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The tourism capital of the Colombian Amazon, Leticia is the main city of Amazonas department and sits on the triple-border of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. It’s a relatively large and bustling city and is the base for many excellent tours of the surrounding Amazon jungle. So here are the top 10 things to see and do in (and around) Leticia.
Located just outside Leticia on the northbound road, Mundo Amazonico is a small natural reserve dedicated to preserving the plants and trees of the jungle and offers an excellent introduction to the jungle you are about to head out into and explore. With over 700 species of flora, and several different guided tours available, Mundo Amazonico is probably the best day-trip from Leticia.
There are some fascinating and unique traditional dishes in the Colombian Amazon region, and El Cielo is the place to enjoy some of the best of these. With a menu that includes mini-pizzas made with yucca flour, pirarucu – a local fish that is one of the largest freshwater fish on earth – and a spicy, yucca-based sauce called tucupi, El Cielo is the perfect place to experience the ingredients of the Amazon.
The Isla de los Micos is a large river island with a natural reserve on it. It’s also home to over 5,000 squirrel monkeys, many of which have become remarkably relaxed around humans. If you want to come face-to-face with wild monkeys, and snap some photos as they pose on your head and hands eating bananas, safe in the knowledge that these animals aren’t living in captivity or being exploited, then Monkey Island is a good day-trip from Leticia.
Puerto Narino is a lovely little Indigenous village located around 2 hours north of Leticia by boat and is an extremely popular place to get away from the city for a few days and enjoy some peace and quiet. It’s also the staging point for a visit to Tarapoto Lake, a RAMSAR wetland area, and the best place in the region to see wild pink river dolphins.
Although it’s not an ‘official’ challenge or anything, the ‘three countries, three meals’ challenge is still a fun thing to experience. As Leticia is located on the triple-border of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, it’s possible to wake up in Leticia, eat breakfast, take a boat across the river to Peru, grab some lunch, before heading back and enjoying your evening meal in Brazil. Three countries, one day, three meals: there aren’t many places where you can do that!
The Victoria Regia (now known as Victoria Amazonica) water lilies are one of the Amazon’s most enduringly iconic plants: giant floating lilies with a diameter of up to three metres and leaves strong enough to support the weight of a human baby, they are even more impressive to look at as they are to read about. About 15-minutes by boat from Leticia is this small natural reserve, where you can see the giant plants for yourself (but no trying to stand on them!).
Leticia’s main park is located right alongside the mighty Amazon River and is a pretty and peaceful spot to visit. However, it’s at dusk when it comes alive, as literally thousands of parakeets converge on the trees from the surrounding forests to roost. The noise and chaos is impressive (but take an umbrella for all the droppings!), and even if you’re not that interested in birds, there’s no denying that it’s worthwhile to experience.
The location of Leticia (the most southerly point in Colombia, in the heart of the Amazon, and on the border of two other nations), makes it an amazing spot to add new species on your Colombia bird list – range-restricted species like the Orange-headed Tanager, and Band-tailed and Casqued Oropendolas can all be seen in and around the city, while any day-trip will reveal classic jungle species like toucans, parrots, and herons.
There aren’t too many museums in Leticia, but this small spot is easily the best of the (limited) bunch. There are many distinct and unique Indigenous cultures living in the Colombian Amazon, and this museum offers an informative and interesting introduction to them through exhibits like musical instruments, weapons, and ceremonial costumes.
Leticia, located on the main trunk of the Amazon River, has been a transport hub for river travel for many years now, and so it remains. It’s possible to travel on to Manaus in Brazil or Iquitos in Peru by both fast- and slow-boat. Iquitos is much closer, but the five- or six-day slow boat to Manaus – sleeping in hammocks on board – is a truly unique travel experience and one that is well-worth considering.