We arrived in Manaus with a list of places I wanted to visit, but Providence ruled differently. In the past I might have had a fit. I had made a list, damn it, and we were going to stick to it. We had to visit Manaus properly.
After all, wasn’t that why we were here?
The rubber boom, historic buildings, the Amazon Theater, parks with wildlife among which an endemic monkey, the Meeting of the Waters, the surrounding Amazon rainforest and indigenous villages?
Sightseeing in Manaus takes time. There
Coen and I are culture buffs. We love visiting museums, buildings, churches and such. But sometimes that’s just not in the grand scheme of things. For whatever reason other things happen and we have often experienced that once we go with that flow and let a place – in this case Manaus – unfold as it wants to, we will leave it with a smile on our face.
What Made our Visit to Manaus Unique?
First of all, there was considerable Land Cruiser trouble. For more than a week Coen labored in Luis Platinado’s workshop to get our Land Cruiser fixed, while doing his share in helping the mechanics with their work as well. He lunched with them at the churrascaria next door and a mechanic took him to the new bridge over the Amazon to capture it on camera at night.
Coen made friends, and got the car fixed.
They are an educated, fun-going bunch of people and we daily sat around the table discussing our lives, Brazil’s politics and economy, and problems concerning the destruction of the Amazon Forest and Brazil’s policy on Indigenous Reservations.
I made friends and learned a lot about problems and challenges with regard to the Amazon from people who live and work there.
It led to a different type of visit of Manaus, and I loved it!
One afternoon I took out my list and considered the importance of each item.
- How many indigenous museums had I already visited in Brazil? Did I honestly need to see this one?
- How much Amazon flora and fauna had I already seen during our 1,5 years of travel in this country? Were the parks in Manaus actually going to add anything to that?
I cut down my 15-item list to 3 things I wanted to do/see during our visit in Manaus and focused on a few sites, rather than trying to do the whole lot.
A perfect choice, and I recommend trying it for yourself.
Here’s what I suggest you to visit in Manaus:
1. Stop at Praia da Lua on the Way after a Visit to the Rubber-plantation Museum just outside Manaus
Our host Ricardo joined us on our visit to the former rubber plantation, which now is an informative museum. The visit was a captivating lesson in how Manaus succeeded to become such a booming town around 1900.
The only way to get to the rubber-plantation museum is by boat and on our way back Ricardo suggested stopping at Praia da Lua. Most Brazilians love to hang out on beaches, swimming and drinking beer until the sun goes down.
You can’t go more local than on Praia da Lua and it’s a lot of fun.
2. Watch a show in the Teatro Amazonas, the most famous attraction in Manaus and Join the Manaus’ bar & restaurant scene
Around 1900, the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gained world fame for its acoustics, which attracted renowned artists from all over the world to perform there. I went with two friends from the house and another Couchsurfer who happened to be staying there.
While watching a show in that theater in itself was fantastic, the Big-Band performance, unfortunately, was a more of an ‘Okay, I have seen it’ experience than anything else. (Btw, you can also get a tour in the theater during the day).
But, this was a night out and my Manaus friends had plans. We visited a local bar. We sat in plastic chairs along a street fuming with traffic-jammed cars and had a beer – from a bottle, which in Brazil you typically share. With the beer they ordered fried bacalhau snacks. “The best in Manaus,” they said, and I believed them.
Have you ever had pizza with
I hadn’t and I had a new favorite to add to my pizza list.
Both the Praia da Lua & rubber-plantation museum and the theater & going out for food combi were engaging things to do. Having visited all places with locals unquestionably added to the experience, because of good company and I got to enjoy activities that are an integral part of Brazilian life.
You can meet local people through Couchsurfing. People may host you but you can also find locals who simply want to hang out with you or show you the sites. Find it here.
3. See the Encontro das Aguas (Meeting of Waters)
The official start of the Amazon is where the white-water Solimões River meets the black-water Rio Preto. I had seen a Meeting of the Waters in the state of Rondônia once, and it’s quite a sight.
I wanted to see another.
You can visit ‘Encontra das Aguas’ on a tour, however, we saw it when crossing the Amazon River. Our ferry, carrying our Land Cruiser, plied over the ‘Meeting of the Waters’ daily.
As I stood upstairs in the passenger’s room and leaned against the open window, a guy next to me started playing his guitar and with a companion sang a beautiful gospel duet as we crossed from black into white water, turning it almost into a spiritual experience.
Crossing the Amazon was the start of our BR319 adventure; driving the worst highway in Brazil.
How to See Manaus without Having to Organize it Yourself?
Okay, so we didn’t get to see it all but, as mentioned, we had spent considerable time in the Amazon region. That doesn’t mean Manaus isn’t worth your time. It is. It’s a friendly city with lots of dynamics going on, from the fish market along the shore to a concert in Manaus’ famous theatre.
Click on the images below to see what kinds of tours are organized in and around Manaus to see the very best, not just of the city but also the surrounding Amazon. Have fun!
Additional Reading about the Brazilian Amazon
- Slow Living – a New Invention or an Age-old Tradition?
- Swimming with Dolphins in the Amazon
- A Boat Trip through the Anavilhanas
- Is Tourism always Welcome?
- The Difference Between Slow Travel And Traveling Slowly
- Visit an Açaí Market in Brazil