Colombia’s Amazon region makes up a vast percentage of the country. Almost a third of Colombia is made up of jungle regions, and the south of Colombia is crisscrossed by some of the most important rivers of Amazonia: the Putumayo, Caqueta, Orinoco, Apaporis, and, of course, the mighty Amazon itself. Visiting the Colombian Amazon is a rewarding experience, but there are some things you should be aware of before you go.
The vast amounts of rain that fall on the Amazon for around half of every year can play a huge part in your travel experience there. Both seasons – the wet season is approximately January to June, and dry is usually the other half of the year – offer unique and amazing experiences but the nature of travel changes a lot. In wet season you will see fewer animals as they retreat to more distant, dry forest, but the wet season also offers the unique experience of kayaking through the treetops of flooded forests.
Regardless of the season that you travel, the Amazon is home to plenty of bugs that love nothing more than to give you a good biting! While it is annoyingly inevitable that some mosquitos and flies will manage to get a bite in, it’s possible to limit the annoyance with good bug spray (try for something natural) and even mosquito-proof clothing (most outdoor shops sell these products). And make sure to check that your camp or hotel has mosquito nets.
Leticia, the triple-border city on the frontier of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, is generally acknowledged as the Amazon tourism destination in Colombia, but there’s a lot more to Colombia’s Amazon than just this Amazon River city. Guaviare region offers amazing nature and Indigenous cultures, birders will go crazy for Vaupes department, while Putumayo and Caqueta regions have stunning waterfall hikes and rafting trips.
Following on from the previous point, make sure to read up on the various Amazon destinations in Colombia before you book any plane tickets – while Leticia has some well-established tourism to jungle lodges, those looking for a more unique and off-the-beaten-track experience may want to do some more research, as there are some incredible and barely-known places to discover in Colombia’s huge jungle region.
Be aware: Colombia may have some of the most beautiful and virgin Amazon rainforest there is, but compared to neighbouring countries like Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil, tourism is relatively underdeveloped. You will have some amazing experiences, but you may not find the luxury lodges, multiple tour operators, and traveller scene that you will in places like Iquitos and Manaus.
There’s a common misconception that to visit Colombia’s Amazon region, you have to fly. However, there are some wonderful jungle regions that can be reached by bus or boat. The cave paintings and red rivers of Guaviare are less than eight hours by bus from Bogota, while Mocoa and Florencia are close to the Andes region and are gateways to the Amazon.
If there’s one thing that the Amazon has, it’s amazing wildlife. And stunning sunsets and sunrises. And vast rivers and jungle. OK, so the Colombian Amazon has a lot of things! All the more reason not to forget a good camera to capture all the unique sights you’ll see, and some binoculars for spotting all those toucans, sloths, monkeys, and snakes.