Leticia is a city in the Amazonas department of Colombia. It is part of a contiguous settlement that includes Tabatinga in Brazil. On a nearby island in the river is Santa Rosa, which is part of Peru.
Leticia is a small town of over 42,000 inhabitants (2018) on the north bank of the Amazon River. It is the capital of the state of Amazonas, Colombia's southernmost town (4.09° south 69.57° west), and its only major port on the river. It has an elevation of 96 meters above the sea-level and an average temperature of 27 °C (80.6 °F).
As the largest town and the only one with a hospital, secondary schools, an airport, 24/7 electricity (blackouts occur but do not last long) and telephone/internet facilities (very slow!) it serves as the main hub for the whole area.
Regulations require a yellow fever vaccination for entering the area and most neighboring countries may demand one from people coming from that area. Though not everyone is checked, having the proof of vaccination is not only good for stress- and bribe-free travels but actually recommended for health reasons. Vaccination must be done at least 10 days before entering the area; in Colombia it is free for people who travel to high risk areas like Leticia (only WHO-approved places may do this, search the internet for "vacuna fiebre amarilla" and the name of the city you are in for places).
Many people arrive at Leticia and continue to one of the Jungle lodges in the area, where they stay several days. It's also quite possible to do explore the Amazon with day tours (Section "Do").
As this city is nestled in a dense tropical rainforest and there are no highways, it is only possible to enter this spectacular, tropical and adventurous city from Colombia by plane or boat.
Movement between the three countries' border towns is unrestricted; but of course, make sure you're stamped into the correct country if leaving the border area. Try to minimize the number of times you go through immigration: i.e. if entering the region from one country and leaving from another, just get one exit and one entry stamp - even if you visit all three towns in this area. Anything more seems to annoy the immigration officers.
There's a Colombian immigration office at the airport, so if you're flying in and moving on to a different country you may as well get an exit stamp when you land. Don't wait several days between getting your exit stamp and the next entry stamp; however leaving it one day doesn't cause any problems.
There is another immigration office in the port, as you get off the boat from Santa Rosa. As of June 2021 it's closed and going to reopen in one of the upcoming months.
The Brazilian immigration office is at Tabatinga's main avenue, Avenida da Amizade. You need to get exit and entry stamps at the national police station, which closes at noon.
The Peruvian immigration office in Santa Rosa is fairly central and easy to find, just ask someone (roughly: From the boats, follow the path into town, turn right on the main street, after about 100 m it is a building on your left.)
Leticia has direct connections from Bogota and one-stop connections from other Colombian cities. Between Bogota and Leticia there are two daily flights with Avianca (arriving 2:11PM, departing 2:41PM) and LATAM (11:39AM/12:25PM).
On arrival to Leticia's airport, non-Colombian tourists are not separated, however they are directed to a desk in the arrivals hall by an official at the exit and have to pay an entrance fee (Impuesto al turismo). None of the officials may be able to speak English. Entrance fee was COP$35,000 in November 2019 and it's valid for one year. It is only possible to pay in cash and there is no ATM at the airport so make sure you bring enough.
Taxis to the city center are COP$6,000-8,000.
If taking the slow boat buy yourself some fresh water, and treats for the trip. You must bring yourself a hammock and rope to tie it up. Try get on the boat early and secure a spot on the top deck. Also see Voyaging along the Amazon River for more tips on the trip by boat.
Remember to get an exit stamp at the immigration office at Santa Rosa. It's in town, just ask your motoconcho taxi to get you there, they will wait for you and get you to the small boats that get you to Leticia.
Twice a year, when the water level gets very low, the port of Leticia gets shifted towards the Amazon river. You can either walk over the little hill or take a small boat to the new departure gate (for boats to Puerto Narino, Benjamin Constant, etc.)
Mototaxis are abound. In June 2021 it was COP2,000 between the frontier and Parque Santander and between Parque Santander and the port. You can recognize mototaxis by the second helmet they carry. Only some of the drivers wear a t-shirt stating "mototaxi". There are also motocarros (tuk-tuks), covered tricycle-type vehicles in which you're more protected from the elements.
You can rent a bicycle; or a motorcycle in various points around town (COP$50,000 per day, COP$30,000 per day if renting for a week, COP$25,000 for longer rentals - haggle!)
The most common day tour sold by tour agencies all over the town (approx. COP$150,000, 8AM-5PM) visits the following places: - Water lily island (water lilys, parrots, pink dolphin story) - Monkey island - Indigenous tribe (please insert name, very touristic) - Puerto Narino (lunch, walking tour, watch tower) - Tarapoto Lake (pink dolphin watching)
- Ethnographic Museum and Library of the Republic Bank: Carrera 11 # 9 – 43, M-F 8:30AM-6PM, near the heart of the city, it has a small exhibit in English and Spanish to help you understand the differences between cultures and learn some tips you should have in mind if you're visiting an indigenous community. The building has WiFi, air-conditioning, and clean washrooms with toilet paper.
- Puerto Nariño & Tarapoto Lake 3 public boats per day do the route Leticia-Puerto Narino, 8AM, 10AM, 2PM; last return boat is at 3:30PM (not at 4PM as mentioned in several sources); reserve your return ticket in advance or you get stranded in Puerto Narino. Be sure to confirm the times. Once in Puerto Narino, it's easy to hire a boat with guide to continue to Tarapoto Lake.
- Micos Monkey Island A nature reserve that allows you to feed the monkeys. With the scheduled speed boat it's COP$19.000 there and COP$32.000 back (COP$51,000 altogether, June 2021). An employee of the speed boat company said in June 2021 that the reserve is closed, so check whether it reopened.
- Bicycle trip to Tabatinga (Brazil)
- Nighttime Safari
- Bird Watching At sunset, thousands of small parrots fly to Parque Santader to spend the night in the park's trees. If you ask nicely at the church next to the park, they will let you see this spectacle from the church's bell tower. A small donation is required (COP$2,500). The tower also offers a nice view over the city and the Amazon river.
- Kayaking in the Yahuarcaca lakes
- Macuna Jungle Hut Communal large living hut of one of the indigenous tribes
- Flor Lagoon Swimming lagoon with Victoria Lillys, parrots and small bar
- Parque Ecológico Mundo Amazónico This is an Etno-Botanic center to see more than 300 species of plants that only grow in the Amazon, to learn about culture, ecological practices and recycling. It is at Km 7,7 on Leticia -Tarapaca's road. - They offer 4 different guided tours, each lasting about 45 to 60 minutes: Plants, medical plants, culture and aquatic life. These can be booked in various hotels in town and at the entrance, for COP$10,000 each. It is advisable to just book all tours, they will be held in one go. The cultural and medicinal tour offer plenty of opportunities to sit down, the cultural tour allows to try blowtubes and bow and arrow. Buses go there every 30 minutes or so, just tell the bus driver that you want to get off the bus there since it is not a default bus stop. It is probably the most children friendly thing one can do to spark some interest in the ecological aspects of the Amazon, and definitely, since it is a curated garden, one of the safest ways for learning about the ecosystem. There is a small kiosk nearby, but bringing drinks and food is a good idea since the nearby restaurants are only open on Sundays during off-season.
- Acuarios Etuena The first aquarium to display a wide range of native species from the rainforest.
Because of its privileged position as a triple frontier and being very close to a tributary river Yavarí, Leticia can serve as the perfect base for eco-tourism activities as well as for the studies of wildlife and flora in the Amazon region. It can also be the perfect starting point for visiting indigenous tribes such as the Tikunas, Yaguas, Huitotos and Boras in the Amazonas  . On the Yavarí river you can find the Yaguas and Mayorunas.
Close to Leticia you can also find Amacayacu National Park which is on Colombian territory. On the Yavarí River there is also a natural reserve. The ribera peruana is also a zone with virgin tropical forest. Amongst others in the ribera peruana, the Cayaru river can be found.
Most the places can be visited by day tours or can be explored by longer stays. Typical activities include: canopy walks, fishing, kayaking, observation of fauna and flora, night safari, canoping. Be aware that some of the lodges can only reached by walking, porters for luggage are usually availabe. Even the most basic lodges provide mosquito nets and mosquito proof buildings. For jungle lodges you may try:
- Marasha Natural Reserva (30 km upriver from Leticia on the Peruvian side (across from Nazareth, a little before Santa Sofia)), ☏ , , , ✉ email@example.com. lies beneath a lake, about a one hour walk or 30-min boat ride from the Amazonas river. Made a very good impression during a day tour visit.
- Reserva Natural Tucuchira, Comunidad de Santa Sofía, 910008 Santa Sofía (31 km upriver from Leticia on the Colombian side), ☏ . Built by a charming indigenous family inmidst the jungle (40 minutes walk from the river). Includes a tame pet monkey. Only basic accommodation and facilities, but recommended for an authentic jungle experience. To contact them search for Reserva Tucuchira on facebook or booking. US$12 for a double room, US$5 hammock.
- Palmari Lodge (at Javari river between Peru and Brasil). High quality lodge with corresponding prices. No day tours possible because it takes quite a long time to get there. Can be booked via their office in Bogota or Claudia in Leticia (see below).
- Zacambu lodge.
Leticia also greets 2 or 3 tourist cruises in the season between March and April such as the MV World Explorer, MV Bremen, MV Le Levant. Celebrity guests also include Bill Gates.
- 1 Sergio Rojas, Carrera 9 # 11-56 (in front of old "Registraduria"), ☏ . Sergio Rojas is one of the most famous travel guides in the Amazon. He can answer any question about your trip and take you to the most exotic places in the Amazon Basin, and he speaks English.
- Selvaventura, Carrera 9 # 6-85 (close to the SelvaMotor and Kaguana Bar), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 7AM-10PM. Agency that specializes in adventure tours, including visits to communities, jungle walking, photographic tourism and expeditions for documentary videos or science movies. Managed by Luis Felipe Ulloa, a professional biologist who has worked with Discovery Networks, BBC and a lot of people related to science and research in the rainforest. This agency also offers experiences in other parts of Colombia. Activities from US$35.
- Claudia Rodriguez Maroquin, ☏ . Specialist for tours to Palmari lodge and can also arrange day tours. She speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, and can help you with tickets for going to Manaos (Brazil), Iquitos (Peru) and Bogotá (Colombia)
- Amazon Express Tour, carrera 10 # 9 - 30 (downtown), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A three-day, two-night trip starting in Leticia, and going through the Amazon river until Puerto Nariño, first day you'll go to the natural reserve Queen Victoria, make a stop at an indigenous community and walk around for about an hour, and then go to another indigenous community, but this time to make a hike around the jungle with a guide from the community, then take lunch, and finally go sailing and if you're lucky and isn't raining, the second day you'll sail until the Tarapoto Lakes, and swim with the pink and gray dolphins, they go to Puerto Nariño, a beautiful small town by the river, there you're going to spend the night at a cabin and if you still have some energy take a night hike through the forest and/or take some drinks at the town. Third day take lunch by the river and go back to Leticia. The price includes food, water, accommodation, guides and entrances. Translator available. COP$700,000. US$240.
- Expeditions George of the Jungle (Jorge Gudman), Cra. 11 # Calle 7 10-95 (close to the harbour, next to the shop "Lili Pink"), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 8AM-8PM. Jorge Gudman and his guides are a very experienced team. All of them grew up close to Leticia and for this reason they have a lot of knowledge about the Amazon. They are a registered tour agency, and have organised tours since the 1990s. The tours are very flexible, if you have just a short time, they will organise a special tour for you, so that you can do as many activities in your time available. Also they organise tours to the not so touristic places like Puerto Narino, but more to places like Gamboa and Sacambu, which are indigenious tribes of Peru. You will be part of the local community of the Tikunas (sleeping in their houses, have local guides) and for that reason the agency is supporting the people in the jungle!
Amazon Spanish College. Learn Spanish, Amazon studies or participate in volunteer projects. Here international students from all over the world meet. Spanish courses include social and cultural activities. The Amazon Spanish College also arrange Eco-adventure excursions up the river and to the rainforest. Accommodation in bungalows at campus or in host family.
Colombian, Brazilian and Peruvian money are all freely traded in all three towns. If getting the best rate matters, check out the rates at the money changers.
The fee in both money exchange services directly at the border is 12%.
Paying in the local currency will net you a better deal, sometimes in the range of a 50% saving.
The neighboring town Tabatinga is a Free Trade Zone with really good deals on electronics.
Leticia is a melting pot for food even thought they commonly eat the same things each week each region of Colombia's delicacy are made here. For example, many people make Sancocho, a hearty soup, in different regions of Colombia. Each family will have its own variation. Common staples are meats baked together with potatoes, and sometimes vegetables, usually cooked over a stovetop in a pan. A usual Sunday meal might consist of grilled meats, cooked in makeshift charcoal grillers, served with rice and plantains.
Various vendors sell small meat skewers and fried balls of rice & meat from COP$1,000 each (June 2021) along the waterfront promenade from around noon until after sunset. There is also 4 Street food at the Parque Santander from the afternoon and 5 Street food in the Calle 9 in the evening.
- Tierras Amazónicas, Carrera 8, 7-50. Nice setting, good, typical Amazonian food. Mostly fish and seafood, but also some regular meat dishes and local specialities like cazuela (a kind of soup/stew) and variations on palm weevil larvae ("the caviar of the Amazon"). Excellent, strong cocktails. moderate prices.
- 1 Anaira Hostel (Carrera 10 # 6 - 17), ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. 24 hr. Check-out: midday. Small hostel with a great atmosphere, hammocks and a pool in the common area. The manager speaks excellent English and is incredibly friendly and helpful. Very clean and has a kitchen. COP$200,000 for dorms.
- Hotel Amazon Bed & Breakfast (one block from the central Plaza Parque Santander). Comfortable choice, friendly staff, modern bungalows with regional design. Bungalows feature a master bedroom with a double bed and a smaller room with a hammock. En-suite bathroom, closet, LCD-TV, ceiling fan and safety box. Breakfast included. All major credit cards accepted.The first hotel in Leticia that accepted reservations on-line. The hotel arranges eco-adventure excursions to explore the Amazon river and rainforest.
- Hotel Anaconda. A traditional tourist choice. 50 rooms with AC, swimming pool, restaurant, cable TV. All major credit cards. The hotel also owns Anaconda Tours, an operative agency who provides the main tours around the Amazonas River, near villages in Peru and Brazil. double from COP$307,000 per night (June 2021).
- Natural Reserve Tanimboca, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Cabins up in the trees with bath and shower or camping in the canopy of giant trees. They offer good custom jungle trips.
- Albergue Tacana, Com de Tacana (Km 11 Via Tarapaca), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. In the forest in the community of Tacana. (Take combi from in front of the Anaconda hotel to KM 11 then 50 yards past the school take the road on the right into the jungle. The Albergua and village are 2.5-3 km). Built in the 2004, a traditional forest style building with 3 comfortable cabin style double rooms as well as dormitory accommodation for 8 persons. Fishing, Canoeing, jungle walks with Bora Mirana guides from the doorstep, try the mambe, jahe/ ayahuasca and experience living Bora (Indigenous) culture. COP$60,000-75,000 per cabin (for up to 3 persons, June 2021).
- Hotel Pirarucu, Calle 13 Nro. 10 - 45. Offers rooms of various sizes. Owner will organize excursions to the nearby attractions. The owner is very friendly and keen to help but better at speaking Spanish than English.
- Hostel Camino del Rio, Carrera 9 # 11-56 (Downtown), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Really comfortable hostel. The host is one of the most famous travel assistants and guides in the Amazon, really friendly. Speaks English and Spanish and is available as a guide to the Amazon Basin. COP$40,000-50,000 pp.
- La Casa del Kurupira (Casa Kurupira), Carrera 9 # 6-100 (In front of Selvamotor and Kaguana Bar), ☏ . Cheap hostel, offers bed in shared rooms or private rooms. The service includes Wi-Fi and the possibility to join in a Group for a trip for several days or simple a full day experience. Is possible book a room/bed in the web-page. The staff people speak English, Spanish and Portuguese. US$10.
There is a small Peruvian village called Caballo Cocha, two hours' by boat from Leticia. Ask in the local tourist agency if they can organize a trip there.
Northwards: There are direct flights to Bogota every day. And you find one-stop flights to other Colombian destinations, some of them for the same price as to Bogota. Plane tickets can be booked directly at the airport (CC accepted). There are irregular flights to other destinations as well, but in very small planes (about a dozen passengers) and one has to be very persistent to get a seat there since they are usually not offered to tourists.
Westwards: Slow (60 hr) and fast (13 hr) boats leave from Santa Rosa (Peru) to Iquitos. The fast boat (el rapido) leaves around 3 in the morning and the slow boat (la lancha) at 6 or 8 in the evening.
Make sure to get your exit stamp at the DAS office in the airport, and your Peruvian entrance stamp at the office in Santa Rosa. A small boat from Leticia's port to Santa Rosa is COP$5.000 (June 2021).
There is a fast boat to Benjamin Constant that leaves around every half hour, or whenever it's full, from the port in Tabatinga, and it costs COP$15,000.
Eastwards: Go to the port in Tabatinga for travel towards Manaus and Belém. Don't forget to get your exit stamp at the airport's immigration office and your entry stamp at Tabatinga's Policia Federal (best done en route, as it's in town and not really near the port).