Manaus is the only city in the Amazon so if you have dreams of exploring the world’s biggest river and jungle housing the most species on the planet, you basically have to pass through this two-million person town. Originally, we thought of it as a stop-off to get to our jungle tour but found ourselves extending our stay to five days because were having such a good time. This largely credited to meeting the loveliest couple Debora and Mark upon arrival; they totally took us under their wing, showing us great local spots; otherwise, I would probably recommend three days here, two for exploring and one for resting after your multi-day jungle adventure.
If you get the chance to visit Manaus, here a some great spots to check out during your stay in the Amazonas state.
Canto da Peixada: This is the local spot for serious fish. Ask to see their biggest catch (you’ ll need two people to lift it.)
Giselle’s Tacacá Stand: When in the Amazon, you have to try tacacá. This indigenous soup, which might not sound good from this description, is dried shrimp, tree gum, antiseptic leaves that make your tongue tingle, and a mystery broth that’s simply delicious!
Waku Sese: This cafe specializes in the highly coveted amazonian acai berry, which is is said to give you energy and a ridiculous amount of antioxidants. It is served like a frozen custard and they offer a ton of toppings. Their tapioca (not the pudding but a spongy pancake) is also a classic regional dish and is yummy with the local salty cheese.
Foodie Tip: Eat all the exotic fruits you can. The most amazing treats grow in the Amazon, and few ever get sold outside of the region. Capuacu’s sour/sweet custard-like goodness will tempt you into booking a return flight.
Hotel Tropical: This historical luxe hotel is 20 minutes up the river in Ponta Negra.
Go Inn: A hip new hotel that all the x-pats are talking about.
Hotel Ideal: This absolutely no frills place redeems itself with its unbeatable prices and balconies. Request room 201 for best river view.
Meeting of the Waters: Locally known as the Encuetro de los Aguas (by the way, you will be hard pressed to find an English-speaking person in Manuas, so it’s good to pick up a few phrases of Portuguese), this is the spot where the Rio Negro and the milky Rio Solimoes meet to form the Amazon. Normally this would be a non-event, but due to their different temperatures they run alongside each other for nearly a mile and their distinct colors make it a worthwhile natural phenomenon. Tip: Don’t get suckered into an all-day tour, take a cab or local bus 20-30 minutes to the ferry terminal in Ceasa and charter a private boat for $20.
Walking Tour: A self-guided stroll starting at the produce market and working your way east to all the funny shopping stands and beautiful parks and plazas through the centro is the best way to get a feel for town.
Amazonas Opera House: A must-see work of architecture and the tour is short and sweet. Free concerts happen on Thursday nights and you can listen in on rehearsals Monday- Thursday from 9-12 am. ( Debora and Mark are both musicians in the orchestra. He plays French horn and she plays viola; say hello for us of you go!)
Jungle Tours: Indian Amazonas Turismo was the five-day tour we took. It is run by Native Amazonians and based out of their family home (read: thatched-roof open-air structures) along the Urubu river. If you are down for true adventure and no running water or electricity this is a truly unforgettable experience. Ask for Cristavo, he is like a Jungle ninja and medicine man rolled into one. Another option that sounded amazing, was Amazon Tree Climbing Company. They run 5-day tours or even 1 day where you explore the jungle from tree to tree.
Hopefully our “City Guide: Manaus, Brazil” will help you navigate this urban jungle!