March 13, 2019, 12:50 pm
Visiting the Amazon has always been on my list of “things to do in Colombia.” But even after living and traveling around the South American country for a year and a half, the Amazon region was still a mystery.
I certainly didn’t know what to expect when my small plane headed to Leticia, Colombia landed at the most basic, no-frills airport I had ever seen. But that’s what’s to be expected when you arrive on the cusp of the Amazon.
David, my guide for the 4-day trip, welcomed me outside the airport and took me to my hotel located on a rural road. David talked about this region in Colombia’s south and described what we would be doing on this Amazon tour. I listened while green pastures whizzed by the car window and stoic trees lined the road. Small children played outside humble, yet colorful shacks and I couldn’t help but think how different the scenery was from Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.
City of Leticia
Once I put my luggage in my hotel room, it was off to the center of Leticia to get a better look at this frontier town. The downtown area of Leticia is small and simple. Fruit markets and bakeries neighbor a few hostels. Restaurants advertising Peruvian, Brazilian and Colombian food can be spotted along many main streets, a constant reminder that Leticia is a border town where the three countries meet at the Amazon River. Instead of yellow taxis, people without private transportation hailed tuk-tuks. These three-wheeled, chariot contraptions have space for the driver in the first row and room for two passengers in the second.
Leticia isn’t a remarkable town. There aren’t many people who would just head to Leticia for a holiday or vacation, but it’s the starting point for any Amazon tour while traveling in Colombia. While Leticia might be sleepy, there’s definitely a point of interest every tourist should visit – Parque Santander in the evening. That’s when thousands of birds flock to the modest park to eat berries in the trees and rest for the night.
Flocking to Parque Santander
I arrived at the park a little before 5:30 p.m. and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, as I only saw a few birds flying to the trees. It was very anti-climactic. Then a little time passed and the sky became saturated with whizzing, tweeting birds. Thousands of these little creatures ripped through the air, as if their birdy moms had told them if they weren’t in their tree before sundown, they would get a serious whoopin’. The combination of so many wings flapping and so many beaks chirping, didn’t even sound like I was in the presence of birds, but more like I was standing next to a waterfall. I was so happy I had stuck around and didn’t leave before the show even began.
Safety in Leticia
The park also felt very secure. Teens in school uniforms giggled on the sidewalks, men worked out on exercise equipment and women sold soup and other Colombian food in small kiosks. Everything was happening under the watchful eyes of the police officers stationed in the park. The whole downtown area was patrolled by the officers, and everyone seemed to mind their own business, even though the contrast between tourist and local is stark in Leticia.
I was dropped back at my hotel after the bird performance and I scarfed down dinner in the hotel’s outside dining area. The Yakuruna Hotel was more like a lodge than anything else. Walkways led up to the separated rooms and a screened-in porch acted as a foyer to each room, making the area feel like a tropical cabin. My room had tall wooden ceilings and the walls were splashed with a mustard-yellow. I went to sleep early to a concert of cicadas chirping into the night. I had a big day ahead of me as my guide, David, would be escorting me into the Amazon on Day 2 of my adventure.
Visit Uncover Colombia’s Amazon tour page to see a detailed itinerary and find out how you can take the same tour.
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