Saturday, 22 April 2017

COLOMBIA: Tourism in Leticia

Leticia is a small town of approximately 37,000 inhabitants situated on the north bank of the Amazon River. It is the capital of the state of Amazonas, Colombia’s southernmost town as well as its only major port on the river. It has an elevation of 96 meters above the sea-level and an average temperature of 27 centigrade.

Leticia’s public facilities include a hospital with 3 levels, an airport, and good telephone communication nationally and internationally with internet access capabilities. Water and energy services are acceptable.

Leticia is the southernmost city in the Republic of Colombia, capital of the department of Amazonas, Colombia's southernmost town and one of the major ports on the Amazon river. It has an elevation of 96 meters above sea level and an average temperature of 27 °C (80.6 °F).

Leticia has long been Colombia's shipping point for tropical fish for the aquarium trade. Leticia has approximately 33,000 inhabitants on the left bank of the Amazon river, and is located at the point where Colombia, Brazil and Peru come together in an area called Tres Fronteras.

A long-standing border dispute involving Leticia, between Colombia and Peru, was decided in 1934 by the League of Nations after these two nations were engulfed in an armed conflict known as the Colombia-Peru War.

Though the League of Nations' intervention had officially ended the war, the Colombian government remained wary of the Peruvians, and decided to populate Leticia with people from Bogotá in order to ensure the town's loyalty to Colombia. Most of the people who came from Bogotá from the 1940s to 1965 still live in Leticia as of 2012.

During that time Leticia has expanded greatly, with a new main street being built. However, the city's industries have changed little since then, with agriculture and tourism still the prime sources of income.

Movement between all 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 amount 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 is a 'catch 22' if you go across the Amazon but do not pass through Peruvian immigration, as happens if yoou visit the Marasha nature reserve. If you get a Colombian exit stamp at Leticia airport, then when you return and ask for an entrance stamp the immigratin officials may object. In this case it seems to be the accepted practice not to formally leave the country when crossing briefly into Peru.

The Colombian immigration office is 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.

The Brazilian immigration office is located some way down Tabatinga's main avenue, Avenida da Amizade. The Peruvian immigration office in Santa Rosa is fairly central and easy to find, just ask someone.

Tourism in Leticia has boomed and the town is today a recognized tourist site. International students travel to Leticia to learn Spanish. Meanwhile, students and visitors can enjoy the attractions nearby the city.

Leticia features a tropical rainforest climate with minimal difference in average high and low temperatures throughout the course of the year. Leticia does have noticeably wetter and drier months, with its wettest month (May) seeing a little more than twice as much precipitation as its driest month (July). The average monthly rainfall in the city is above 100 mm.

Leticia features a tropical rainforest climate with minimal difference in average high and low temperatures throughout the course of the year. Leticia does have noticeably wetter and drier months, with its wettest month (May) seeing a little more than twice as much precipitation as its driest month (July). The average monthly rainfall in the city is above 100 mm.

The majority of Leticia's population have migrated from elsewhere. There is no obviously dominant segment, but migrants from Bogotá, Medellín, and Tolima are the majority. Few people from Cali live in Leticia. A significant proportion of Leticia's population comprises native Amerindians (as opposed to mestizos or caboclos). The prevailing trend is for people to move from the village of their birth in far-lying rural communities into the city to make a "better" living.

Although the inhabitants commonly eat the same things each week, a wide variety of food is available in Leticia. Dishes specific to each of Colombia's regions are made here. For example, people make Sancocho, a hearty soup, with regional variations in different parts of Colombia. But even within regions, each family has its own recipe.

Leticia's cuisine includes Brazilian and Peruvian influences. Common staples in Leticia include river fish, domestic (and occasionally wild) meat, rice, locally-grown vegetables and potatoes. Meals are usually cooked over a wood-fired stovetop in a pan. A typical Sunday meal might comprise grilled meats, cooked in makeshift charcoal grillers, served with rice and plantains.

Attractions

Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu (River), Isla de los Micos (River), Puerto Nariño (River), Lago Tarapoto (River), Lago Yahuarcacas (km.2), Parque temático Mundo Amazónico (Km. 7),Museum Banco de la República (Downtown), Parque Orellana and Santander (Downtown).

The entry Airport is Vásquez Cobo International Airport.

Visit

Puerto Nariño & Tarapoto Lakes

Monkey Island

Micos Monkey Island A nature reserve that allows you to feed the monkeys
Walk through Leticia Parque Santander (birds) and Parque Orellana are the main atractions for locals. At certain times you might find band competitions, sports, dance, etc.

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

Macuna Jungle Hut

Flor Lagoon Swimming lagoon with Victoria Lillys, parrots and small bar

Flor Lagoon

Parque Ecológico Mundo Amazónico This is an Etno-Botanic center to see more than 300 species of plans that only grow in the Amazon, to learn about culture, ecological practices and recycling. It is located at Km 7,7 on Leticia -Tarapaca's road. - Extremely educational and interactive. You will learn about tribes and how they live in this eco friendly park. If you come to the amazon looking for eco tourism and do not visit this park you missed the mark. Learn tips for recycling that you can put in to practice back home an also raise awareness.

Acuarios Etuena The first aquarium to display a wide range of native species from the rainforest.
Natural Reserve Victoria Regia, Amazonas River, km 2 on the way to Puerto Nariño. A natural reserve where you can see a lot of Queen Victoria waterlilies

Tabatinga, the Brazilian town and harbour that adjoins Leticia. The two cities cooperate closely, and altogether their urban area and adjacent suburbs along the Amazon river have a population of more than 100,000 people.

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.

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 the famous Mr. Bill Gates.

Cautious travellers MIGHT want to have a yellow fever certificate ready, showing vaccination at least 10 days earlier. While the vaccination IS (technically) required, the check is very infrequently performed.

By Air

You can only get into this spectacular, tropical and adventurous town from Colombia by plane or boat. The only place connected to Leticia by a commercial airline is Bogota, there are daily flights with companies LAN and Avianca and flights every second day with VivaColombia. The flight lasts two hours. LC Perú connect Leticia with Iquitos, Peru 3 times a week.

Tabatinga has a daily flight to Manaus with Azul Lineas Aereas.

On arrival to Leticia, non-Colombian citizens are directed to a different entry door to the airport, and the police will ask them for name, nationality and signature. In addition, tourist have to pay an entrance fee (Impuesto al turismo). The fee paper is colorful and it may seem that the representative is trying to sell you something if you don't understand Spanish. None of the officials may be able to speak English. Entrance fee was COP24000 in September 2015 and it's valid for one year.

By boat

From Santa Rosa, across the river in Peru, you can take a fast (10hr, US$ 75 or 200 PEN) or slow (2-3 days, ~US$20-25, bring a hammock, plate and spoon - food is provided) boat to Iquitos .

Boats downstream from Manaus, arrive in Tabatinga. There are two types of boat, one slow, one fast. The time taken varies slightly depending on the season and water level in the river, but expect 5-7days for the slow boat and 1.5-2days for the fast boat. The price of the fast boat is comparable to flying.

Don't expect to see much wildlife when travelling by boat, the Amazon is really, really wide. Pink river dolphins sometimes swim alongside the boats, however.

If coming from Manaus, it is quite simple to catch the boat to Tabatinga. The slow boat departs twice a week, inquire at the pier. Bargain and don't accept the first price offered.

For the fast boat, go to the 'Terminal Ajato' at the wharf in Manaus and book directly with them. You can find this by going to the market near the wharf, then walk east until the road curves around. The booking office is on a modern floating pontoon. There will be hawkers outside, but just go on the pontoon and book direct with the Terminal Ajato office there.

Make sure to bring your passport. For information on departure times you can view their website here: As of May 2015 the cost of the fast boat is 550 reals - or more than the cost of a flight booked a week in advance and just slightly cheaper than a last-minute flight. The journey takes about 36 hours and includes food. From Tabatinga's pier it is a short taxi ride or long walk to Leticia.

Touring Leticia

Mototaxis abound. It should be about 1000 COP from the center to the border with Brazil, more if you're going to the port. There are also motocarros, covered tricycle-type vehicles in which you're more protected from the elements. You can rent a moto or a bicycle in various points around town.

Currency

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. In May 2016, for example, you could get a very good rate when exchanging Colombian pesos to Brazilian reals - much better than the xe.com official rate.

There are frequently problems with the ATMs in Tabatinga, so withdrawing pesos and converting them to Reals may be your only option. There is no ATM in Santa Rosa, so if you want soles you will need to convert another currency.

Meals

Leticia is a melting pot for food, even though they commonly eat the same things each week. The delicacies of each region Colombia 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.

Tierras Amazónicas, Carrera 8, 7-50. Nice setting, good food. Lots of fish and seafood options, including cazuela (a kind of soup/stew). moderate.
Tierras Antioqueñas, (Dowtown). This is a cheap place to eat with a very good food. Prices are around 7000 to 10000 COP (2013).

Drinks

Calle 11 & Carrera 6. Leticia's own "Nightclub Alley", the corners of Calle 11 & Carrera 6 are home to a number of bars and nightclubs busy every day of the week. Far enough away from the downtown core that tourists are unaware of its existence, people wanting to party with the locals should not hesitate to come and bar-hop here as this is, unquestionably, where Leticianos come to drink, dance, and party. Also a great place to get good, cheap, street-food.
Mossh. In parque Santander, plays merengues, bachatas, brasilian pop, electronica, etc. Beer 4,000-6,000 COP (NOTE- this is 2 to 3 times more than what you'll pay pretty much anywhere else in the city). Whisky 15,000.
Colors. Near the library and close to Mossh. The setup is good for groups.
La Tribu. Great friendly place owned by an uruguayan. Beers are 2,700 COP and there's pizzas too. Close to Parque Orellana (Anaconda Hotel)
Blu. Another great club for merengue, bachata, mexican pop, rock. Beer 3,000 COP. Perfect to bounce from La Tribu once you meet someone. May charge cover on certain nights.

Internet

The internet in Leticia comes from satellites and is painfully slow. Many hostels do not have working internet at all. 3G - even 2G - mobile phone service is almost non-existent as of May 2016. There is an internet café in an orange-coloured Papeleria on Avenida Internacional that will also allow you to connect your own device to their wifi for 2,000 COP/hour, the speed here seems to be the best in town (Skype calling just about possible).

Get out

By Air

There are two daily flights to Bogota, one on LAN, one on Avianca. You can connect to many other destinations in Colombia for only slightly more than the cost of a Leticia-Bogota flight. Iquitos is also served several times a week by air, if you don't want to catch a boat. If you want to fly to Manaus, you need to cross the border and use Tabatinga's airport. Promo fares can be had for less than R$500, or cheaper than the fast boat. One flight daily, leaving 7pm on Azul.

By boat

To Puerto Narino

Fast boats leave three times daily from Leticia's port - 8am, 10am and 2pm. 29,000 COP, 1.5-2hours. Other stops along the way in some of the smaller villages, e.g. La Libertad, Santa Sofia.

To Benjamin Constant There is a fast boat to Benjamin Constant that leaves around every half hour, or whenever it's full, from the port in Tabatinga - it costs 20,000 COP.

To Iquitos

Slow and fast boats leave from Santa Rosa to Iquitos 6days a week (they take different days off, so there are actually boats leaving every day). The fast boat (el rapido) leaves around 3 in the morning and the slow boat (la lancha) at 6 or 8 in the evening. Slow boat price is S/.80, although you can try to bargain this down slightly. Don't forget to stamp out of Brazil or Colombia before asking for your Peruvian entry stamp.

To Manaus

Go to the ports in Tabatinga for travel towards Manaus and Belém. Slow boats from Tabatinga to Manaus leave only Wednesday and Saturday, and from a different port south of the busier main port. It takes between 3-4days, depending on the season and water level - if the water is higher, the boat can take a few extra shortcuts. There are cabins, some even with a/c, but most people sleep in hammocks (bring your own). The price is negotiable, the ticket seller will probably ask for the gringo price of R$200 to start, but DO NOT agree to pay this.

Brazilians will pay R$150 for the trip from Tabatinga-Manaus, you should aim to pay the same - it IS possible for foreigners to get this price. It is easier to get a better price if you buy the day before, but even a couple of hours before the boat leaves it can be had for R$180 or less. DO NOT pay more than R$180 under any circumstances, be firm and hold your ground. The ticket office is the building on the left hand side after you walk through the arch, before you come to the boat (prices are from May 2016).

NOTE: If stamped into Colombia, make sure to get your Colombian exit stamp at the DAS office in the airport, or if you are coming from Peru make sure you get your Peruvian exit stamp at the office in Santa Rosa, the Brazilian policia federal will not stamp you into Brazil until you have stamped out of your previous country. You will not be allowed to even buy a boat ticket without a Brazilian entry stamp. Note that if you are only passing through Leticia (coming from Peru) or staying for just a few days, it is not necessary to stamp into Colombia at all.

Observations to make on a slow boat from Tabatinga to Manaus:

Alcohol is forbidden on board. If you are bringing it, keep it in unmarked containers, or premix it and don't be obvious when consuming it.
Your luggage will probably be sniffed by dogs before boarding the boat, and after a few hours the Brazilian policia federal may stop the boat and perform a very thorough check on your luggage - completely emptying your backpack. There may be several other less thorough checks, maybe just of your passport, but possibly also your luggage. Hide any contraband (including alcohol) accordingly.
There is free coffee and hot water on board (mornings and evenings), and also free drinking water (24/7). Unlike the boats in Peru, you don't need to bring your own bowl and cutlery for the meals (included in your fare), although if you do bring them you can get your food "to go" and eat it when you want and outside of the dining room.
The shop sells snacks, soft drinks etc. and also some cooked food, but absolutely no alcohol.
There are televisions on board, you should be able to watch any football games that take place during your trip, and also the finest Brazilian soap operas! The signal is analogue and comes from an aerial that needs to be constantly adjusted.
A good place for your hammock is on the upper deck closer to the end without the toilets, and further away from the engines but not too close to the TV.
There are lots of plugs for recharging your electronics onboard, most are dual European/US type, some are only the round European type.
The food is okay except breakfast, unless you are a vegetarian. Meals are served very early, especially breakfast, be careful not to miss them. Some of the stops the boat makes you may be able to quickly disembark and get some food from a stall at the dock. Unlike in Peru, there are not many food sellers who will come onto the boat, though there may be a couple at some of the stops.
If you land in Leticia on the LAN flight from Bogota on a Saturday or Wednesday and want to head straight to Manaus rather than waiting around for a few days, you need to be very quick and to get a bit lucky. Get your Colombian exit stamp in the airport, then take a taxi straight to the policia federal office in Tabatinga for your Brazilian entry stamp.

You will almost certainly be too late to catch the boat before it leaves Tabatinga (scheduled 12pm, it may be slightly late), instead go to the other port where the rapidos leave to Benjamin Constant. The slow boat takes 1 hour to reach here and docks for an hour at the port, so if you are lucky you can catch up to it.

The slow boat's next stop is not until Sao Paolo de Olivenca, there are also rapidos that go here, although they are more infrequent and expensive.
There are also stops in Amaturá, San Antonia do Ica, Tonantins, Jutai, Fonte Boa and Alvaraes.
Overall, the boats are much more spacious, cleaner and comfortable than Peruvian boats, but hardly luxurious. The showers use clean water rather than river water. Less cargo is transported, although the boat still stops for an hour or more at some of the towns along the way. You may also find them less "fun", since people tend to go to bed very early (probably due to the lack of alcohol).