The Amazon is a must-see destination during your roundtrip Colombia. A place so different from the rest of the country. Far away from big cities, white beaches and coffee fincas. A place that will complete your introduction to beautiful Colombia. How do you get to the Amazon? What is there to do and see in the rainforest? Where do you stay during your journey through the jungle? What costs should you think about? What is the best travel time and how many days do you need? With what do you pack your bags? In this article you will find a comprehensive mini-guide to Amazonas Colombia. For a special journey into the lungs of the earth.
The Amazon region of Colombia explained
When we talk about the Amazon, we often think of the department of Amazonas in southern Colombia. Bordering Brazil and Peru. But exactly that department is actually only a small piece of the entire Amazon in Colombia.
How about that?
At 6.7 million km², the Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest on Earth. This Amazon region is spread over nine countries, namely Brazil (60%), Peru (13%), Colombia (9%), Venezuela (5%), Bolivia (5%), Guyana (3%), Suriname (2%), Ecuador (1.5%) and French Guiana (1.5%). More than half of all remaining rainforest on earth is in the Amazon region.
The 9% of the Amazon region in Colombia is about to 483 119 km² big, almost 40% of Colombia’s entire area. In this 40% you find 1,143,631 people, 10 national parks and 5 major rivers. Including the huge Amazon River.
The total area of the Colombian Amazon is divided into as many as 10 departments: Amazonas (of which Leticia is the capital), Caquetá, Cauca, Guainía, Guaviare, Meta, Nariño, Putumayo, Vaupés and Vichada. In this you will also find several larger cities, of which Leticia, San Jose de Guaviare and Mocoa are perhaps the best known.
The Amazon is more than Leticia and Puerto Nariño
This also means that there is much more to see in the Amazon than just the southernmost tip, the department of Amazonas, where we have been and what most travelers think is the Amazon.
In this article, I talk about the southernmost tip of the Colombian Amazon, Amazonas, where you can only get by plane. San Jose de Guaviare and Caño Cristales are also best and safest reached by plane, but other parts of the Amazon can be visited by bus.
Would you also like to visit San Jose de Guaviare and Caño Cristales?
The Amazon region of Colombia is interconnected; for example, our guide walked several times on foot from San Martin de Amacayacu to Putumayo. A 5-day trek through the jungle. On foot and by boat you will get a long way. However, this is not for tourists. Want to visit both Amazonas, San Jose de Guaviare and Caño Cristales? Then you have to travel to Bogotá three times to reach your destination from there.
The best travel time for the Amazon
The Amazon on the Leticia side has roughly 2 seasons: rainy season and dry season. The rainy season runs from November to April/May; between May and November is the dry season. The average temperature is around 25 degrees. During the day in the full sun, it can easily feel like more than 30 degrees, while in the jungle at night you will need a thicker blanket to stay warm.
I visited the Amazon during the end of the dry season. The rainy season, however, looks completely different in the rainforest. A world of difference you might say.
In fact, the water in the Amazon River rises about 10 meters during the rainy season. Yes you read it correctly, 10 meters. That means that where you walk during the dry season, you have to use a boat during the rainy season. It also means that a lot of trees in the rainforest are under water.
So you can imagine that the Amazon looks completely different between those two seasons. I am also quite curious about that rainy season and actually want to go back to experience it.
The best travel time is year-round
Because both seasons are unique and give a different experience, the best time to travel to the Amazon is year-round. Or depending on what your preference is.
- In the rainy season, there are more mosquitoes and therefore more Malaria and Yellow Fever;
- Because you are closer to the tops of the trees during the rainy season (after all, you are 10 meters higher), you are more likely to spot monkeys or other large animals in the trees;
- Snakes are also more likely to show up when it’s a bit more humid, so you’re more likely to see large snakes during the rainy season;
- Because the water is higher between November and April, dolphins have more space and you are more likely to spot gray and pink dolphins, especially in the smaller lakes;
- Naturally, it also rains more during the rainy season, but often these are heavy showers in the afternoon without raining all day;
- As a result, the ground you walk on is also a lot muddier, but because of the boots you have to wear anyway, you won’t be bothered much by that;
- By the way, it can also rain in the dry season, I also had to put on and take off my rain gear several times.
In short, there is no defined best travel time for the Amazon rainforest. Think for yourself whether you have a preference to see the Amazon at high tide or low tide. Or just pick the time when you go to Colombia.
Amazonas Colombia | What to see and do?
A lot! And much more than I did. Here is an overview:
If you go to the Amazonas department, you always start in Leticia first. Most travelers don’t stay there and that wasn’t our plan, but since we missed the boat due to a delay in our flight, we had to stay a night. Not a punishment, because in Leticia there are quite interesting things to see and do. Not to mention the local cuisine.
- Visit the interesting Ethnographic Museum in Leticia. Beautifully set up. You will learn all about the rainforest and the indigenous tribes that live there.
- Go to Parque Santander at 5 in the evening to admire the thousands of parakeets that perch in the trees. An amazing experience you don’t want to miss.
- Also visit the park during the day, a green oasis in the middle of the city.
- If you have time, you can take a few hours by boat from Leticia to both Peru and Brazil in a day.
- And then that local cuisine I mentioned…. If you dare, you can eat Mojojoy here, a local dish of living or roasted worms. Not little ones, but huge worms of over 5 centimeters. The boyfriend was tough enough to try one, here listen to his experience.
Read in this article all about Leticia and how to get to the sights.
Night hike through the jungle
Still, the most exciting part of the rainforest: walking through it when it’s completely dark. But no matter how scary it is, this is definitely a must do. We saw tarantulas and unusual frogs. Our nocturnal adventure through the Amazon you can read back and watch by clicking on the link.
Puerto Nariño: A real Amazonian village
A world without cars and motorcycles, what a relief. Literally. Puerto Nariño is the second largest village in the Colombian rainforest in the Amazonas department after Leticia and must be seen. Magnificent views of the Amazon, good food, beautiful museums and a first encounter with the indigenous tribe Tikuna. So here you can see their wooden houses painted with murals.
From Puerto Nariño, you can take a boat to Lake Tarapoto to see dolphins and admire the huge curious walking tree. Even from the port in Puerto Nariño, by the way, you can spot dolphins, amazing!
Read all about Puerto Nariño here.
Visit monkey sanctuary Maikuchiga
Unfortunately, monkeys are still hunted in the Amazon. In addition, monkeys are also used in Colombia to entertain tourists and are a popular pet for locals. All practices that threaten monkeys with extinction and do not make their lives any comfortable.
To protect both the monkeys and the rainforest they live in, shelter Maikuchiga was established. Here they take in monkeys that have been rescued as pets or tourist toys. Maikuchiga is a quiet place where the monkeys live completely free and are well cared for. Highly recommended.
You can also volunteer with animals, do an internship or a doctorate. Interesting for people studying to be biologists or veterinarians.
Read all about monkey sanctuary Maikuchiga.
Murals in Mocagua
To get to the monkey sanctuary, you have to pass through the indigenous village of Mocagua. Here the Tikuna tribe lives in wooden houses with beautiful murals. These all have a meaning. During a street-art tour they can tell you all about it.
We did not do this tour, but admired the murals while walking to the monkeys.
Piranha fishing and eating
The Amazon River is full of dolphins, exotic fish and piranhas. Consequently, the piranha is a popular fish to eat. During your visit you will go fishing in the river and if you are lucky you will catch a piranha. We were not that lucky, but José, the owner of Casa Gregorio where we stayed, caught one. Which was fresh on the plate in the evening. I am a vegetarian, but they told me it is a particularly delicious fish.
Meet the indigenous tribe of Tikuna
The indigenous Tikuna tribe lives scattered throughout the Amazon in both Brazil, Peru and Colombia. It is a large indigenous tribe that knows the rainforest like no other. The Tikuna live mainly from agriculture, handicrafts, hunting and nowadays tourism.
In the village of San Martin de Amacayacu, you can meet the Tikuna. In the middle of the village is Casa Gregorio, the hotel where we stayed (see below). With a guide, you will take a walk through the village and learn all about the Tikuna and their way of life. Amazing to see.
Take a walk through the rainforest
In addition to a night hike, of course, you must have seen the rainforest during the day. Discover unusual insects, plant species you never saw before, huge trees and lianas, and if you’re lucky you’ll also see larger animals like a Toucan or monkeys. On the way to where you enter the jungle you will also encounter dolphins. An Amazon excursion not to be missed!
How much time do you need for the Amazon?
For Leticia, Puerto Nariño and surroundings, I would definitely set aside 5 days, including travel. In fact, the round trip already takes you a day, so with 5 days you’ll be 3 days and 4 nights really in the Amazon. That’s a good introduction. However, there is still more to see and do than we did, so you could easily add another 1 or 2 days.
Less than 5 days is almost not worth it. Suppose you go for 3 days, then you are traveling for 2 days and then you have 1 day to explore that part of the Amazon.
So my advice is to set aside at least 5 days for Amazonas Colombia.
How do you arrange your trip to the Amazon?
The best and easiest way is to book your trip at a hotel where all excursions are included. Where they will help you to get into the rainforest.
We arranged our trip at Casa Gregorio. Run by a Dutch woman with her Colombian husband and staying in an indigenous village in the jungle. An amazing experience I can tell you. Click on the link for all the information you need.
In the Amazon, you can do almost nothing yourself; you need a guide and a boat for everything. Therefore, it is advisable to arrange this well in advance, to not lose any time searching. This way you can get as much out of your Amazon trip as possible and see a lot.
If you do want to go on your own keep in mind that there is no Internet in the Amazon. So it is wise to have a hotel reservation before boarding the boat in Leticia. After this moment, almost no form of communication is possible.
Transportation in and to Amazonas Colombia
Flights to Leticia
To get to Leticia, there is only one option: by plane. There is not much choice. Not in terms of airlines, nor in departure times. You can choose a flight with Avianca or Latam. We flew with Latam.
An important thing to keep in mind is that if you want to catch the last boat of the day, at 2PM, you will need to land in Leticia at least an hour in advance. At the time of writing, this is only possible with Latam. With us, Latam was delayed and we still missed the boat, but if it is not delayed you should be able to catch the boat. If you fly with Avianca, you have to spend the night in Leticia before you can travel on to Puerto Nariño.
Transportation in the Amazon
In Leticia, get around on foot or by motorcycle cab. Once you leave Leticia by boat, however, that’s the end of roads. After Leticia, the only option of transportation is by boat or by walking if you are anywhere on land.
From Leticia to Puerto Nariño and back
Daily, the Express boat goes from Leticia to Puerto Nariño. This one takes 2 hours and stops at various places to drop off or pick up people. This also means that you don’t necessarily have to go to Puerto Nariño, but you can get off somewhere else.
The first boat leaves at 7AM, the last at 2PM. The same goes for the return trip to Leticia from Puerto Nariño. In both cases, you need to be at the boat about 30 minutes in advance.
Don’t expect a big ship, this is just a small boat. Therefore, it is best to book in advance so that you can be sure of a spot and not accidentally have to stay in Leticia anyway. If you arrange your stay with Casa Gregorio they will reserve your boat trip.
The boat costs 32,000 pesos per person per trip. So the roundtrip per person 64,000 pesos (2021).
You will find the Express Boat towards Puerto Nariño in the port of Leticia, at the end of calle 8. In the rainy season the boats leave right there, but in the dry season you have to walk about 10 minutes across bridges and through the mud on Fantasy Island to get to the boat. Do you have a lot of suitcases? Then ask someone to lift your bags to the boat for a few thousand pesos.
How much does a trip to the Colombian Amazon cost?
The Amazon is not the cheapest destination in Colombia. First of all, because you have to fly back and forth from and to Bogotá. You can’t take a cheap bus or cab.
In addition, you cannot just explore the rainforest on your own, so you must either arrange a hotel that includes all excursions (all in) or book guided excursions locally. In any way, you need a guide to see the Amazon. And that, too, costs money.
Here is our cost breakdown for 2 people:
- Airfare return Bogotá – Leticia: 810,400 pesos for 2 people;
- Tourist tax on arrival in Leticia: 35,000 pesos per person;
- Cab from airport to Express boat/hotel and back: 10,000 pesos per ride, 20,000 pesos round trip;
- 1 Night in Casa Hotel Maüne in Leticia: 70,000 pesos;
- Boat trip Leticia – Puerto Nariño round trip: 32,000 pesos per person per trip, 64,000 per person total;
- 4 Nights at Casa Gregorio (includes all food and drinks, guide, transportation and excursions): 2,700,000 pesos for 2 people.
In total, it comes to 3,798,400 pesos (€855, November 2021) for 2 people.
This cost does depend on a number of things, it can be cheaper!
- Buy airline tickets without checked baggage, so travel with only carry-on luggage. So saves 100 euros.
- Find an even cheaper hotel in Leticia, there are also hostels for 50,000 pesos a night.
- We chose the largest room with king size bed in Casa Gregorio, which is the most expensive. A smaller room is cheaper.
- It depends on the period in which you travel: high season is more expensive than low season.
- And of how many days you stay.
- If you are not delayed it will save you an overnight stay in Leticia.
So it can be done for about 200 to 300 euros cheaper.
To consider when traveling to the rainforest
There is no Internet
In the Amazon, Internet is scarse. In Leticia, chances are you can find some Wifi in a hotel or restaurant for sending a message, but don’t expect more. After Leticia, there is no more Internet. As I mentioned earlier, this is a good reason to arrange everything in advance, since that means you can’t just look up on Google Maps where there is a good hotel. You can download maps.me on your phone. Communicating with your phone won’t work after Leticia either. It is best to have everything already arranged in Bogotá.
Also inform your family that you will be offline for 5 days in the Amazon.
The Amazon is no place for digital nomads
Perhaps unnecessary to mention, but since many entrepreneurs are traveling the world as digital nomads these days, it’s useful to know. There is no Wifi in the Amazon so you can’t work either. Besides Wifi, electricity is also scarse, so working on your laptop all day becomes difficult.
Although I am not a digital nomad, I do often take my laptop with me when I travel. After all, I do work location independent, and occasionally while traveling I work on my business. To the Amazon rainforest, however, I left without a laptop. Wonderful to be really offline for a while.
There are no ATMs in the rainforest
Which of course makes perfect sense, but if you don’t think about this beforehand you will have a little problem 🙂 The last place where you can withdraw money is Leticia. However, this only applies if you have time to do so. And you don’t have that time if you board the boat directly from the plane.
Therefore, make sure you already gather in Bogotá all the money you need for in the Amazon. This involves a few million pesos or even more. A huge chunk of money, especially in Colombia. Keep your money in a safe place and, above all, don’t show anyone that you have that much money on you. For example, keep 100,000 pesos in your pocket to pay for things like the cab and store the rest well.
Here are more tips for withdrawing money and keeping it safe in Colombia.
In the Amazon, you can buy almost nothing
Or well, after Leticia. And In Leticia you won’t find everything, either. In short: you need to bring everything you need. Literally. Because while you could buy something basic in Puerto Nariño, there are almost no stores in San Martin de Amacayacu. Only basic food and things like a toothbrush can be bought here.
I would personally pack your suitcase as lightly as possible or even travel only with carry-on luggage. After all, you don’t need much either. The basics like shampoo, your toothbrush, toothpaste, a hairbrush, clothes, things like that. And your daily medication. What else you need specifically for the Amazon you will read below.
What vaccinations do you need and what to bring with you to the Amazon?
The Amazon is an area of Yellow Fever and malaria. Therefore, a Yellow Fever vaccination is required. You will not be checked for it, but for your own health it is recommended. In addition, it is best to take a malaria emergency kit with you; ask for this in your home county when you go to get your vaccination.
Having good health insurance for travel is also necessary, in case you get sick in the Amazon.
What do you put in your suitcase?
As mentioned earlier, you can buy almost nothing in the Amazon, so you have to bring everything with you. In addition to the basics, this is recommended:
- A cap or hat against the sun;
- Your sunglasses;
- Long pants that dry quickly;
- Long-sleeved shirts, useful against the sun and insects;
- Plenty of these shirts to alternate;
- Your swim-wear and flip-flops or sandals;
- A good flashlight with extra batteries (your phone won’t do);
- Anti-mosquito cream or spray (you really need it);
- Sunscreen factor 50;
- A refillable water bottle;
- A waterproof bag for your camera and phone, this one for example;
- Long socks for in the boots so they won’t chafe.
What medication do you take to the Amazon?
First and foremost, your personal daily medication. Don’t forget, because this is really not for sale in the rainforest. In addition, the following medications are also useful to bring:
- Oral Hydration Solution;
- Antihistamine against allergy or mosquito bites (you can buy for an euro at any drugstore in Colombia, ask for Cetirizina);
- Diarrhea inhibitors;
- Band-aids, also for blisters;
What is needed but what you get at Casa Gregorio
High boots for jungle hikes, Casa Gregorio has a lot. These are essential, but so you don’t need to bring your own. They also have rain gear for you. In addition, a mosquito net is handy, but this too is already hanging above your bed for you.
How does the Amazon fit into your roundtrip Colombia?
The Amazon is tremendously remote, which is a common reason for skipping this region. After all, it takes time (about 5 days) and money (see above) and certainly many budget travelers have neither of that. Still, the Amazon can be very well incorporated into your roundtrip Colombia. After all, there is only 1 way to get to Leticia: from Bogotá.
That means visiting the Amazon either first after a few days in Bogotá, or last before your return trip from Bogotá to your next destination. This way, the Amazonas will not affect the rest of your itinerary through Colombia, you just need to take some extra time for it.
The same is true if you want to visit San José de Guaviare or Caño Cristales. Book a flight upon arrival or just before departure so you don’t have to go back to Bogotá especially for that.
After your journey through the Amazon, do you have a quick flight upon returning to Bogotá? Going home or to your next destination? Then it may be convenient to stay at a hotel close to the airport in Bogotá.
Here you will find 16 travel routes Colombia to get inspiration for your roundtrip. From the Amazon, basically anything is possible; after all, you’ll return to Bogotá.
Is the Colombian Amazon on your bucket list?
Click here to learn more about traveling to the Amazon in Colombia!
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