1084km (673 miles) S of Bogotá
Colombia’s southernmost city, a small port just off of the Amazon River, is the main access point to the Colombian Amazon. It’s right on the border with Tabatinga, Brazil and Santa Rosa, Peru, a wider region known as the Tres Fronteras. The city was founded by Benigno Bustamante on April 25, 1867, as a part of the department of Loreto in Peru. Colombia skirmished with Peru over the next 65 years, though the League of Nations finally settled the dispute in June of 1934, officially putting it under Colombian control for good. With a population of less than 40,000, Leticia retains a small frontier-town feel. There’s little of the rubber boom architecture that you will find in cities such as Iquitos or Manaus, and the city’s biggest economic boom was the drug trade in the 1970s. With no highways leading from the city other than a two-lane road that reaches a few villages and attractions north of the airport, the river is the primary method of transportation.
Leticia’s main plaza, Parque Santander, acts as the center of town. In the afternoons it becomes a hub of activity when thousands of pericos, small parrots, flock here for the night, screaming and chattering as the sun sets. During the day the riverfront is more active, with boats full of bananas and other products being brought in from villages from around the region. Everything is unloaded and carried by hand to the market, where you’ll see giant pirarucu fish and countless exotic fruits.
Leticia is Colombia’s jumping off point for trips deeper into the Amazon jungle. Take a guided tour in search of pink river dolphins or monkeys. Although you may see birds and butterflies right in the city, wildlife enthusiasts will want to head to Parque Nacional Natural Amaracayu, one of Colombia’s most important national parks, and the best place in the area to see animals in their natural habitat. Adrenaline enthusiasts kayak and zipline at Reserva Tanimboca.
Restaurants and Dining
Head to the fruit stands near the river and the local market to find exotic tropical flavors in fruits like the purple açaí berry, unusually sized reddish bananas, and the star–shaped carambola. For a taste of the local fish diet, take a seat at the kitschy Tierras Amazónicas. For Brazilian dishes you don’t need to go to neighboring Tabatinga. You can have your caipirinhas at Cozinha de Fazenda right in the center of town.
Handicraft shops are scattered all over town, though the best is Galería Arte Uirapuru, Calle 8 no. 10–35, which sells masks from the Matis tribe, wood carvings, blow darts, medical plants, and all sorts of unusual Amazonian souvenirs. There’s even a small museum in the back of the store.
There are several ATMS, as well as pharmacies, around and within a few blocks of Leticia’s plaza. There is a tourist office at Calle 8 no. 9–75, as well as a kiosk at the airport.