Manaus, the Amazon city where the waters meet

Manaus opera house

As the home to England’s first World Cup game, the spotlight falls on Manaus this weekend. (England are already phoning in their excuses about the humidity which can be brutal).

Manaus often gets overlooked by visitors to Brazil. It’s a long way from anywhere (a four hour flight from São Paulo), and those who do visit are often on their way to one of the jungle lodges down river.

But Manaus is interesting in its own right. An opera house in the Amazon, built at the height of the rubber boom? The place where two rivers, one light, one dark, meet and flow side-by-side, not mixing for more than six km? Surely worth a look.

Manaus was also the first place I visited in Brazil, seven years ago…I’m reproducing part of my original post here (photos are a little small…digital photos were less high-res then!)

Amazon river boat


Manaus is full-on, hot, humid, people spilling out everywhere. Even on a Sunday night the streets from the airport are packed with people just hanging out, food stalls everywhere. It’s a bit of a shock to the system at first, so many people swarming around, but at least this place feels alive.

The markets and the floating docks are the real centre of the action, centre for all the goods traded up and down the river. There’s a bit of an edge but mostly it seems harmless enough.


When the crowds get too much, Manaus does have its quieter charms. The square around Teatro Amazonas, an opulant opera house built at the height of the rubber boom in 1896, is a pretty little place to relax with a fresh maracuja juice. The colonial buildings have been spruced up here, more than other parts of the city, freshly painted in bright colours. The centre piece is a tree-lined circle of black and white mosaic, its waves representing the nearby meeting of the waters, the toffee-coloured Solimoes (Amazon) and the black tea-stained Rio Negro.

Meeting of the Waters

Are you visiting Manaus for the World Cup? Let me know what you think of this unique jungle city.

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