The Gateway to the Colombian Amazon: Putumayo

Putumayo is one of the most beautiful and promising post-conflict scenarios to enjoy nature tourism.  has a perfect harmony between the rainforest and the Andes mountain range. In the south of the department is the city of Villagarzon where rivers begin to take the shape of a snake along with flat green landscapes; in the west of the capital, Mocoa, is the Sibundoy Valley.

Putumayo has an incredibly high biodiversity, it offers you the opportunity to meet species such as parrots, toucans, monkeys, tapirs, capivaras, tigers, panthers, spectacled bear and a great variety of birds. This is because its territory occupies a Andean – Amazon Piedmont, and numerous rivers.

Mocoa

Mocoa is Putumayo’s Capital City. It is a city that offers a combination of jungle walks, waterfalls, ecotourism, adventure sports, ancestral wellness, bird watching and Amazonian fauna.

What to visit staying in Mocoa?

Fin del Mundo Waterfall

It is one of the main tourist attractions in Mocoa. The waterfall is located in the Dantayaco stream and has a drop height of 70 meters forming two beautiful natural pools.

To get there you must hike up the mountain for 1.5 – hours, and when you are at this point apart from taking beautiful pictures you can do water activities such as canyoning.

Mandiyaco Cañon

Located at km 25 of the road that leads from Mocoa to Pitalito very close to the Caqueta river. This natural wonder is a rock formation of volcanic origin, called “Mandiyaco” in the Inga language.

The rock formations that can be observed are possible to see different faces like the lion, the tiger’s claws, the nose of the bear, among other figures, in this wonderful place full of positive energy where you can take a boat ride.

Suruma Park

This reserve and preservation center of the Amazonian flora and fauna is located 8.3 km from Mocoa, has an area of 131.6 hectares of which 90% is forest.

There you will be able to take tours to learn more about the flora and fauna found in the Amazon as well as gain knowledge of the species that are endangered and those that are already in recovery.

Paway Butterfly Farm

If you want to learn about the evolutionary process of butterflies, this place is ideal for you. It is located 7.7 km from Mocoa; there you will be surrounded by nature and many species of butterflies.

In addition the butterfly farm offers you the opportunity to stay in a cabin built in a Ceiba “sacred tree”, you can spend a night surrounded by nature and wake up with the original sounds of the Amazon rainforest.

Hornoyaco Waterfall

To get to this beautiful waterfall of 55 m of fall you must make a 2 hour walk from the center of Mocoa. It is known because its inhabitants say that the guardian of this waterfall is the rainbow, since most of the time when the rainbow appears you can see how it surrounds the waterfall. It is a place of tranquility and peace where you can spend a wonderful afternoon.

Licamancha Caves

In Putumayo it is also possible to do caving activities, in the limits between the departments of Putumayo and Cauca on the banks of the Caqueta River is the access point to the caverns; it is advisable not to visit in rainy seasons due to the risks that can be run by the increase of the current of the river.

During the one hour tour it is possible to appreciate paleontological vestiges of more than millions of years old, besides walking through internal halls inside the cavern of 15 meters high.

At the moment it is an area that is in constant investigation for the discovery of more caverns or internal tours inside the already known ones.

El Salto del Indio

In the Kuriyaku ravine (in the indigenous language of the sector means “golden water”) just 19 km from Mocoa it is possible to find this natural wonder. It is formed by 2 waterfalls where a natural pool of emerald green water is generated.

Thanks to the fact that the inhabitants of the cabildo Tigre Playa offer the service of canoe to cross the river, the hiking time was reduced from 1 hour to 20 minutes, so now you will have more time to enjoy this natural wonder.

Donde se Oculta el Sol waterfalls (where the sun hides)

Located 22 km from Mocoa, when you arrive at the indicated point you will hike 2 km to reach the waterfalls that are formed in the Sardinas Creek; the waterfall “Mohano” (in indigenous language “Jaguar Man”) has 18 m of fall and the waterfall “Wakana” (in indigenous language “Llanto de la Mona”) has 17 m of fall.

Between the two waterfalls it is necessary to cross a stone bridge and a stone tunnel that connects the two waterfalls.

There you will be able to go bird watching, there is a camping area or if you prefer rural lodging.

How to arrive to Mocoa?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Where to stay in Mocoa?

In Mocoa you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • Posada Turistica Dantayaco

Orito

It is located in the Amazonian foothills, there you will be able to meet and have contact with the Kofan indigenous community, you can acquire knowledge of the ancestral wisdom of the hand of them, also you will be able to know the Pijili River, noted for its emerald green waters.

What to visit in Orito?

Isla Escondida Nature Reserve

There are about 25 kms of walking trails in and around the reserve. Apart from the trails there are many tracks for walking and exploring!

The reserve has more than 350 bird species, with many range-restricted species. Among the main targets are the  Nocturnal Curassow (Nothocrax urumutum), Salvin’s Curassow, Chestnut-headed Crake, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Napo Screech-owl, Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Pavonine Quetzal, Collared Puffbird, Spot-winged and Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Fulvous Antshrike, Hairy-crested Antbird, Spectacled Bristle-tyrant, Foothill Elaenia, Black-&-white and Golden-winged Tody-flycatcher, Grey-tailed Piha, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Foothill Schiffornis, Musician Wren and Fulvous Shrike-Tanager.

There are registers of  jaguar, margay, trumpeters, deer, opossums, nocturnal curassows, kinkajous (Potus flavus), olingos (Bassaricyon alleni), pacas (Cuniculus paca), night monkeys (Aotus), band-bellied Owls (Pulsatrix melanota), etc.

Maloka Oso Kofan

It is a meeting center of the Kofan indigenous community, the name of this Maloka is due to the fact that the Taita Oso Kofan is located there; also if you visit the department in January you can have the opportunity to participate in the annual camp where the indigenous community offers visitors the Amazonian ancestral knowledge along with the Yage ceremony supervised by members of the indigenous community.

Ma&Ju Ecotourism Center

In Ma&Ju you will learn about the agricultural processes of planting and harvesting of pepper and cocoa that takes place in the department. You can also do activities such as Canopy and walk on Tibetan bridges over the jungle.

If you wish to spend the night in this center there is a camping area or private cabins in the middle of the jungle.

Corunta Ecotourism Center

In the center you will be able to enjoy a private waterfall, La Silvania, you can also go horseback riding in the middle of the jungle, enjoy a natural pool and take tours in rural areas and have contact with the farmers of the sector.

Pijili Stone

It is a huge stone located in the flow of the Pijili River, is one of the most visited resorts for the majesty of the stone along with the tranquility and beautiful scenery offered by this river.

How to get to Orito?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 3-hours ride (118 Km) to Orito.

Puerto Asis

It is the municipality with the largest population of the department, besides being known as the commercial capital of Putumayo due to the development of commercial activities of great importance for the economic development of the department.

Moreover, Puerto Asis was the national center in the development of the Colombian-Peruvian war or known as “the conflict of Leticia” between 1932-1933.

What to visit in Puerto Isis?

La Esmeralda Pier

This important dock is the place where all the boats connect with Puerto Leguizamo, being one of the most important fluvial connection points of the department. You can also take a tour through the Putumayo River where you will be able to appreciate the immensity and enjoy the scenery during the tour.

Playa Rica Village

During your journey through the Putumayo River you can enter this magical trail where you can do bird watching, appreciate various species of the jungle in this part of the country and learn about Amazonian fruits.

How to get to Puerto Asis?

Bogota – Mocoa – Puerto Asis

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city. Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 2-hours ride (87 Km) to Puerto Asís.

Bogotá- Puerto Asís

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Tres de Mayo Airport (PUU) at Puerto Asís city. Keep in mind that the airlines that fly to Puerto Asis are: EasyFly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and Satena (Sunday through Friday).

Puerto Leguizamo

It is called the exotic garden of the universe, as it is surrounded by the Amazon jungle, the Putumayo River and has borders with Ecuador and Peru. Formerly known as Caucayá, since it was the name it received when it was founded in 1920 and in 1950 it received its current name.

What to visit in Puerto Leguizamo?

El Guardian de la Selva (The Guardian of the Forest)

A magical ceiba tree 60 meters high and 40 centimeters in diameter. The inhabitants of the sector consider it to be the grandfather tree, being the sacred tree that is full of positive energy and is raising requests to heaven.

Caucayá River

It is located at the entrance to the Amazon, from here you will be able to observe the pink dolphin, river otters, different species of birds and Amazonian monkeys.

Laguna Azul

It is a body of water located in the deepest point of Puerto Leguizamo, it is said that its waters are healing, also rituals of cleansing and purification of the body and spirit are performed there.

La Argelia Fish Farming Station

In this station you will meet and feed the Amazonian fish Pirarocu, one of the largest freshwater fish and can measure up to 3 meters, this experience is possible with the support of the inhabitants of the sector.

How to get to Puerto Leguizamo?

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Caucayá Airport (LQM) at Puerto Leguizamo city.

Keep in mind that the only airline that operates to this airport is Satena on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Villagarzon

It is part of the Amazonian Piedemonte region, surrounded by the rivers San Juan, Conejo, San Vicente and Guineo, is 15 minutes from Mocoa; it is also known as the heart of Putumayo for being one of the most diverse areas of the department.

What to visit in Villagarzon?

El Escondite Natural Reserve

It is a Private Natural Reserve, which has a protected area of approximately 124 hectares, of which 70% is in natural regeneration or in a state of conservation located in the village of La Joya. Here you can go bird watching, as it has a record of 299 species of birds, you can also observe frogs and insects and primates.

Kayaking on the Guineo River

You can do this activity surrounded by a landscape of Amazon jungle and pure waters that invite us to have fun and connect with mother earth.

Rio Vides Archaeological Park

In the park you can observe stones with petroglyphs that show motifs of stars, plants and animals and other classified carved by indigenous ancestors.

How to get to Villagarzon?

Bogota – Mocoa – Villagarzon

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city. Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 30 – minutes ride (17 Km) to Villagarzón.

Where to stay in Villagarzon?

In Villagarzón you will find a great diversity of accommodation options depending on your budget and personal taste. Our recommendations as follows:

  • El Escondite.

Sibundoy Valley

It is one of the cultural epicenters of Putumayo, with the presence of the indigenous cultures Kamentsá (men from here) and Ingas (close), unique in the world.

The inhabitants of the sector say that the missionaries arrived there during the colonial period, leaving numerous educational centers of great importance for the region.

What to visit in Sibundoy Valley?

The Interculturality Park

Known as the meeting point for the inhabitants of the municipality, it is adorned with eight sculptures made of wood by the indigenous communities, being an ideal place to spend the afternoon and visit the headquarters of the Municipal Administration.

Ambiaku Tourist Center / Colón Hot Springs Center

Termas Colón is a place where you can visit during the day or at night; you can experience shock therapies between hot and cold water, you can also have an outdoor mud therapy.

Ayen Botanical Garden

The place is ideal to learn about medicinal plants; you can also participate in harmonization or cleansing activities through the taita Juan, you can also participate in a yage ceremony with a previous reservation.

Villa Beatriz Viewpoint

From this wonderful viewpoint you will be able to watch birds and hummingbirds, besides having a panoramic view of the immense and magical valley of Sibundoy.

How to get to Sibundoy?

Bogota – Mocoa – Sibundoy

Take a 1,5-hours flight from El Dorado (BOG) in Bogotá to Villa Garzón Airport (VGZ) at Mocoa city.

Once at in Mocoa you take an approximately 3,5-hours ride (81 Km) to Sibunday.

If you want to know more about Colombia, or wants to book your trip, please contact us.

References
About the author

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Discovering Amacayacu National Natural Park in the Colombian Amazon

Welcome to the land of river dolphins, manatees, anacondas, and the smallest primate in the world: the Amacayacu National Natural Park. The protected forest is home to more than 5,000 species of plants, as well as being the region with the greatest diversity of primates on the planet.

It is the habitat of the Pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea) the smallest primate in the new world, the largest water lily in the world (Victoria amazonica), the giant silvery-blue butterfly Menelaus blue morpho (Morpho menelaus), and hundreds of more species.

Discovering Amacayacu National Natural Park

Amacayacu National Natural Park protects a strip of jungle in southeastern Colombia in the Amazonas department. This protected area represents 40% of the Amazonian Trapezoid and has a funnel shape, with a total area of 2,935 km².

Amacayacu National Natural Park currently belongs to the municipalities of Leticia, Puerto Nariño, and Tarapacá, in the Amazonas department. The park aims to preserve the most representative samples of tropical rainforest landscapes, flora, and fauna species present in the Amazonian Trapezoid.

Additionally, within the depths of this natural Park located southeast of Puerto Nariño, there are indigenous settlements from the Tikuna ethnicity.

Through the jungle, you will explore swamps, marshes, madre-viejas, and river systems representative of the Amazon rainforest. You will also learn about the Tikuna culture with the help of the guides in the park.

Sunset at the Amazon River

A Little bit of the Tikuna’s History

Between 1630-40, the Cristian missionaries Cristobal de Acuña and Laureano de la Cruz recorded the first registers about the Tikuna natives. The Tikunas were described by them as semi-nomadic people, they avoid contact with foreigners by moving their settlement to inter-fluvial areas within the Amazon jungle.

In the middle of the XVIII century, Tikuna natives were forced to labor during the incursions of the Portuguese colonists who came from Brazil.

At the end of the 19th century, the Tikunas have their own exclusive territory until now. It extends from the Atacuari River up to the current city of Fonte Boa, extending between the bordering countries (Peru and Brazil).

The Role of Community-based Tourism in Amacayacu Park

Most of the human groups present in the park’s area and its zone of influence belong to the Tikuna ethnic group, which is present in Brazil and Colombia. There are also Yagua and Cocama ethnicities, although in smaller numbers, and nowadays, mestizo families.

Indigenous traditions, including the Tikuna, have been strongly affected by the destructive intensity of the gold, rubber, fur, timber, drug trafficking, and mining fevers. All this brought disease, violence, and slavery, among many other situations, detrimental to the local ecosystems and the local people.

Today, indigenous communities look for a balance between traditional and modern life. For this reason, the main subsistence activities for the Tikunas are fishing, agriculture, hunting, ecotourism, handicrafts, research, and monitoring of their natural resources.

Amacayacu Park works together with the local Tikuna community to make community-based ecotourism the best strategy towards sustainability and to counteract the natural resource extraction activities.

How to get to Amacayacu National Natural Park

Firstly you must flight to Leticia, the capital of the Amazonas department in Colombia. The most popular route is from Bogota with Avianca, LATAM, and Satena airlines.

The flight takes a 1,5-hours flight from Bogotá to General Alfredo Vásquez Cobo International Airport (LET) at Leticia city.

Once at the airport, you have to go to Leticia Fluvial Port, an approximately 30- minutes ride. Once at the Port you should take an extra 1,5 hours boat ride to Puerto Nariño.

The schedule offered by the 3 companies providing services begins at 8:00 am, 10:00 am, and 1:30 pm. For the return, the schedule starts at 7:30 am, 11:00 am, and 3:30 pm.

It is possible to book your own schedule by hiring private operators, but costs may increase with respect to the already established schedules.

What to do in Amacayacu National Natural Park

The park is currently closed to the public due to the Pandemic situation. The indigenous people of Mocagua and San Martin offer the following activities:

Hiking

There are four different trails: Las Chagras, Selva, Acuaticos and Miquiando.

  • Chagras Trail: On the trail, you can appreciate the crops used by locals and production techniques.
  • Selva (Jungle) Trail: A tour through the Amazon jungle to appreciate the most diverse number of Amazon’s plants and animals, such as primates, mammals, and a great variety of birds.
  • Aquatic (Aquatic) Trail: Diurnal or nocturals tours that cross the Amacayacu River and the Matamata Creek. In these tours, you can appreciate the different aquatic mammals such as the so-called pink dolphins or Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis).
  • Miquiando (Monkey) Trail: In the Mocagua indigenous reserve, the Maikuchiga Foundation offers a tour where you can learn about the 9 species of primates present in this part of the Amazonian trapeze. In the foundation, there are specimens that have been rescued from illegal trafficking.

Birdwatching

More than 468 birds have been registered in the Amacayacu park, representing almost a third of the country’s bird population. Among the most outstanding birds are the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), Wattled curassow (Crax globulosa), Razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum), and Grey-winged Trumpeter (Psophia crepitans capensis).

Wildlife tours

Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), also known as the boto, bufeo or pink river dolphin

More than 150 different kinds of mammals have been recorded to inhabit this area. Three of the four species of freshwater aquatic mammals existing in Colombia can be found in the park:

Other interesting animals include:

  • Pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea)
  • Brown woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha)
  • Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
  • Matamata turtle (Chelus fimbriata)

Where to stay in Amacayacu National Natural Park

Currently, the Amacayacu Natural National Park does not offer accommodation for travelers due to its closure. You can stay in Leticia or in Puerto Nariño. We recommend you to stay in La Ceiba and Decameron Decalodge Ticuna in Leticia, Cabañas Maikü Selva in Puerto Nariño.

Best time to visit Amacayacu National Natural Park

Amacayacu can be visited all year round, there is no dry season but July is the month with the least amount of rainfall and a temperature of 26º C (97 ºF).

Amacayacu National Natural Park Entrance fees

The park is currently closed, so there is no entrance fee. Possible costs vary depending on the services provided in Mocagua and San Martin.

What to Consider Before Visiting Amacayacu National Natural Park

  • To take any of the tours inside the park you must hire an authorized and certified guide.
  • Consider wearing personal protective items (sunscreen, sunglasses, towel, insect repellent, and hat).
  • Use binoculars to watch animals’ behavior.
  • Bring along valid identification documents and health insurance.
  • Be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you in a personal first aid kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

References
  • Colparques
  • SINAP
  • Colombia travel
About the authors

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism-environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.