Located at the point at which the Amazon River pours out of Peru, Leticia is the Colombian gateway to the world’s biggest biome. Across the river from Peru, on the border with Brazil, this sleepy town around 500 miles (800km) from the nearest highway is Colombia’s premier Amazon cruise port.
Leticia has a small port on the waterfront from which water taxis, cargo craft and cruise liners dock. It’s a basic affair. From here one can find regular ferries heading upriver to Iquitos. For services to Manaus, cross the border into Brazil (to a seamlessly connected town called Tabatinga, which is one hour ahead) to the Terminal Ajato, which offers frequent passenger ferries downstream.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Everything is Leticia is in walking distance, but the best stroll from the port is to the nearby Museo Etnográfico del Banco de la República, which houses a small collection of ethnographic artefacts from the region’s indigenous communities, including a celebrated selection of rather creepy ceremonial masks.
Leticia is small, and most locals zip around it on the back of a moto-taxi, clinging to the driver for dear life. If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, there are numerous taxis to choose from.
What to see and do
Only a few decades ago, Leticia was best known for its contraband and narcotics, well off the map for most travellers. Today, the army presence has transformed security in the city, but tourism is relatively new; Leticia still lacks the attractions of its larger cousins Iquitos (Peru) and Manaus (Brazil). But what it lacks in tourist infrastructure, it makes up for in adventure.
What can I do with half a day in Leticia?
Start the day by heading north out of town to the Parque Ecologico Mundo Amazonico, a former cattle farm converted into a conservation centre and reserve intended to protect some of the more vulnerable endemic species of flora and fauna found in the Colombian rainforest. Tours can last for up to an hour, and the lunch here is ranked the best in town.
Two kilometres further north and you hit Reserva Natural Tanimboca, the hub of Leticia’s high-adrenaline activities. Here visitors can zip-line across the forest canopy, kayak down one of the Amazon tributaries, or take a guided trek into the jungle. People come for a few hours, or for a few weeks, with a range of tours on offer and the best forest accommodation in the region: tree houses perched high in the forest canopy.
Heading back to town before sunset, make your way to Parque Santander at the centre of town where at dusk countless screeching parrots come home to roost for the night.
What can I do with a bit longer?
Leticia is the launch pad for two of Amazonia’s most awe-inspiring jungle trips. Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu is 75km west of Leticia but in a world of its own. Home to the Ticuna people, this is one of the best places on Earth to observe the dense and delicate ecosystem of the Amazon up close. Yoi Eco Tours are one of the few operators that can get you here. Alternatively, cross the Amazon River and head up the Río Yavarí (which marks the border between Peru and Brazil) to a world that remains largely untouched by tourism. Amazon Jungle Trips, based in Leticia, have a lodge and can arrange tours.
Eat and drink
The cuisine of Leticia is a blend of traditional Colombian fare infused with influences from the epic pantry that is the Amazon rainforest. Empanadas (miniature pasties), arepas (corn crumpets) and fritanga (fried meat platters) compete with a succulent range of river fish, and the ubiquitous Amazonian delicacy: a stick of the barbequed larvae of the palm weevil – in Colombia known as the mojojoy worm. Some of the best food, however, can be found in the forest, cooked over a fire and eaten under the stars.
Don’t leave Leticia without…
Visiting Galería Arte Uirapuru. This Amazonian craft shop in the centre of town sells all manner of indigenous handicraft, including blow darts, masks and wood carvings along with a pharmacy of local plant potions.
Need to know
There are no direct flights between London and Leticia. All flights go via Bogota with flight times averaging 18 hours.
Best time to go
Leticia is hot, humid and wet: it receives close to three metres of rain each year. February to June is high water season, when the rainforest is more easily navigable by boat. June to January is low water season, when the Amazon River can drop by as much as 66ft (20m), exposing beaches and jungle treks.
Leticia is generally safe, thanks to the longstanding military presence in the city. That said, owing to the continued presence of narcotics traffickers, it safer to stick to urban areas at night.
Most shops and museums have limited opening times on a Sunday, or are closed.