Situated in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas, Manaus is a city rich with history and abundant attractions for visitors interested in ecotourism and adventure tours. Situated inland on the banks of the Rio Negro, Manaus is the largest city in the Amazon region with a population of close to 2 million people. The city was named in honor of the Manaós indigenous people and means ‘mother of the gods.’ Travelers can arrive by air from direct flights from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. There are also direct flights from Miami.
The first European settlement of Manaus was in the 17th century when a fort was erected; however, it became famous as the capital for rubber production in the late 19th century. The abundant rubber trees in the region served a lucrative trade that brought great wealth to the city. For a window into the city’s rich past, visitors can check out the Teatro Amazonas, a beautiful opera house built in the 1890’s in the Italian Renaissance style, and the Palacio Rio Negro, a former robber baron’s palatial home now serving as the governor’s mansion. Several other public buildings, including the Mercado Adolfo Lisboa – fashioned after a market in Paris, and the Alfândega de Belém, the Customs House, date back to the late 19th century. Today, the city is an important duty-free port on the river and a commercial hub for a variety of manufacturing industries and petroleum refining.
Manaus is the gateway to the Amazon jungle and ecotours of the river and rainforest originate here. The Amazon is the greatest tropical rainforest in the world and visitors will have a wide variety of opportunities to choose from in exploring the area. The Ponto Negra beach is a favorite with locals and beach lovers. A popular excursion is to take a boat ride from Manaus, several miles up the river to the Meeting of the Waters: the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões. The water of the Rio Negro is dark brown while the Rio Solimões has a muddy brown color. The meeting of these two rivers forms the mighty Amazon River; however, for close to 4 miles, a unique natural phenomenon is caused by the rivers not mixing due to their different temperatures and speeds.
For immersion into the wildlife and fauna of the Amazon, visitors can take river tours ranging from anywhere from 3 to 6 days, or stay in jungle lodges on the banks of the river. All types of boats, depending on your comfort level, are available for tours however visitors should be very selective in choosing a reputable tour operator. The climate of Manaus and the Amazon region can be oppressively hot and humid, or wet and rainy every day in the wet season. Visitors should also be prepared for mosquitoes. The most favorable months to visit are between May and August.
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