Tena On a BudgetTena is the capital of the Napo Province, an attractive and quiet city in the Amazon rainforest, and is known as the "cinnamon capital" of Ecuador. Tena has a friendly population, lots of backpacker infrastructure, a gorgeous setting surrounded by jungle-covered hills and a high concentration of surrounding rivers where white-water lovers from around the world come to paddle and kayak. The town provides a gateway to exploration into Ecuador's most accessible part of the great Amazon rainforest, which does not leave visitors disappointed. Beyond being a base for discovering the jungle and its wildlife, Tena is also a hub for adventure sports which are abundant in the area. Tena is a charming place where many travelers find themselves hanging around quite happily before or after a trip into the rainforest.
SightsWhile it won't win architectural prizes anytime soon, the northern half of Tena also the oldest part of the city, with narrow streets and a modest cathedral fronting the central park is nice to walk around. It's also the quieter half, as most of the traffic is routed around it and over a bridge to the main thoroughfare, Avenida 15 de Noviembre, that divides the more sprawling southern half of the town, where the bus terminal stands. Locals often relax on the city's river beaches, strips of sand or pebbles at the water's edge or wander around the pleasant Parque Amazonico La Isla, reached by a wooden thatched-roofed footbridge over the Rio Pano about 200m south of the main pedestrian bridge. A high observation tower overlooks the treetops and town, and self-guided paths meander through botanical greenery past caged animals recovering from injury and abuse, to swimming spots along the river.
ActivitiesThe area was inhabited by the indigenous Quijos before the arrival of the Spaniards, when the city of Tena was founded on November 15, 1560 by Gil Ramirez Davalos. The anniversary of the town's foundation is celebrated on November 15 with live music and community events. If your trip to Tena happens to be on this date, you will discover a great part of Tena's inhabitants' culture. converge to produce a cluster of river rapids, waterfalls, mountain streams, and sand and pebble beaches, allowing for a host of aquatic activities. This is where some of the best rafting in South America happens. Class I to Class IV rapids on different tributaries provide plenty of opportunities for beginner to advanced kayakers or for an exciting white water rafting tour and because of the warm river waters there is no need for a wet suit. The scenery is amazing and the cost is between USD$40 to USD$50. A tour from Tena is bound to involve at least one of swimming, climbing up brooks, bathing in waterfalls or tubing, whitewater rafting and kayaking for which the town is rapidly becoming internationally famous. You can also hike cascades and hidden caverns. Many local communities, like Yanayacu, offer hiking trips onto sacred lands, guiding tourists up trails to see bridal veil cascades, deep pools, and naturally eroded caverns home to bats hanging from the dripping walls. People also don't often come to Tena unless they are planning on doing some sort of jungle excursion or experience the wildlife around Tena. Even without heading upriver it's still possible to see a wide variety of animals in the secondary forests around Tena, including several species of monkeys and stunning birds. Laguna Paikawe, a small lagoon with a pristine island in its center, is a bird watching paradise. Tena is also one of the best centres for community ecotourism in the Oriente, where you can easily arrange a stay with local Kichwa families, mostly in nearby villages easily reached by road or river.
The lodges furthest up the Rio Napo are usually accessed via Coca rather than Tena but that doesn't mean the Yasuni National Park is off limits from this direction, as this can be a less expensive way to experience the Amazon. The Cotococha Lodge is located along the Rio Napo between Tena and Puerto Misahualli and works with the Rainforest Alliance to improve their environmental, social, and economic practices. With a pool, playroom and spacious bungalows surrounded by rainforest, this lodge is perfect for families looking to introduce their kids to the wild jungles without being too far from town.The Huasquila Lodge, situated near the Rio Mishaulli, offers many tour options from pure adrenaline adventure trips to easy going cultural exchange visits with local indigenous tribes. Huasquila Lodge specializes in accessible tourism, offering wheelchair access in seven special bungalows and along many of their trails. The Itamandi Lodge is located on a small tributary that feeds the Rio Napo, the Rio Arajuno. This eco-friendly destination works to foster sustainable development and provide economic opportunities to the native Kichwa community. Tours can include outdoor hikes to see wild animals, visits to a parrot clay lick, and cultural exchange with local tribes. Selva Verde Tours start their trips in the small town of Puerto Misahualli, just north of Tena. They offer day trips up the Rio Napo and overnight tours that head into the Yasuni National Park ending in Coca.
Food and DiningTena is definitely not a culinary destination, but if you are looking for a quick meal or to pack supplies for your next adventure, you will find a few restaurants and supermarkets.
Ecuadorian food is diverse. Each of the country's three geographic regions, the Amazon, the Sierra, and the Pacific Coast features its own array of local delicacies. Soups are a specialty across the country, chicken or beef served with rice, chips or patacones (fried plantain), topped off with a smidgen of salad is another common, but tasty, dish of Ecuador that you will probably end up eating often in Tena.