options in the Tres Fronteras area. The restaurants in town offer up a fusion of cuisines, blending Colombian, Brazilian and Peruvian influences.

If you wish to sample Colombian cuisine (one of the best in South America), the Tierras Amazonicas on Calle 8 is a standout choice. Also nearby on Calle 8 is El Cielo Fusion Amazonica, which as the name suggests, specialises in fusion cuisine using local Amazonian produce.

Getting There/ Away

Air

Flights into isolated Leticia arrive at Alfredo Vásquez Cobo International Airport (IATA: LET) which is located 3 kilometres north of downtown.

The following airlines provide regular services to/from Leticia:

Boat 

Being the only Colombian town on the Amazon River, no long distance boats call at Leticia. If traveling to Peru, you’ll need to take a boat from Santa Rosa and if traveling to Brazil you’ll need to take a boat from Tabatinga.

Road

You can easily walk across the border between Colombia and Brazil by following the Avenida da Amizade – or you can take one of the many taxis and moto-taxis which cross the border freely.

Getting Around

Boat

Water taxis connect Leticia with the Peruvian settlement of Santa Rosa from where you can board boats to Iquitos, Peru.

Road

There are plenty of regular taxis and motorbike taxis on the streets of Leticia.

 

You might also like…

Travel Guide: Macapá to Manaus via the Guiana’s & Venezuela

A travel guide detailing an overland meander from Macapá to Manaus via French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela 

Further Reading

Other travel reports from the region include:

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About taste2travel.com

Author: Darren McLean

Owner of taste2travel.com – an avid traveler, photographer, travel writer and adventurer.

I hope you enjoy reading my content.

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Amazon River Travel Guide - Part 1
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Amazon River Travel Guide - Part 1
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Detailing a 4,334 kilometre (2,693 mile) meander along the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru to the Atlantic Ocean. 
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www.taste2travel.com
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Darren McLean

Owner of taste2travel.com - an avid traveler, photographer, travel writer and adventurer.

I hope you enjoy reading my content.

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