On the Amazon River at the southern tip of Colombia, Leticia is the kind of landlocked city you might expect to find in the midst of the world's largest jungle, far from "civilization." Nonetheless, it's cleaner and has better facilities than most jungle settlements. Therefore, most visitors looking to take trips along the Amazon and into the jungles to see exotic birds, wildflowers and remote native villages head to Leticia—the only city in the huge department of Amazonas, which takes up one-third of Colombia.

Leticia can only be reached by plane from Bogota (which is 665 mi/1,070 km to the north); go there to explore the jungle and get a real feel for the mighty Amazon river and rain forest.

Leticia's bustling and colorful riverside market, with dozens of launches in attendance, is worth a cautious look (pickpockets abound). You can also take an excursion through three countries in four hours (Colombia, Brazil and Peru), join a night alligator hunt (three or more hours) or go on a half-day walk in the jungle near town to Ticuna indigenous villages. Amazon Holidays (phone 57-8-592-6692; http://www.amazon-holidays.com) specializes in guided tours to indigenous villages.

Leticia merges with the Brazilian town of Tabatinga, which can be entered without requiring a Brazilian visa. With a visa, you could take a passenger boat from Tabatinga upstream to Iquitos, Peru, or downstream to Manaus, Brazil. If you continue into Brazil, yellow-fever vaccination is mandatory.

If you do want to explore the Colombian jungle, hire a certified guide. Tours, which can include a trip into Parque Nacional Natural Amacayacu upstream, are offered by Anaconda Tours, located in the Anaconda Hotel(http://www.hotelanaconda.com.co); and by Aviatur (phone 571-381-7111; http://www.aviatur.com), which operates the hotel concession for the park. While there, take a boat trip to view freshwater dolphins.

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