Manaus is a city of around 1.5 million, and a major port for the River Amazon. Its biggest period of growth came in the 19th century, when the Amazon area had a monopoly on rubber production. The city made its fortune by exporting this along the Rio Negro, to the Atlantic Ocean and then to the rest of the world. The city also exported many other products including timber and Brazil nuts, as well as refining oil from Venezuela. When rubber seeds were stolen from the Amazon and used to create huge rubber plantations in Asia, the price of rubber dropped dramatically, and the city plunged from its opulent heights into poverty. The city was declared a free trade zone in the 1990s in an effort to stimulate the economic growth of the area once again. This coincided with the exploitation of the natural resources in the Minas Gerais area of the Amazon. The city has benefited greatly from this economic resurgence.

The city is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, and has a particularly hot and humid climate. The temperature is usually around the 30 degrees Celsius mark (being almost equatorial, there is little seasonal deviation in this.


Towards the end of the 19th century, the rubber barons of Manuas were becoming extraordinarily rich, as demand for their product outstripped supply and the price of rubber became extremely high. They wanted a city that reflected this newfound wealth, and began making plans to turn Manaus into a centre of high culture and society. The world famous [ Amazon Opera House] is the legacy of this wealth. Built with materials shipped tens of thousands of miles from Italy, France and Britain, the idea was to create a pocket of renaissance Europe in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. When the Opera house opened in 1897, it attracted Europe's finest orchestras and divas, who performed for the 100 or so families of Manuas who made vast fortunes from the rubber trade. When the price of rubber dropped, the opera house became an effete drain on finances, and performances stopped. However, since the 1990s a programme of restoration has taken place, and once again this remarkable building in the centre of the world's largest rainforest is alive with arias. You can take regular guided tours, and there are occasionally free performances, but these are always packed full.

Manaus is unique in its geography, and anyone visiting the city should explore the surrounding rainforest by taking a trip up the Rio Negro into the Amazon. [ Swallows and Amazons Tours] offer a variety of guided tours on riverboats. These tours are all inclusive, food and accommodation (albeit on hammocks) are provided on the boat. This tour operator offers a more adventurous experience, interacting with the local environment by fishing, short treks and visiting Indian villages.

[ The Jau National Park] is one of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, covering an area of virgin rainforest over 200,000 hectares. Visits can only be made into the park with a permit obtained by the park authority, which cost R$ 100. If you are planning to see the park, you should book your tour through an approved tour operator rather than trying to do it yourself or buying one from a less reputable operator at the airport. The only way to navigate the park is to use the myriad of waterways, as there are no permanent roads in the area. There are hundreds of distinctive species of flora and fauna, including the endangered pied tamarin, sloths, jaguars, poisonous frogs, and manatees and otters in the river.


The Eduardo Ribeiro Street Market is the best place to shop for local arts and crafts. You can get all kinds of homemade jewellery, clothes and ornaments, as well as food and drink. Most of the crafts are carved from wood, and the native art is usually created in the style of a forest animal. Many of the vendors at this market are relatively impoverished, so be careful not to bargain too hard and force them into selling at an unfair price.

For a more general market, visit the Municipal Market, which is built in the style of the Les Halles market in Paris. This where much of the city come to buy their groceries and fresh fish. The fish market is particularly visceral, with many types of fish and shellfish caught in the Amazon that day, some of which are still alive. The vendors roar about how their fish is superior and fresher, and the smell is something quite memorable.

If you would prefer a more sanitised shopping experience, the Amazonas Shopping Centre is the largest mall in the region, and has hundreds of boutiques, chain stores, eateries and cinemas. You will appreciate the comfortable, cooler environment, but the mall lacks the character and personality of the markets.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Ponta Negra is a great spot to watch the sunset over the Rio Negro. This beach is one of the most popular spots for nightlife in the city. It is lined with a variety of restaurants serving traditional fish meals, as well as Italian and Churascuro restaurants. O Laronjinha is a popular club in the area. A small orange building filled with traditional Samba music, and people dancing and generally relaxing, it will stay open until the small hours and is a great place to get a feel for the city's nightlife. 'Peixaria Bom Gusto' is one of the city�s best seafood restaurants, you can eat wonderfully cooked, top quality fish for well under $USD 10.

Tourist Information

EMBRATUR (Brazilian Tourist Board), Brasilia

  • Tel: +55 (61) 429 7809 or
  • Web: []


Manaus is served by the Eduardo Gomes Airport. This flies mostly domestic routes, but also to other parts of South America. Most travellers from Europe will arrive from Sau Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

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