Deep within the Amazon Rainforest lies the capital of the Amazonas state, Manaus. This energetic city is a magnet for adventure seekers who want to learn about the culture before embarking on their adventure in the rainforest.
Despite being 930mi (1,500km) inland from the coast, massive shipping boats can be seen on the Rio Negro, as this is a major ocean shipping port.
While Manaus is growing as a modern city, preserving culture is important to the locals. So, here are a few ways to experience this Amazon gateway city.
Visit the Amazon Theatre, which is a unique architectural landmark built in 1897 during the first rubber boom, when Manus was considered one of the great centers of civilization. Made out of Carrara marble, Murano glass, and featuring Louis XV furnishings make this an enchanting historic landmark.
Built in 1903 by Karl Waldemar Scholz, a rubber businessman, today the palace is a cultural center and an architectural monument that is protected by the Amazonian government. Here, you can learn about politics and see the work of local artists.
Built in 1874, this building originally served as police headquarters. Today, it's occupied by several different organizations, including the Image and Sound Museum and the Pinacoteca.
Take a three to five day trip into the Amazon to see how pristine and diverse the ecosystem really is. Leave behind your fears of the wilderness, see how local villagers live in the remote jungle, go canoeing through rainforest creeks, and spot toucans, macaws, jaguars, monkeys and iguanas which call the Amazon home.
You can easily find boat tours in Manaus, but do your research to find an operator that is sustainable and reliable. Do not book a tour off someone in the streets. Tour boats travel different routes throughout the year, and you can choose to travel on the Rio Negro or Rio Solimões from Manaus.
Tip: When choosing which river to explore, the Rio Negro has fewer mosquitoes due to the acidity of the water, which makes it very hard for mosquitoes to reproduce.
Once you’re on the boat, you’ll be fishing for piranhas, watching the sunrise over the jungle, and swimming with pink dolphins in Novo Airao.
Each night groups are taken on nocturnal expeditions with local guides to search for snakes and native caimans (a small crocodile from Central and South America). Riverboat cruises in the Amazon are a truly spectacular experience.
At the end of your journey, your boat will arrive at Careiro Castannha to witness the “meeting of waters”, where the Black River meets the Solimões River. For almost 4mi (6km), the water from both rivers runs side by side without mixing due to different speeds, water density and temperature. It’s a one-of-a-kind phenomenon that can only be seen in the Amazon.
Take a two hour bus from Manaus to Presidente Figueiredo, also known as Terra de Cachoeiras or 'Land of the Waterfalls'.
Grab a tasty Brazilian lunch from a local eatery in town and take a dip in the refreshing waters of Cachoeira do Santuario (Santuario Falls), Cachoeira da Pedra Furada, Cachoeira de Neblina or Cachoeira do Mutum. If in doubt, ask in town for the best waterfalls to see.
Get started by learning Forro (a Brazilian dance style), take an acai tour or see how traditional handicrafts are made by Brazilian First Peoples at Bosque da Ciencia.
Locals enjoy relaxing at Ponta Negra Beach on weekends, where you'll see locals playing volleyball and swimming in the river.
Brazilians run on "Brazilian Time”, which takes a relaxed approach to day to day life. Lunchtime siestas are a part of the local culture in Manaus, so embrace it. Many businesses close after lunch and reopen in the late afternoon/evening.
See San Sebastian Square's monochromatic patterned pavement, or take a walk through the beautiful Manaus Botanical Gardens.
The best way to reach Manaus is by plane or boat. Bus services from other major Brazilian cities are few and far between.
Once you reach Manaus, most attractions are within walking distance, however if you need to travel further, moto-taxis are the best alternative mode of transport.
There are cheap local buses, but they are often overcrowded and a haven for pickpockets.
While experiencing Manaus's nightlife, catch moto-taxis if you need to get somewhere that is not within a safe walking distance.
Come prepared with a travel money card and cash available before you arrive in Manaus. There aren’t many places to exchange money, and even less opportunities to do so once you get into the Amazon. Use large notes for accommodation and tours. Keep smaller notes and coins available to pay for meals, transport and toilets.
Tipping is not mandatory, however you may want to tip your guide or driver to show appreciation for their services.
Haggling is common throughout the city, but ask the locals or your guide for reasonable prices beforehand. But, don’t be a tight-ass and haggle too hard.
Here are a few extra handy tips:
Manaus is a large city, but two days will give you plenty of time to explore. From there, take a riverboat cruise to explore the Amazon by river. Each day you will wake up to discover a different part of the rainforest.
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