Leticia, Colombia Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in Colombia
Leticia is Colombia’s exotic gateway to the Amazon Rainforest, and its southernmost tip. The city itself, shares invisible borders with Santa Rosa, Peru and Tabatinga, Brazil. Therefore, no passport stamp is needed for a day trip, or overnight stay into either of the adjoining countries. However, at this point Leticia still triumphs its neighbours in terms of tourism infrastructure. So most visitors find themselves arranging tours, and staying in Leticia prior to tours. Nevertheless, this trifecta results in a dynamic mosaic of cultures, food, and history, among the rich wilderness of the world’s largest rainforest.
What to do
Monkey Island is a short boat ride from the main dock in Leticia. The island itself is covered with friendly squirrel monkeys who will be more than happy to pose for photos with you, as long as you give them some banana! You can get there by arranging a day trip with a tour company, or by taking taxi boat.
Reserva Natural Tanimboca is somewhat of an adventure park on the outskirts of Leticia. Most outings start with a hike through the rainforest, then a trip into the canopy for some thrilling ziplining. If a day-trip is not enough, they also offer tree houses for nightly rentals.
Puerto Narino, Colombia is a charming town about a two-hour boat shuttle from Leticia. The town does not permit motorized vehicles, which nicely complements the peaceful atmosphere.
Aguas de Aguila is an amazing hostel located a 20-minute walk from the main town of Puerto Narino, on the top of a hill overlooking the mighty Amazon. Here squirrel monkeys come to play, bouncing on and off your head and shoulders, parrots fly overhead, and dolphins can be seen each evening breaching in the river out front. There is no restaurant on site, only a communal kitchen, so remember to bring groceries. They are cheaper in Leticia then Puerto Narino.
Parque Santander in Leticia is famous for the parakeets that come to roost in the safety of the park trees each evening. They return from the jungle by the hundreds which results in the usually quiet park erupting with bird song, and vendors. For a better view of the speculate cross the street to the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de La Paz and climb the church tower. Make sure your there in time for a sunset view that extends to the river but remember there is a 15-minute time limit at the top.
Booking a tour is highly recommended. Most visitors pre-book a tour, or arrange one once they arrive. The tours typically last a few days and take visitors into the thicket of the Amazon, where they stay in guest houses or hang a hammock in the wilderness. Keep in mind that most accommodations are extremely basic even when staying in the guest houses. The tour will likely include some of the above attractions, pink dolphin watching, piranha fishing, caiman spotting, and night hikes into the rainforest.
The real advantage of booking a tour is the tour guide. The Amazon has a rich culture, that can only be truly discovered with the help of a guide. He or she can explain the medical properties of various planets, water cycles of the river, tribal lore and various other information that would otherwise go overlooked.
Keep in mind English is highly undeveloped in this region. For a large majority of inhabitants Spanish is their second language, with their tribal village language being their native language.
Unfortunately, in some cases, guides are not truly bilingual and instead have only memorized a number of informative phrases in English. This can make asking questions quite difficult.
Tomacahe Guesthouse Tours, is a reputable tour company with customizable trips. David, one of the tour guides, speaks English perfectly. However, what makes Tomacahe Guesthouse really special is their close relationship with the tiny indigenous village of Mocagua, and the close by Monkey Orphanage.
Dining + Drinks:
Legends Bar and Grill serves up some of the best BBQ in Colombia in an open air setting. It is also a great place to have a couple of ice-cold beers, and soak in their unreal wall art.
Santa Rosa is famed for its waterfront restaurants. Share a heaping plate of local fresh water ceviche with a friend.
You cannot leave the Amazon without first trying Acai. The best is served up at Acai Amazonas in Tabatinga. Traditionally it is eaten with tapioca but if that is not your style than you can choose from a long list of other goodies including candies, fruit, and chocolate.
Mosh is adjacent to Parque Santander and is one of Leticia’s most-loved nightlife options. Friday or Saturday the place is packed.
The La Comera Sunday night show dance is absolutely fantastic. It is a short rickshaw ride to the outskirts of Tabatinga from the center of Leticia. Men and women don fanciful costumes of sequin and feathers, and perform traditional and modern dance numbers. Arrive before 5pm for free admission into the event, and grab a Caiprinha to enjoy with the show.
Tierras Amazonicas comes recommended by most guide books for the area, and with good reason. It is alittle on the pricey side, but makes up for it with consistent quality and service, fun decor, and tasty traditional dishes. Try the Pirarucu!
The street food is great too
Language: Conversational Spanish would be very beneficial for a trip to this region however it is not essential. The inhabitants of Santa Rosa, and Leticia largely speak Spanish however, the inhabitants of Tabatinga speak Portuguese or a combination of Spanish and Portuguese.
Currency: Each country has their own respective currency; however, they can be used pretty much interchangeably in the tri-region area.
Ensure you bring extra cash with you on your tours into the rainforest in the case you would like to buy souvenirs while away.
Puerto Narino does not have an ATM.
The Tri-Border Region was once largely dominated by the FARC during Colombia’s infamous drug days. However, today it is a relatively safe place to visit due to the emergence of Colombian armed forces to the area.
Don’t be afraid to do a little haggling! Enjoy!
It is only possible to reach Leticia by boat or airplane, which gives the city an island feel.
Avianca, and LATAM run daily flights from Bogota. Ensure you request a window seat to get glimpse of the vast Amazon Rainforest below!
Viva Colombia, Colombia’s budget airline, used to run flights from Bogota every second day but discontinued services in early 2017.
Cargo boats transport guests from Manaus, Brazil to Leticia and Leticia to Iquitos, Peru and beyond. Shabby private cabins can be purchased for an additional charge but most people sling up a hammock to travel like the locals.
Known as the tri-border region Leticia, Colombia borders Peru and Brazil.
Santa Rosa, Peru is a short boat ride from Leticia while Tabatinga, Brazil is a short walk from town center to town center. Many inhabitants live and work in their neighbouring countries.