For a somewhat easy and economical exploration of the Amazon – Tena, the capital town and the oldest town of the Napo Province – is easy to reach by land. From Tena even last minute tours of the rainforest can easily be arranged. Though technically in the secondary Amazon rainforest, the area is green, wet and wild.
It’s a grueling 10 hour bus trip from Quito to Tena. But cheaper than the 670 mile plane ride from Bogota to Leticia. Tena is surprisingly pleasant and tranquil little city offering all the services and amenities a traveler needs. It’s an ideal and well-used base for travelers who stay a few days and embark on river tours visiting some of the indigenous communities ($60 per person per day), or to go whitewater rafting 2-3 day trips – $55 a day.
Walking along the Tena riverfront is a relaxing experience and there are a wide range of hotels, restaurants and tour operators catering to the tourist crowd. The forest sprouts from the edges of town and Parque Central is a nice place to relax. Nearby there is a small island called Parque Amazonica La Isla where for $1 one can wander down gravel paths through 22 forested hectares.
An easy day trip is to catch a bus from Tena to Port Misahualli – a sleepy little pueblo, just a 40 minute bus ride ($.75) through the jungle. The town lies on the upper Rio Napa river and appears to have lost its popularity. Little used restaurants, bars, tourist offices line the town square – probably only busy during key Ecuadorian holidays. Most tourists use the larger and more popular town of Tena as a base to organize and venture off into the Amazon these days – leaving Port Misahualli a sleepy, forgotten village.
The most famous residents of the town are the mischievous capuchin monkeys. They come out in the morning and evenings running along the wires, jumping from roof to roof, ripping leaves off trees and walking into stores and restaurants. Do be careful as they will charge up on you and steal anything you leave laying around or on the ground and park benches. Tourists from Tena come and sit in the Plaza as evening falls and watch the monkeys play.
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