Florencia is the capital city of the southern Colombian department of Caquetá and was long considered too unsafe for tourists to visit due to its central role in the Colombian conflict. However, the recent peace agreements with the FARC have opened up much of the region to tourism, and people are now waking up to Florencia’s enviable mix of Amazon jungle, Andean mountains, and Indigenous cultures. Read on to discover the very best things to see and do in and around Florencia…
This beautiful natural reserve is about half an hour from Florencia near the small town of Montanita and is the perfect place to spend a day if you’re a nature-lover. The forests and caves are amazing places for wildlife spotting and exploring, but the real highlight is the spectacular Cajona Canyon, a narrow river canyon running through the jungle (with naturally occurring oil plastering the walls!). You can trek through the shallow waters for over 2 km (1.24 miles) and it is undoubtedly one of the highlights of a trip to Caquetá.
The Orteguaza River runs down from the nearby Andes before reaching the great vastness of the Amazon basin, where it eventually merges with the mighty Caquetá River (a major tributary of the Amazon). Near to Florencia, though, it’s a fast-flowing, winding river with plenty of excellent rapids – a morning white-water rafting trip with Caquetá Extremo (with some side excursions to petroglyphs and waterfalls) is a must-do activity for any adrenaline junkies visiting Florencia.
The region of Caquetá is home to many distinct Amazonian Indigenous peoples, but you don’t have to go deep into the jungle to learn more about their cultures. Just outside of Florencia is a small Huitoto community, and you can visit their Maloca – a type of spiritual longhouse – to learn about their traditional medicines, rituals, and artisan crafts.
This small museum in the centre of Florencia is the best place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of the region, its myriad Indigenous cultures, and its unique and varied ecosystems. With a particularly interesting display of Indigenous artisan crafts and ritual costumes, it’s especially worth visiting if you have an interest in history, culture, or anthropology.
La Calerá Amazonica is a restaurant and adventure sports centre just outside of Florencia. Not only can you enjoy the best fish dishes you will taste in the region there (order the smoked cachama or pirarucu), but you can follow it up with some zip lining, and river-swimming, before feeding bananas to the wild squirrel monkeys which congregate in the jungle alongside the restaurant every afternoon. It’s like a one-stop-shop for amazing experiences!
The best way to spend a Sunday in Florencia is to board the Marco Polo Ferry from nearby Puerto Arango, and spend a lazy day sailing along the Orteguaza River, relaxing in the onboard hammocks, sipping a cold beer, and watching the forest pass by. Fresh fish lunches are prepared onboard and eaten on the river bank, before the boat stops at the river beach for volleyball and swimming. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy the scenery and have some fun at the same time.
Caquetá’s most famous artist was born in the nearby town of Belen de Los Andaquies, and his sculptures are prominently displayed in public places throughout the department. However, there are three especially notable sculptures located in Florencia itself – the Monument to the Colonizers, Monument to the Goddess of Chairá, and the Manigua Monument – and it’s well worth hopping in a taxi and taking your own Emiro Garzon tour in order to enjoy the master’s wonderful artistic talent for yourself.
The old cloud forest road which connects Caquetá with the neighbouring department of Huila is the place to go if you’re interested in birds! With a high number of interesting and endemic species, including the uncommon Red-bellied Grackle, it’s a birder’s paradise, and can easily be visited with local operator Caquetá Birding. And yes, there are toucans!
These ancient Indigenous petroglyphs are located less than 2 km (1.24 miles) from the heart of downtown Florencia, making them an easy side-trip to enjoy when you have a few hours to spare in the city. Mysterious and ancient carvings of men and animals cover the rocks, offering a fascinating window into the past.
There are many different festivals to choose from throughout the year in Florencia, so you can take your pick. Whether it’s the Colono de Oro Festival in December, the Amazonian Folk Festival in June, or October’s Equine and Bovine Festival, Florencia seems to have a festival to cater to all tastes, so pick one and plan your trip accordingly.