We arrived in Colombia flying from Lima to Bogota. We found a direct flight at 135 usd, a 3 hours flight leaving at 2.00 am.
Bogota is surrounded by hills and mountains with a North-south orientation, it offers a mix of modernish city center, historical quarter, hip areas, upscale gated communities and condos complexes and…slums all around. In the local bus from the airport we missed our stop and went on almost until the end of the line, passing by residential areas and the city center. We kept going for a long time along steep narrow streets, we were up in the hills and in the slums of Bogota. The views of the city were impressive but the living conditions up here there saddening. The historical area called Candelaria features the typical Plaza Bolivar, several churches and cathedrals, administrative buildings and several skyscrappers with interesting design. We stayed in the quiet and secured area near Chapinero and its numerous malls, bars and restaurants and the more upscale El Retiro known as ‘Zona T’.
Our favorite moment in Bogota was the visit of the Botero museum, it’s free and funny. A must do if you’re in Bogota. I also heard that the Museo del oro is worth a visit but it was closed on Mondays.
We had only booked two nights in Bogota, not knowing if there was much to see or to do. But we realized that besides the historical center and a few “zonas” to shop and eat out, the town doesn’t have much interest. The fact that it was cold and rainy and that I was a bit sick added to the decision to leave quickly.
We didn’t have a real plan and were considering going into the coffee region but as it was continuously raining there and knowing we’d still have the chance to visit a coffee finca in Guatemala, we decided to head to the Amazonas and a eco-friendly village called Puerto Narino. We found tickets around 180$ per person to fly from Bogota to Leticia and then to Medellin 4 days later.
Leticia, is right on the Amazon, located at the border where Brazil, Peru and Colombia meet. This town is only reachable by boat or plane. The city itself has nothing really special even though you can spend an afternoon wandering around as we did on the way back (more on what is worth to do there at the end of the post).
Before exiting the airport, we had to pay a visitor fee of 30’000 pesos pp (10usd), then we headed directly to the pier to take the boat to Puerto Nariño, an eco-friendly, tiny village up the Amazon river. The boat is 30’000 pesos ppe. The ride is about 2h and 75km, there are depatures at 7h30, 9am and 1h30pm (you need to be there 30′ prior). Alternatively you can have a private boat at 200’000 pesos per person.
The ride was a delight in itself, it was warm and sunny but breezy because of the speed, we had nice views of the rainforest bordering the river banks and we were greeted by kids every time we stopped by the tiny settlements and above all we were on the Amazon !!!
Once we reached Puerto Nariño, we had to pay another visitor tax of 10’000, people approached us for hostels or boat tours but we had booked at the Casa Selva, actually the nicest one in town, located on the upper street. Small town, entirely pedestrian, with few blocks, a dozen lodging options, few bars, fewer restaurants and a the a military (due to the near border to two neighouring countries). There are basically 2 streets, one running along the river which is a walking bridge as during rainy season as the water level is higher, and the upper street, parallel to the former, then there are several smaller connecting streets. 6000 inhabitants. most of the inhabitants are indigenous and most live in settlements all around, The town is surprisingly quite lively at night, so late loud music, barking dogs and drunk singers made our nights a little less quiet than expected. Days start early too with daily activities resuming at sunrise and school starting ar 7.00 am.
The town is mostly used as a base for tours in the jungle or the boat tour to Lago Tarapoto (more on that on a moment), mingling with the village life and going to the mirador for sunset. You can also do some short walks leading to the edge of the jungle. This small town is a pioneer in Eco-Tourism, the streets are clean, no litter around, they recycle a lot and try to live as much as possible in harmony with the nature around.
We enjoyed freshly caught fish every evening at one of the small stalls you can find in the streets and had lunch twice at the biggest restaurant in town – Las Margaritas – serving a buffet with drinks at 25’000 pesos at lunch – absolutely delicious!
We also paid a visit to the Centro de Interpretación Natütama were the flora and fauna of the river are showcased. The entrance is 5000 pesos per person. Don’t expect much but at least we helped them a bit.
As mentioned the boat tour along the Amazon river and in Lago Tarapoto is the highlight when visiting this area. We had tried to book a boat trip with a guy that spoke to us on the road the day prior but he never showed up the next morning. So we ended up going with a man called Albanos who was at the pier (the best is to just go there around 7 or 8 and you’ll find a fisherman happy to take you). We paid 60000 pesos for the 2 of us and the trip was about 3h.
We were really lucky and saw all the animals we were told we could see: a sloth (from far), little monkeys (micos), grey and pink dolphins – they only live in fresh water – and during our stop in the small village of San Francisco we saw caymans and turtles.
Albanos was a good guide and explained us a lot about the life on the river and the reglementations: no big boats allowed on the lake, one can only fish the traditional way, no construction wood must be taken from the forest, and so on….the Colombian government is investing in the region and is building new houses to lodge the ever growing population.
All in all we stayed 3 nights in Puerto Nariño (2 or one is sufficient) and then headed to Leticia for the last night as our flight was early morning. In Leticia there is one nice thing to do: go to the Parque Santander for sunset as you will have thousands of little perrots arriving to settle in the trees for the night – really spectacular!
We absolutely enjoyed our stay in the Amazonas – spontaneous decisions are often the best !