Under this area we mean the department the Amazon, Putumayo, Caquetá and Vaupés. But there are also destinations that are in the transition of the jungle to the savanna area that we call Los Llanos. These destinations are San José de Guaviare, Caño Cristales and Guainia. These destinations you can also find at the ‘Los Llanos’ section.
Leticia is a small warm town located at the Amazon River on the border of Colombia, Peru and Brazil. This actually the only tourists center in the Colombian Amazon which consists of more or less 400.000 km². Almost the complete region is covered with dense rain forest, many rivers and some native Indian tribes. Leticia functions as a base for jungle tours from 1 to multiple days. It is also the starting point for more jungle adventurous that go upstream to Iquitos (Peru) and downstream to Manaus (Brazil). The only way to get there is by plane from Bogotá or by boat from Peru or Brazil. The city Leticia itself doesn´t have to many highlights besides the local fruit market, the local zoo with all animals that you can find in the Amazon. The big amounts of tourist that visit Leticia come for the nature parks around the city. A view of those highlight parks are:Parque Nacional Amacayacu, a nature park that consists of 2935 km² rain forest located at the Amazon river more or less 75 km upstream of Leticia. The park has a good quantity of flora and fauna, like caiman's, snakes, monkeys and a very big population of several bird species. There are walks and canoe tours and it is the ideal way to get a glimpse of jungle life. Here you can also find the Victoria Amazonica (an enormous water lily).Lago Tarapoto, a bit further upstream you can find the Tarapoto Lake. A beautiful lake just outside Puerto Nariño which can only be visited by boat. It would very strange if you didn´t find any fresh water dolphins (the grey and pink one) there.Pueblos Indigenas, along the Amazon, up and downstream you can see various Indian villages. Used to the big streams of tourists they will welcome you with open arms, a friendly smile and will show you their customs, tradition and dances and food.El Milagro de Marasha, a nature park on the border of Peru and Colombia. This is less frequently visited than NP Amacayacu but absolutely not less worthy of a visit. Ideal place to get to know the jungle life through walks and canoe tours in the jungle.San Martin, an Indian community where it is possible to stay overnight as a tourist so you can experience the culture and traditions of the Indians better than just with a quick day visit.Canopy, an activity during which you will climb a giant tree with rope and a harness and when you get to a platform high up in the canopy of the tree you will slide from one tree to another. This activity can be done on various places in Leticia and its surroundings.
Leticia en omgeving is mooi, zeker als je voor het eerst de Amazonas bezoekt, maar ook erg toeristisch. Behalve de enorme toeristenstroom zul je dat ook merken aan hoe alles is georganiseerd en hoe ontwikkeld alles is. Wie de echte jungle wil zien zal toch wat dieper de Amazonas in moeten. Een uitstekende manier hiervoor is om naar een ecolodge te gaan. Vanuit daar zijn dan meerdaagse wandelingen en/of kanotochten te maken. Op die manier ontloop je de toeristenstroom en heb je de kans om de jungle te zien zoals hij werkelijk is.
Leticia ligt op de grens van Colombia, Brazilie en Peru. Ecolodges zijn te vinden in alle drie de landen, maar misschien wel de beste zijn te vinden aan de Rio Yavari. Deze rivier ligt op de grens van Brazilie en Peru en aan beide kanten kan men de jungle verkennen.
Op ongeveer 5 uur van leticia in een snelboot ligt de ecolodge Palmari in de jungle van Brazilie. Mooi gelegen met uitzicht over de Rio Yavari en ideaal als vertrekpunt voor een avontuurlijke reis. Er zijn verschillende trekkings te maken, van 1 tot wel 9 dagen. Ook is er een speciale meerdaagse kanotocht mogelijk van de Yavari rivier dwars door de junlge van Peru naar de Rio Amazone.
Een andere ecolodge is Heliconia. Deze ligt aan dezelfde Yavari Rivier en ook hier zijn een heleboel activiteiten te ondernemen. In tegenstelling tot Palmari, waar het mogelijk is ter plekke een programma te maken, liggen hier de activiteiten vaak van te oren al vast. beide ecolodge worden aangeboden in ons pakketten aanbod bij de Amazone.
La Pedrera is actually the only other city worth mentioning in the Amazon department. It is also possible from here to go into the Amazon jungle, this city and its Amazon destinations are much less touristic than Leticia. There is hardly any tourism infrastructure in La Pedrera, but the rivers are excellent for sport fishing activities are is frequently visited by national tourists that visit the area in dry season for this activity. Furthermore it is possible to go on 2 spectacular expeditions. From La Pedrera it is possible to go upstream the Apaporis River in the direction of first Raudal ‘La Playa’ and then to Raudal ‘Jirijirimo’, both are located in the Vaupes department. The other option is to go from La Pedrera upstream over the Caqueta River up to the Raudal ‘Araracuara’ in the Caqueta department. From La Pedrera it is also possible to go into Brazil over the Rio Negro that flows into the Amazon River.
Putumayo is the department that forms the border between Ecuador and Colombia. The capital is Mocoa and can be used as a starting point for tours through the, although Puerto Assis and Puerto Leguizamo are better destinations to start adventurous tours over for example the rivers Guamuez and Río Putomayo. An absolute highlight is the National park La Paya where a lot of fauna can be seen like the black caiman of the Amazon. But at the moment of writing this text the safety situation in the area is not optimal and that is for DE UNA a reason not to offers tours to that park.
The area of Mocoa is a lot better and there are some spectacular destinations that are mostly unknown by tourists. Many of these destinations are in a jungle like surrounding with a lot of water and waterfalls. Some examples are 'Fin del Mundo', a river with different waterfalls and at the end of the traject a waterfall of 65 meters high, 'Hornoyaco' another waterfall of over 60 meters in the dense jungle, 'Mandiyaco', a river that goes through a stone gully of more than 5 meters deep, or 'Canalendras', a river with different natural pools and small waterfalls. And also 'el Yunguillo', a resguardo Indigena worth a visit. Al these destinations can be visited as day tours from Mocoa. The area of Putumayo is also well known for their ritual of the usage of Yahe which the local Indians see as a medicine. In consultation with a Taita (shaman) it is possible to participate in this ritual and clean your body and mind. Another place in the Putumayo where Yahe is used frequently is the 'Valle de Sibundoy', 3 hours from Mocoa in the direction of Pasto over a spectacular road from the Amazon to the Andes. Sibundoy is the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful environment that this valley has to offer.
The department Caqueta forms in the western part the transition of the Andes mountains to the Amazon and in the north the transition From Los Llanos (savanna area) to the Amazon. The capital Florencia is a perfect starting point for a quick visit into the department. From Florencia is a road up into the Andes Mountains that connects the city through Guadalupe with the little town Pitalito (San Agustin) in the south and Neiva in the North. On this route you can find various ecosystems from the high Andes to the tropical lowlands.
A couple of nice villages to visit in the area of Florencia are Morelia and Belén, both equipped with some infrastructure for tourism and some natural pools for swimming in the nearby rivers and streams. Furthermore you can go from Florencia over the Orteguaza River via Milan and Solano to the Caqueta River. Another destination that can be visited from Florencia is Cartagena de Chairá and the nearby located lakes.
With some more time and an adventurous spirit there are also tours possible of multiple days. For example you can fly to Araracuara and visit here the beautiful Raudal ‘Araracuara’. The immense Caqueta River narrows here and goes through a canyon with some big height differences on both sides. From Araracaura one can go over the same Caqueta Rivier al the way to La Pedrera, this is a tour of several days that ends in the Amazon department.
Some areas in the Caqueta department still have safety issues. So it is recommendable to inform very well about the situation in the area before traveling there.
The department Vaupés is located just to the north of the department of the Amazon. The capital Mitu is the only civilized village and the rest is pure tropical rain forest with many rivers from which the Vaupés river and the Apaporis river are the most important. Here you can still find destinations that are hardly visited by tourists and Indian communities that don´t have any contact with the modern world and still live like their ancestors. Vaupés has over 26 ethnic groups from which the Tucano, Guanano, Cubeo, Desano, Cabiyary, Barasano and Mucuna are the most well known groups. The whole area lacks any tourism infrastructure and this makes a tour in this area a real adventure.
From Mitu it is possible to explore the Vaupés River. Upstream it is possible to go to the impressive river currents of Yurupari or the Indian community Caruru. Downstream we can go as far as Yavaraté, a village at the border of Colombia with Brazil where the Vuapés and the Papuri Rivers come together. During boat tours I this area you will have to cross several cachiveras (currents) and see various Indian communities on your way.
Downstream by boat over the Vaupes River after 2 days you will encounter the Indian community Villa Fatima. From here jungle trekking are possible Cerro Tipiaca, an enormous rock that looks out over the jungle and is the habitat of hundreds of Guacamayas (Macaws). The round forms of the Tipiaca and other cerros in this area remind you of the Cerros de Mavecure in Guainia, that without any doubt belonged to this ancient mountain range.
To reach other interesting destinations in Vaupés will take various days by boat over several rivers or fly with small planes (Cessna for 3 to 5 passengers) deeper into the jungle.
It is also possible to got through the jungle by foot for several days. Beautiful adventures are for example the boat tours over the Papuri River or over the Piraparaná (Pira) River.
Another river that can be visited is the Apaporis, you can go downstream until La Pedrera on the border fo the departments Vaupés and the Amazon. On the Apaporis, in the area of the Indian community of Pacoa (La Victoria and Buenos Aires), you can also find the mythical falls of the Jirijirimo. Here the Apaporis reduces itself from a River of more than 300 meters wide to a waterfall of 30 meters wide. A bit further downstream the same Apaporis goes through a tunnel 'El Tunel de Apaporis' of around 5 meters. With on both sides a height difference of over 40 meters.
Other interesting destinations in the Vaupés department are Cerro Morroco, Cerro Guacamaya and Cerro del Sol, all located at the Caño Cananari, the waterfall of ‘Golondrinos’, reachable from the Pira River, and off course many Indian communities.
Some areas in the Vaupés department still have safety issues. So it is recommendable to inform very well about the situation in the area before traveling there.
Caño Cristales is sometimes referred to as ‘The Most Beautiful River in Colombia’, or ‘The River That escaped From Paradise’. True or not, this river with 5 different colors (red, green, blue, yellow, black and combinations of these colors), gives you a good reason to check it out for yourself.
The source of Caño Cristales is ‘La Serranía de la Macarena’, a very old mountain range south of Villavicencio with maximum heights of over 2000m. This is the area of the ‘Clavijera Macarenia’, a water plant which only grows in this part of the world. The plants needs a lot of water to grow and colors eventually green. Depending on the amount of sun the plants color red. The most beautiful moment is when the plants are in full bloom and the whole river colors red. The other colors you see like yellow, brown, black, white and everything in between are formed by the water, the currents, the different depths, the way the light falls and the rocky floor of the river.
This plant turns from green to red during the months of July till end November. These are also the best months for visiting Caño Cristales as during the rest of the year you won’t see the beautiful colors. There are different ways to get to Caño Cristales. There is an illegal road constructed by the guerrilla from Vistahermosa to La Macarena and it is possible to get to la Macarena via the Guaviare and the Guayabero river from San José de Guaviare. These routes are not safe due to guerrilla activities, the only safe way to get to the Macarena is by air from Villavicencio, there little cessna planes for 3 to 5 passengers fly to the Macarena. Once arrived it is only a small tour over the Guayabero river and a good walk of around 2 and a half hours to get to the entrance of Caño Cristales.
The river Caño Cristales has its origin high in the Serrania de la Macarena and has two main canyons (arms) which both are worth exploring and full with (little) waterfalls, natural swimming pools and rock formations in and under water. Some of the highlights are ‘Los Hoyos’ (waterfall with water falling through holes in rocks), ‘Cascada de los Cuarzos’ (a huge waterfall), ‘Los Pianos’ (waterfall with different kind of levels), ‘Pozo Cuadrado’ (a nice natural swimming pool) and ‘Salto de Aguila’ (a waterfall with tunnels under water).
This river has many nicknames, all in combination with paradise, rainbow or other stunning descriptions. Besides the Caño Cristales there is much more to see in the area.
Serrania de la Macarena is a big undiscovered jungle area with many beautiful little streams, caves, waterfalls and much more. A couple of highlights in this area are:
Caño Canoas, an impressive waterfall situated an 8 hours trek away from Caño Cristales.
Caño Indio, another river with similar characteristics as Caño Cristales.
Raudal de Guayabero, an arm with quick running water of the Guayabero river, where the river reduces to go through a small canyon. On the north side of the Raudal petroglyph's are found form the former Guayabero settlement.
Ciudad de Piedra, North of Raudal de Guayabero where stone formations have been found that seem to be placed to form an old city.
Salto del Gato, an enormous waterfall further upstream over the Guayabero river.
Nowadays Caño Cristales is completely save for to visit. For other destinations in la Serrania de la Macarena it is recommended to inform yourself very well about the situation before going there.
San José de Guaviare
South of the Meta department you find the department of Guaviare. The capital of the department, San José de Guaviare, can be reached easily by road from Villavicencio passing through Granada and Puerto Lleras or instead you could fly from Bogota.
San José is the perfect starting point for exploring the surroundings. Close to San José you could visit, ‘Ciudad Perdida’ and ‘Ciudad de Piedra’, both flatlands with very interesting stone formations and caves. In ‘Ciudad de Piedra' you will also see the famous ‘Puerto Orion’, a huge rock with a hole in the middle. Other destinations of interest are ‘Pozos Naturales’ (natural swimming pools), ‘Cascada de las Delicias’ (a waterfall of 30 m from which you can do canopying) and the ‘Laguna Negra’ (a beautiful lake in the Playa Guio Natural reserve). All these places of interest are called together ‘La Lindosa’ named after the ‘reserva natural la Lindosa’. It’s also possible to make trips over the Guayabero River which during dry season has beautiful river beaches. San José de Guaviare is located at the banks of the Guaviare River and the area is reasonable to good for sport fishing. Besides this there are also some traditional Indian communities that life in this area like the Nukak Indians, which are is a nomadic tribe.
The department of Guaviare also houses the famous Nature Park Chiribiquete to the south. A spectacular park deep into the jungle with a lot of tepuys and wildlife. Reaching this park is very difficult because of the remoteness and safety situation (guerrilla activities). Another spectacular destination are the water rapids of Tomachipan but due to guerrilla activity it’s not safe to go at the moment.
Guainia & Cerros de Mavecure
Close to the border with Venezuela, where the Savannah of Los Llanos changes into the jungle, you can find the ‘Cerros de Mavecure’. A strange but spectacular sight of huge round shaped rocks sticking out high above the jungle. The highest rock is over 350 meters. Millions of years ago these rocks where part of the oldest mountain range the Roraima Tepys in Venezuela. Nowadays they are a nice and spectacular interruption of the dense jungle vegetation.
This former conflict area nowadays is perfectly safe to visit. Cerros de Mavecure usually is visited from Inirida, the only city of any significance in the Guainia department. A great boat journey of several days can bring you from San Jose de Guaviare to the city of Puerto Inírida, but more convenient would be to take the plane from Bogota or Villavicencio to Puerto Inírida.
The capital of the Guainía department is the starting point to visit the ‘Cerros de Mavecure’ and it takes only 3 to 4 hours in boat over the Inirida River to get there. The most notable rocks (Cerros) are ‘Cerro Mavecure’, ‘Cerro Mono’ and ‘El Pajarito’. Some of them can be climbed from the ‘El Remanso’ Indian community located at the foot of the ‘El Pajarito’ Rock. On the other side of the river there are some smaller cerros to visit like 'Cerro el Diablo', the most beautiful one. It is an amazing experience to camp on one of the rock overlooking the jungle and the rivers curving through it. Don´t miss the sunset and sunrise with an amazing view over the lowlands and the Río Inirida!
For the people that want more adventure than it is also possible to go further up the Inirida river. A tour of 3 to 4 days along different Indian communities will bring you to a spectacular waterfall called the 'Raudal Alto' in ‘Caño Mina’. To get there a couple of river rapids need to be passed which are not without risk. It is an unforgettable adventure which should be started well prepared.
Other destinations well worth visiting are from Inirida are 'El Gran Fluvial', where the rivers Orinoco, Guaviare and Atabapo come together, and 'El Caño Bocón', a river located 6 hours by boat from Inirida to a beautiful waterfall l which is also excellent for sport fishing.