Leticia is the main city in Colombia’s tiny sliver of the Amazon, sitting on the border with Peru and Brazil. The town is a melting pot of Colombians, people from neighboring countries, and indigenous Amazon communities.
Though there’s not much to do in Leticia itself, it’s got a relaxed and tranquil vibe, the people are friendly, and the streets are safe. Mostly, it’s a popular jumping-off point for exploring the Amazon. From here you can venture out to spot pink dolphins, caimans, monkeys, and tropical birds or visit native tribes to learn about their culture, food, and way of life. Fish for piranhas, go hiking, take a night safari, or just hire a guide with a boat to explore the many tributaries, towns, and wildlife of the Amazon.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Leticia:
1. Isla de los Micos
Visit this island nature reserve filled with monkeys to feed them bananas and peanuts straight from your hand! Be prepared to get ambushed by lots of little squirrel monkeys and their babies, and be ready for these cute furry guys to jump all over you. Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and remove any earrings or accessories you don’t want the monkeys grabbing onto.
You can arrive here by boat (it’s about 45 minutes from Leticia) or as part of a tour to Puerto Nariño.
There are a few indigenous people here who sell handicrafts at good prices and local children who’ll come say hi.
2. Visit the Tourist Boardwalk
During the day, head up to the tourist boardwalk or malecón turístico in Leticia and bring your camera to capture this border town’s colorful canoes loaded down with produce.
You’ll see tourist boats, fishing boats, and a little plaza along the boardwalk with lots of shops and restaurants.
In the evening, you can sit with a beer and enjoy the fiery sunsets or grab a cheap meal from a street vendor.
Snag a plastic chair at a hole-in-the-wall place amidst the chaos of the locals and watch the shipping boats head upriver from the port.
3. Parque Santander
A popular local hangout spot, venture to Parque Santander in the late afternoon for the daily bird show.
Every night, there are thousands of parrots and parakeets that return from the jungles to feed and rest in the safety of the park – the noise they make is incredible! You’ll see families, tourists, and vendors who also flock here around sunset for this sociable event.
If you’re trying to get a great view of the birds, the park, and the city, you can even climb the adjacent church tower.
It’s a must-do experience in Leticia – just be careful of all that potential bird poop!
4. Take a Tour of the Amazon
This is the main reason you came to Leticia, so find a tour operator, hop in a boat, or jump on a trekking excursion to explore this unique ecosystem.
The city makes a great base for exploring the Amazon, whether you want to take a multi-day trip or just a day tour.
Guides will take you to visit with an indigenous community, search for pink dolphins, take nature walks in the jungle, and even try piranha fishing.
Some will combine all of them or personalize your tour to make sure you hit all of your must-do activities.
A guide is necessary for most things around here – you can’t do this stuff on your own – and you’ll want them around anyway to help you spot critters, keep safe, arrange transport, and pack all your food and drinks for the day! Try Sergio Rojas, Amazon Experience, or Amazonas Jungle Tours.
5. Reserva Natural Tanimboca
This beautiful and peaceful nature reserve just on the outskirts of Leticia is perfect for spotting some native wildlife.
It’s not very remote or secluded as development is slowly encroaching upon it, but there are some fun activities like ziplining, hiking, and kayaking here – and even treehouses where you can spend the night! If you stick around, you can arrange night safaris, boat rides, meetings with indigenous shamans, and jungle walks with guides to see snakes, caiman, sloths, hummingbirds, iguanas, and armadillos.
6. Try the Local Foods
The fact that you’re in the rainforest and located on the border of three countries – Colombia, Brazil, and Peru – means there’s a range of new foods to try. One of Leticia’s specialties is casabe, a pizza-like dish with dough made from yuca rather than wheat flour that’s topped with anything from cheese and chicken to seafood.
If you’re adventurous, try the fat jungle worms called mojojoy – get them stuffed or grilled. Fish is a staple in the Amazonian diet too, and the giant pirarucú are especially delicious.
Try El Santo Angel, Tierras Amazónicas, and El Cielo.
If you’re in the mood for some fresh ceviche, hop across the river to Santa Rosa, Peru.
7. Parque Ecológico Mundo Amazonico
Get a tuk-tuk or motorbike ride out to this interactive and educational park near Leticia where you’ll learn about ecology, nature, local tribes, and culture in the Amazon.
Sign up for whatever tours and experiences you like when you arrive or just take a jungle walk on your own using the markers provided.
Visit the aquarium here or learn to shoot an arrow or a blowgun! Just turn up and pay for whatever activities you’re interested in.
The park attempts to educate visitors on the environment as it recovers deforested lands from former cattle producers.
8. Hop Over to Brazil
There’s no true border between Leticia and its Brazilian sister city of Tabatinga, so you can literally walk or bike over to Brazil for a visit.
Though it feels like an extension of Leticia, you’ll see the street signs turn to Portuguese and the vibrant yellow and green decor begin.
Try beers from all three border countries in the garden of Tres Fronteiras, one of the prettiest restaurants in town.
Or if you’re here on a Sunday, check out the weekly dance show at La Comara where you’ll see feathered and sequined dancers shaking it to Brazilian samba – it’s popular with locals as well as tourists.
9. Museo Etnografico
Learn more about the indigenous people and tribes that live in this area of the Colombian Amazon at this free museum downtown.
It’s small but informative and efficiently arranged with tribal costumes, tools, masks, instruments, and other artifacts.
Learn about the celebrations and rituals in the Amazon, and grab a guide if you want to hear more.
There’s a film to watch, a library, and a few outdoor exhibits… as well as air condition to save you from the hot, humid daytime temperatures.
10. Plaza de Mercado
Near the tourist boardwalk you’ll find this local market that sets up every day from early morning until mid-afternoon.
Monday is the best day to visit, however, as that’s when the indigenous communities come out to sell their products.
Try their casabe bread made from yuca flour or buy some tucupi, a spicy black sauce also made from yuca.
The market is a lot like others around Colombia, except you’ll find way more fresh fish here and much more fruit than vegetables.
Try some exotic fruits you’ve never seen, like the superfruit asaí, or the bittersweet copoasú, or any other fresh juices that strike your fancy.
11. Travel to Puerto Nariño and Tarapoto Lake
Located about 85 kilometers upriver from Leticia, Puerto Nariño is a tranquil town in the Amazon with a largely indigenous population.
Motorized vehicles are banned and the town specializes in peacefully coexisting with nature, so it’s the perfect place to avoid big tour operators and arrange ecotourism activities at a good price.
Take a boat to Puerto Nariño from the docks in Leticia and plan your adventures upon arrival.
The nearby Lake Tarapoto is one of the best places to spot pink dolphins, and you can take bushwalking tours or boat trips into the Amazon from here to see caiman, monkeys, parrots, and toucans as well.
Arrange these with local guesthouses like Casa Gregorio and Hostal Alto de Aguila.
12. Visit an Indigenous Village
A more cultural than natural offering in the rainforest, Leticia is the place for arranging visits to local tribes like the Tikuna, the Yagua, and the Huitoto.
Visits with native communities usually involve demonstrations of traditional rituals and dances.
These sorts of cultural exchanges are available in villages where you can see their handicrafts, try their food, and have one of their members as your guide.
You can watch how the people prepare coca leaves and yuca and listen to their stories and songs.
13. Reserva Natural Omagua
Pack the mosquito repellant and put away your fear of heights for this one. If you’re seeking a bit of adrenaline or something more extreme while you’re here, check out Omagua, a nature reserve with the highest canopy tour in the region.
You can climb up 35 meters (115 feet) amongst the trees, walk across suspension bridges, rappel down, climb over rope nets, and zipline.
During the summer you can even sleep on one of the platform treehouses in the middle of the jungle.
They also offer jungle treks and night walks where you can see tree frogs and giant tarantulas.
14. Kayak the Yahuarcaca Lakes
A flooded piece of the jungle near Leticia, you can paddle amongst local flora and fauna to explore this super biodiverse ecosystem in some of the most beautiful lakes around.
Plants include rubber and mahogany trees as well the great renaco tree and the world’s biggest lotus, the Victoria Regia.
Spot birds like kingfishers, eagles, herons, and ducks here amongst all the reptiles, fish, and insects.
You might even glimpse some dolphins or sloths as you glide through these lush landscapes.
This trip can be done by boat as well, or combined with a trip to the Victoria Regia Reserve or a fishing excursion where you cook your own catch.
15. Journey Down the Yavari River
From Leticia, this tributary of the Amazon River flows west, forming part of the border between Peru and Brazil.
At the city docks, you can set out with a guide to go searching for wildlife, but why not try the evening tour for a brilliant sunset on the water followed by caiman spotting when it gets dark? During the daytime, you can see pink dolphins, monkeys, and sloths along the Yavari.
Guides will also stop for a visit at the charming Brazilian village of Benjamin Constant with its busy public market and a few good restaurants.
If you want to get deeper into the Amazon, head on down the river to the more remote Zacambu.