Explore Colombia’s Corner of the Amazon – A Travel Guide to Leticia, Colombia

The Amazon isn’t just in Brazil.  The lesser known town of Leticia, Colombia lies along the Amazon river where the borders of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru meet.  Easily accessible by flight from inside Colombia, Leticia makes for a great place to see the natural wonders of the Amazon river and rainforest, and without the pesky visa requirements of Brazil.  (And, you can still set foot in not only Brazil, but also Peru).  Read on for a complete travel guide to Leticia, Colombia, including why you should visit, how to get there, available accommodations, and what to do in Leticia.

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A man in a canoe on the Amazon River, one of the sights you may see if you visit Leticia.
The all mighty Amazon River is the highlight of a visit to Leticia. Read on for a complete travel guide to Leticia.

Why You Should Visit Leticia

There’s something special about the allure of visiting the Amazon.  Truly one of mother Earth’s natural wonders, the river and the rainforest call to our wild and adventurous side.  A visit is something to be crossed off your travel goals, life goals, bucket, or whatever you want to call it list.

While your first thought of visiting the Amazon probably leads you to Brazil, Leticia is also a wonderful option.  Sporting less crowds and a little less tourist development, it offers a bit more of an authentic experience than the more popular destinations in Brazil.  Also, although Leticia itself is not deep in the forest, you can use it as a starting point to tour deeper, where deforestation has taken less of a toll than farther down the river in Brazil.

Even if you don’t choose to rough it and go on a trek deep into the forest, Leticia makes for a great place to visit and offers the opportunity of experiencing the natural wonder of the Amazon River and rainforest.  If you do decide to visit Leticia, read on.  In this travel guide to Leticia, you will learn how to get there, available accommodations, and what to do in Leticia, Colombia.

How to Get to Leticia

Leticia is isolated from the rest of Colombia, sitting at the very edge of the borders with Brazil and Peru.  In fact, in the early 1930s, the area’s populace, feeling disconnected from the rest of the country, actually defected to Peru, setting off a short conflict between the two countries.

While it remains part of Colombia today, there is still no road through the jungle to Leticia.  However, the Colombian airlines LAN and Avianca both offer daily flights to Leticia out of Bogotá.  While you’ll have to check your dates, flights are usually very reasonably priced.

Check flights on Colombia’s flagship Avianca airline here.

It is also possible to take a boat down the river from Iquitos in Peru to Santa Rosa, just across the river from Leticia, or up the river from Manaus in Brazil to Tabitinga, the town just across the land border from Leticia.  You could also do a flight one way and a boat one way if you’re planning a longer trip that takes you through more than one country.

Susana with a parrot on her arm, one of the answers to the question what to do in Leticia.
Susana making a new friend. Seeing the amazing wildlife is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Leticia.

Accommodations in Leticia

Places to Stay in Leticia

In Leticia proper, there are a range of options of places to stay.  There are backpacker and traveler hostels.  There are standard hotels with all the amenities you would expect elsewhere.  There are even boutique hotels, luxury bungalows, and an all-inclusive Decameron resort.

If you’re looking to get a bit more of the adventurous experience, there are hostels, lodges, and cabins outside of town as well.  While not really in the jungle, jungle, more like the beginning of the beginning of the jungle, it’s still neat to stay out of civilization a bit.  Remember, you are visiting the Amazon.  There are even some places that offer tree houses and a house boat on the Amazon River itself you can stay in!

We chose for one of these options outside of town, and stayed at Omshanty Jungle LodgeLocated about 10 minutes outside of Leticia, Omshanty has 5 small cabins nestled into the forest, each sporting a tiny kitchenette, a porch with hammock, bathroom with running water, and several beds.

I loved Omshanty, although Susana wasn’t crazy about sharing our cabin with a couple lizards and frogs who made themselves our houseguests over the 3 nights we were there.  It is definitely closer to camping than being in a hotel, but for me the thought of being in a regular hotel in the Amazon would have been a letdown.

There are a few little stores and restaurants on the road around Omshanty where you can grab dinner or a couple beers.  To get into town, you can catch a bus that runs routinely to and from Leticia.

The staff at Omshanty were also great, and very helpful.  They set up our river tour and had a few tours of their own they offered.  I wanted to do the night fishing, but the guide said the water was a bit too low to catch much.  Still a night tour is supposedly the best way to get a view of most of the nocturnal wildlife.

Omshanty also offered several tours deeper into the jungle to visit indigenous communities.  Whether through them or someone else, one of these tours would be another option for accommodations.  These will take you to indigenous communities in the jungle and provide you with accommodations.  There are options ranging from a few days to a full week.  If I were to ever go back, this is what I would want to do!

Check out Omshanty on booking.com or hotelscombined.com

Or check out other places to stay in Leticia at booking.com, hotelscombined.com, hotels.com, or expedia.com.

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Places to Eat in Leticia

In town there are a number of restaurants and cafes, all with pretty standard fare at reasonable prices.  Most of them are centered around the main plaza or the streets running in or out of it.  There are a few little bars by the main plaza as well where you can grab a drink.

If you do stay outside of town like we did, there are a handful of restaurants along the road as well that you can try.

What to Do in Leticia

The main attraction here, and the can’t miss activity in Leticia is a cruise on the mighty Amazon River, but there are many other activities you can check out as well.

Amazon River Tour

We took the all day river tour, and while it is pretty touristy, it’s absolutely worth it to see the river.  The tour makes several interesting stops along the way.  We set our tour up with Omshanty, and I imagine just about hotel or hostel should be able to set one up for you.  Or you could just head down to the docks and get on the next departing tour.

Below, I’ll give you a run down on what you can expect on the Amazon River cruise in Leticia.

Stop 1:  Puerto Alegría, Peru

Remember that Leticia sits in a little triangle formed by the borders of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.  The border of Brazil sits on the edge of town, and the river marks the border with Peru.  After taking you out to the middle of the river, the guide should point out where the borders are and stop right where they meet in the river, putting you in three countries at once.

After heading a bit upriver, the first stop of the tour was at the little village of Puerto Alegría on the Peru side of the river.  Here, you will be able to see some examples of the wildlife up close and personal.

We got to see some parrots, a toucan, a porcupine, a couple monkeys, an anaconda, the largest rodent in the world the capybara, and even a small ocelot.  One of the monkeys in particular was especially playful.  As the tour guide should tell you, you should wait to put on sunscreen or bug spray until after this stop as the chemicals in them irritate the animals’ skin.

A hut painted with a welcome to Puerto Alegría, the first stop on a tour of the Amazon River, one of the things to do in Leticia.
Puerto Alegría is the first stop on the Leticia Amazon River Tour, one of the can’t miss things to do in Leticia.

Stop 2:  Indigenous Village

The next stop a bit further upriver was a small indigenous village, I don’t recall the name.  The inhabitants will tell you a bit about their culture, perform a traditional dance, and you will have the opportunity to buy some neat artisan crafts.

The first two stops are definitely very stereotypically, whistle-stop, touristy, but it’s worth keeping in mind that these small communities are extremely isolated and largely neglected by the national governments of Colombia and Peru.  Therefore, your small tips for taking pictures with them or the animals and buying their crafts are helpful.  We got some cool wooden and fish scale magnets, which made terrific gifts for friends and family.

Stop 3:  Isla de los Micos (Monkey Island)

Besides just cruising the river itself, Isla de los Micos was the highlight of our Amazon River tour in LeticiaIt is a bit of a curious place.  Basically, some monkeys got together and took over this island and now require that all humans that pass by on the river pay a toll of bananas.

Ok that’s not what happened.  Apparently at some point, someone left some monkeys on this island and they’ve multiplied but been stranded ever since.  Now it is a tourist attraction.  When you go in, they will give you some bananas.  Then watch out!  The little monkeys will swarm you trying to get to the bananas!

Susana and Adam with monkeys climbing all over them at Isla de los Micos, one of the popular things to do in Leticia.
Be prepared to be swarmed by the banana fiend monkeys at Isla de los Micos, one of the funnest (and funniest) things to see in Leticia.

It really is a riot, and they go hard after those bananas.  They more or less consider people trees and monkeys will be climbing up your legs, over your shoulders, arms, head and even jumping from one person to the next.  Do be careful holding the bananas too tight in your hand, as the monkey might even nibble on your fingers a bit trying to get at them.

Isla de los Micos will undoubtedly give you some laughs and let you get some great pictures with monkeys crawling all over you, making it one of the best things to see near Leticia.

Stop 4:  Puerto Nariño

Around midday, you will arrive to the town of Puerto Nariño, a small, but well developed and pretty little town on the Colombian side of the river.  You’ll be able to have lunch in the restaurant at the center of town (our lunch was included, but you should double check that with your tour).

After lunch, you will have a bit of time to explore.  It’s a bit of a hike up the hill, but at the top of town, there’s a great observation tower you can climb up and get a great view out over the river.  There was also a guide there who gave a short talk on the river, the wildlife, and the community.

View of the town of Puerto Nariño with the Amazon River beyond from atop the observation tower.
View from the observation tower in Puerto Nariño another stop on the Amazon River Tour leaving from Leticia.

Stop 5:  Pink River Dolphin Watching

After the stop at Puerto Nariño, you will head back downriver towards Leticia.  On the way the boat will stop to try to catch some glimpses of the Amazon’s pink river dolphins.  We didn’t have the best luck since the water level was down, and only got a few quick glances.  Hopefully, you’ll have better luck, as they are really pretty.

Stop 6:  Reserva Victoria Regia

At this final stop on the tour, you will get to see giant water lilies.  Originally named the Victoria Regia, for Queen Victoria, the Victoria Amazonica is the largest water lily in the world.  At the Reserva Victoria Regia, there are boardwalks where you can see the giant floating leaves and some of the blooming lilies.

After that, you should head back to Leticia, arriving late in the afternoon.

If you do not want to do the whole tour, you should be able to arrange transportation to all of these places independently from the riverfront in Leticia.  However, unless you’re planning on trekking up river and staying somewhere else, the tour is definitely worth it as a great way to see the river and the main sites near Leticia.

A few giant, floating leaves and one flower of the Victoria Regalia water lily, one of the things to see in Leticia.
The giant leaves and flowers of the water lilies you will see at Reserva Victoria Regia, the last stop along the river tour of the Amazon in Leticia.

Watch the Birds Feed and Explore the Central Plaza

Around sunset each day, flocks of birds fly into Leticia to feed.  There are absolute swarms of them, and the sound of them all is crazy.  It’s a really neat sight, and one of the most interesting things to see in Leticia.  You will want to avoid thinking about that Alfred Hitchcock movie and short story you read in the 7th grade though.

Be sure to be there on time as well, as after about 45 minutes, they clear out as quickly as they arrive.  If you get there early and are willing to pay a few pesos, you may even be able to get a birds eye view (see what I did there) from the church steeple.  After you’ve watched the birds, you can explore the main plaza and the monuments there, then grab some dinner.

Go Canopying

Just up the road from Omshanty, we went canopying at the Reserva Natural Tanimboca (which also has tree houses available to rent).  After the tough rope climb up, you get to walk across a few swinging bridges and take a few zip lines through the tree tops before finally repelling back down to the ground.  It was a fun way to spend a couple hours, and one of the unique things to do in Leticia.

You can see about staying in the treehouses at Tanimboca at booking.com or hotelscombined.com

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Visit Brazil

Since the area is so isolated, the borders are open.  If you head a few blocks from the main plaza in Leticia, you will find the border with Brazil.  Just keep walking a bit further and pass the marker and you will be in Tabatinga, Brazil.

There’s no checkpoint and it is not necessary to have your passport.

Tabatinga, well at least the part along the road just across the border, honestly wasn’t nearly as pretty as Leticia.  However, we stopped at the Casa do Chocolate and a little tourist shop and got some chocolate, a bottle of Brazilian cachaça cane liquor and some other trinkets to take home.  And although we didn’t get the passport stamp, we can say we’ve been to Brazil!

A sign welcoming you to Brazil in Portuguese that marks the crossing from Leticia to Tabatinga, Brazil, one of the things to see in Leticia.
The sign welcoming you to Tabatinga Brazil after walking over the border, another one of the must do activities in Leticia.

Visit Peru

If you did the river tour, then you’ve already technically crossed into Peru.  However, you can also take a short boat ride across the river to Santa Rosa, Peru.  We did just that and had lunch there one day.  Susana had a great chaufa, Peruvian fried rice, and I had some tasty fish.  Plus, we got to sample some Peruvian beer, and again although no passport stamps, we can say we’ve been to Peru.

Catch a boat to Santa Rosa down by the docks.

See the City’s Annual International Festival

We actually got lucky and were there during the Festival de la Confraternidad AmazónicaHeld every year in July, it’s an international festival celebrating the cultures of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.  The festival is meant to promote ties between members of the three nearby communities.

In true Colombian fashion, each of the nearby communities nominates a beauty queen to represent their country.  Each also gets a night devoted to them with performances of traditional dance and music, and the festival culminates in the crowning of the international beauty queen of the Amazon.

A beauty queen on top of a float that looks like a Jaguar during a parade that was part of the annual festival, one of the neat things to do in Leticia.
A parade inaugurates the international festival held every year, one of the more unique things to see in Leticia.

We had no idea the festival was going on, so only got to see the inaugural night and the Brazilian night.  If you’re already planning to go to Leticia round midyear, then try to arrange your visit to coincide with the festival.

Honestly, you really should always check these types of things when you travel, since we not only missed the rest of the festival but also missed the Olympic torch passing through Tabatinga before the 2016 Rio games several days later.

Practical Tips on a Visit to Leticia

  • There are ATMs in Leticia.
  • Be sure to bring insect repellent!  As you would expect in the Amazon, there are tons of mosquitos.  I recommend OFF! Deep Woods or the Stay Off Amazonic you can find in Colombia.
  • Bring comfortable walking shoes, especially if you’re planning to trek into the jungle.
  • Bring sunscreen, you’ll want it when you’re on the river.  I recommend Coppertone Sport, which holds up well while you sweat.
  • Bring along a good flashlight if you plan to stay out of town.  I recommend this great and durable, Maglite Mini.  If you plan to stay in the jungle, this great solar puff lantern is also great.
  • If you choose to go on from Leticia to further into Brazil or Peru than Tabatinga or Santa Rosa, look into if you will need visas and/or the exit stamp out of Colombia.

There you have it, a complete travel guide to Colombia’s outpost on the Amazon, Leticia.  If you do decide to go, I hope you find this guide useful.

Cheers and Happy Exploring!

Ready to plan your trip to Leticia?

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12 thoughts on “Explore Colombia’s Corner of the Amazon – A Travel Guide to Leticia, Colombia

  1. Thank you for this helpful article! We are looking to come down to Colombia mid March. We are making Cartagena our home base. We plan on visiting Leticia for a few days during our trip there. Do you think March is a good time to pay a visit to Leticia?

    1. Hi Kay, that’s great! I hope you enjoy Cartagena, Leticia, and the rest of Colombia. So, based on this page it looks like March has a slightly higher chance of rain but should still be ok. This page actually says it’s an interesting time as the river will be higher, and with some of the jungle flooded, you can go through it on boat. So I’d say there’s a chance you could get a little wet but it’s still a fine time to visit!

  2. I’ve looked at your guides in Leticia and there are so many and a hit or miss. Who did you use for as your tour guide? I’d love to have the same experience as you!

    1. So, for the river tour, we arranged it through where we stayed at Omshanty. However, it seemed pretty standard. I imagine once there, if you go down to the waterfront you could ask (that’s probably cheaper than organizing it before hand too). Or depending on where you stay, I’d imagine they have contacts. The river tour was the only thing we did guided.

    1. Hi Whitney,

      The river tour we went on was arranged through Omshanty where we stayed but seemed pretty standard. It was not in English, although I imagine with some hunting and asking around the docks, you could find one in English. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for the great tips!
    How many days have you been in Leticia? I am planning to do the same you have done, but I am not sure how many days are needed at least..

    1. Hi, we stayed only 3 nights and felt like that was enough to do the river tour, see the town, and do the canopying. I think it would be nice to stay a few more and do a longer trek and spend a night or two elsewhere in the jungle, but to see the basics 3 nights with an afternoon flight out was fine.

  4. We dont have much time in our colombia trip on coming Oct. Its a official trip. We will stay in Bogota only. We like to go to Leticia from Bogota by early morning flight & wish to do the cruise for the day & will catch a night flight to go to Cartagena ( will spend next day in Cartagena & then get back to Bogota to catch up the office work) as We have only 2 days to visit other places in Colombia. Is it possible to do it ?Please suggest! Thanks!

    1. Hi Ray. I think it would bd tough. There are some earlier flights but the river day tours start at 8 and i dont think theres any that put you in before that (but do check your dates, avianca and latam have flights from Bogota). You could try to set up a private tour that started a bit later. Try contacting George of the Jungle Exoeditions, maybe they can set something up. Finally, there are some later flights but they go back to Bogotá not Cartagena. I think youd be best off spending at least one night in Leticia and saving Cartagena for next time.

      Hope that sort of helps. Definitely check out the flights and tours and see if you can make it work. Good luck!

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