The Amazon rainforest is one of the most desired places in the world to visit, especially by foreigners and adventure lovers. However, the destination is becoming popular amongst Brazilians and foreigners alike, getting to be one of the most popular national and international tourism routes. Manaus – capital of the state of Amazonas – is the gateway for those looking to explore the attractions of the largest tropical forest on the planet.
Called “Paris of the Tropics” thanks to the rich European immigration and influence during the rubber boom, the city exudes a frenetic cultural air with colonial houses, jungle landscapes and an incredible floating harbor located in the heart of the city. Although it seems remote, Manaus is geographically easy to get to. The main way to arrive in Manaus include air and riverine. But, there is also a way to get there by bus if the visitor is already in the Brazilian Amazon.
The quickest way to get to Manaus is by plane, especially for those who come from countries outside Brazil. However, the rivers of the North region are the roads for those coming from other Brazilian states by boat. In this case, besides being more tiring and time-consuming, the trip can take days or weeks.
Domestic flights from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Belém, Porto Alegre, Fortaleza, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, among other Brazilian cities, fly to Manaus and the trip takes about five hours or more, depending of the place departure or connection. The main national airlines such as LATAM, GOL and Azul Airlines have daily flights to the city. However, most of these flights have a stopover in Brasília or São Paulo. But, it is possible to fly directly, check this before traveling.
Eduardo Gomes International Airport is located 15 km (9 miles) from the city center. Before the pandemic, the city had direct flights to several Brazilian cities and abroad, such as the United States, Panama and Portugal. Currently, these routes are limited or no longer exist.
However, according to representatives of the State Tourism Company of Amazonas (Amazonastur), the direct flights from the United States to Manaus will resume operations as soon as possible, the estimated time is December 2022. To Europe, the expectation of this return is for mid-2023.
Upon landing at Eduardo Gomes Airport, visitors can rent a car, take an uber, taxi or local bus. The Airport bus service is located on the right, in the exit, through the boarding area. The bus number 306 downtown, which runs from the airport every 30 minutes, cost BRL 3.80. There is no special bus to Downtown.
There are plenty of nice hotels in Manaus for your stay, so let’s continue with the details about getting there.
From Florida it is possible to fly from Miami, Orlando or Fort Lauderdale to Manaus with GOL, LATAM, Copa Airlines and from December 2022 with Azul Airlines. If the visitors are flying from elsewhere in North America, they will either have to make a connection to get to Manaus. The North American airlines that fly directly to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro include American Airlines, Air Canada, Continental, Delta and United Airlines and fly from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, LA, Miami, Newark, New York, Orlando, Washington and Toronto.
Unfortunately, there are no direct air services from Europe to Manaus. The TAP Airlines operated temporarily the airway Manaus-Lisbon-Manaus. But, it was canceled in 2016 by the Airlines. According to representatives of Amazonastur and TAP executives, the negotiations to the return of this air route are almost finalized and it probably will return in mid-2023.
British Airways flies directly to Brazil from the United Kingdom – but, arriving in Brazilian territory, the visitor will have to take a domestic flight to reach Manaus. Many other European airlines, including Air France through Paris, Iberia through Madrid and Lufthansa through Frankfurt, also fly directly to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
From Japan, Australia or other parts of Asia, Japan Airlines and Korean Air fly to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Another option is to fly directly to Miami and from there, to find a flight to Manaus. Although it is cheaper to fly direct to Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo from these countries and make the connection to Manaus while already in Brazil. Those coming from Australia the tip is to check the sections of the airline Aerolíneas Argentinas, which flies directly to Buenos Aires and to make a connection to Manaus, although it is more difficult to find a direct flight, as the passenger will always have to make a connection to get in Manaus.
The port of Manaus is one of the busiest in the North Region of Brazil. Surely, traveling by boat is an extremely popular way to get in and out of the city. The boat will dock at the largest floating port in the world, located just 1.5 km from downtown Manaus. The trip from Belém to Manaus by boat takes about five days. From Santarém to Manaus, the journey takes seven days. From Tabatinga to Manaus, the trip takes four days and the experience is far from glamorous, so be prepared to be a little tired and make sure to bring plenty of bottled water for the trip.
In November the cruise season starts. The city will receive 17 cruise ships by April 2023. According to estimates by Amazonastur technicians, about 15,000 tourists should get off in the city. The expectation is that visitors spend BRL 30 million in expenses during this season.
The ships scheduled to dock by port of Manaus include Costa Luminosa, Oceania Cruises, Insignia, Sirena, Voyager, Navigator, Volendam, Seabourn Venture, and Silver Shadow. These are all oceanliners that arrive from the Atlantic sailing up the Amazon river to Manaus.
Voyagers travel also offers expedition style Amazon riverboat cruises, they come in all sizes, larger expediton ships like the Iberostar Grand Amazon or boutique sailboats like El Desafio cruise. Some are luxury class and others cover just the basics, Voyagers has curated the best in terms of experiences – wildlife encounters and cultural activities.
One of the river cruises in the Brazilian Amazon that offers a more wildlife focused experience is El Tucano riverboat , if you are looking for a little more comfort you can look into Amazon Clipper cruises and finally some luxury without loosing intimacy on board the Untammed Amazon expedition.
Visitors can also take day trips to the observe local indigenous communities or the confluence of the rio negro and the Solimoes known as the meeting of the waters. Speed boats or water taxis are available to reach the several jungle lodges in the Brazilian rainforest.
By the way, it is possible to arrive in Manaus by bus from the states of Roraima, Porto Velho and Itacoatiara. The trip is long distance and not worth it for those who are just passing through Brazil. The main companies that serve the destinations include Eucatur, Asatur and Serra Azul. Travel is comfortable and safe. The final destination is Manaus Bus Station, situated 7 km from downtown. Also it is possible to catch a local bus from there to downtown. But the best choice is to take an uber or taxi, as the cost is relatively low, fast and more comfortable.
Manaus is a city with over 2 million people, a popular nightlife and countless tourist points. It is very easy to get around the city streets. Most activities happen around the historic center or on the Ponta Negra waterfront, where it is possible to enjoy the amazing sunset by the banks of the Rio Negro. Actually, almost everything in the city revolves around the river. The harbor and municipal market are bathed by the river, with the main attractions concentrated within a 20-block radius around the harbor and easily accessible by foot. In front of the port is located the central bus station, Matriz square (a main square) and the Municipal Clock, both notable sights in the city.
To the east of Matriz square is the commercial center (formerly the Manaus Free Trade Zone), formed by several parallel streets (centered on Rua Guilherme Moreira). At the end of these streets, Sete de Setembro Avenue begins, where are located the Palacete Provincial, a complex of five museums in an old police building. To the west of the square are the Rio Branco Palace and the Paço da Liberdade Museum. The bustling Sete de Setembro Avenue signals the end of the oldest part of downtown, and there is little of interest to visitors beyond here, except for the Teatro Amazonas located on Largo São Sebastião, another historical landmark of Manaus.
Beyond that the city sprawls inland and along the river, with several upscale neighborhoods residing at a significant distance from the port. One of them, Ponta Negra beach, is about 16 km (10 miles) from the city center and is known for its popular nightlife and beachfront entertainment area. Although a good part of the beach disappears in the wet season (January-April), the food stands and entertainment remain throughout the whole year. During the dry season, the beach’s strip of sand appears and becomes a meeting point for locals and tourists.
Luckily, all of downtown Manaus is walkable from the port and easy to get around. Just make sure to watch your purse or wallet in crowds, and stick to busy areas in the evening. Also, keep in mind to wear comfortable shoes if you plan to sightsee on foot.
For those wishing to visit Ponta Negra from downtown, just take an uber, taxi or bus as the trip will take about 35-40 minutes. Local buses leave from Matriz square bus station, and taxis can be hailed on the street or reserved ahead by your hotel and uber by the mobile app.