Why: This is a part of the world I had dreamed about seeing since I was a kid. The Amazon has a mythical sound to it. I wanted to get on a boat and see the river and the life that surrounds it. I wanted to see some of the world’s most unusual animals and meet people who call the Amazon region home.
Flight and transportation: While I have flown to Manaus for shorter trips, this post will feature how I did my longest trip to the Amazon and how I would recommend that you do it as well. Fly in to Bogota and then catch a cheap one-way flight to Leticia, down in the southern corner of Colombia. LATAM often has flights for $100 on skyscanner.com. You will be taking a boat down the Amazon/Solimoes River. *Make sure you have a Brazilian visa before arriving!
Upstream/Downstream: Boats go from Iquitos all the way down to Belem, Brazil. I went downstream from Leticia/Tabatinga, Brazil down towards Belem. The downstream boats travel faster, are slightly less expensive and tend to stay in the middle of the river more. The upstream boats are slower, slightly more expensive, and stay more to the shores of the river. Given that I started in Leticia, I went downstream. Heading either downstream or upstream would be an awesome travel experience.
Day 1: Fly into Leticia from Bogota. Stay at Leticia Casa de Huespedes. In Leticia get a lay of the land and visit the tour offices in town. On your first day set up your tours for the next couple of days. Chose an agency that has good ratings and that your hostel and hostel mates recommend. Also find out what days the slow boats heading downstream towards Manaus leave so that you can plan your time in Leticia accordingly. At the time of writing this post, the boats leave on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Day 2: Head out early in the morning on your tour to Puerto Nariño. This is a little village community upstream along the Amazon River. On your way up you will get to visit local villages and meet some of the native animals. Make sure your tour stops in Isla de los Micos to hang out with the local spider monkeys. Puerto Nariño is a cool little town that you will be able to explore. On your way back in the afternoon our tour included the chance to see pink river dolphins which was a real highlight.
Day 3: Get out on your next tour. I chose a canopy and rappel tour that was really cool. We got to zipline through the rainforest, rappel down massive Amazonian trees, and traverse between sweet tree houses up in the jungle. In the afternoon come back and chill out in Leticia, or rent a moped like I did to check out some of the areas outside of town. If you haven’t bought your ticket for your Amazon boat heading downstream, make sure you buy this ticket in town. Buy a boat ticket which includes meals! At the time of writing the ticket costs about 350 reales until Manaus.
Day 4: Buy your multi-colored hammock, load up on snacks, and get to the dock at least a couple hours before your boat is going. Find a spot to hang up your hammock which is not near the dining hall or the bathrooms. Get your spot on deck and prepare for the slow life down the Amazon River.
Day 5,6,7,8: Meet the locals, eat your three meals a day in the dining hall, read a book, and enjoy life on the mightiest river on earth. The sunrises and sunsets are magical. Keep an eye out for caiman (crocs). The caiman’s eyes reflect the light of the head beams of the ship. In the evening join the locals for Brazilian tv or movies on the top deck. Buy local fruit if you’d like when the boat stops a couple times a day at little villages deep in the Amazon. This is one of the coolest travel experiences you can imagine!
Day 9: After arriving in Manaus get your stuff over to Hostel Manaus. Manaus is a fascinating city, which is nearly like an island, due to its location in the middle of the Amazon. Get yourself out to the Mercado Municipal to check out the best local market. Stop by the Teatro Amazonas while checking out the downtown area.
Day 10: Get a bus up to Presidente Figueiredo. This is a cool day trip which your hostel can help set up for you. There are some really pretty tropical waterfalls outside of Presidente Figueiredo. Spend the day hiking the jungly trails and swimming in these sweet waterfalls. The following day fly from Manaus out to Sao Paulo, Rio, or your next Brazilian destination!