Trip Tips: Manaus, Brazil's industrial outpost in the Amazon

Thu May 22, 2014 7:15pm EDT
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By Liege Albuquerque

MANAUS Brazil (Reuters) - Manaus is best known as a stopover for travelers on the way to and from eco tours in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, but in many ways it is more like a bustling frontier outpost of the modern, industrial world on a distant, jungle planet.

Visitors may find the sci-fi feel of the place enhanced by the fact that the only reliable ways to get there are by plane or river boat. The next closest urban center, Belém, is 777 miles (1,250 km) away, and Manaus is a four-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. (Map:

Manaus is surrounded on three sides by mostly impassible jungle and on the other by rivers: the enormous Rio Negro and the almost unimaginably more powerful Amazon River.

When you step off the plane, even the air can seem other-worldly, a hot, humid blast that feels like steam - so much so that physical effort can be utterly exhausting.

But this city of 2 million is more than just jungle. It is a free-trade zone with an oil refinery and dozens of electronics and appliance factories. Its residents, an ethnic soup of Brazilians of native Indian, African, European and Japanese descent, assemble everything from cellphones to Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

To keep all this going you need life-support. The city protects itself from the hostile environment with ice-cold air conditioning. Passing from refrigerated hotel to scorching sidewalk to refrigerated taxi can be a thermal shock.

Soccer fans should be prepared to sweat when Manaus hosts four World Cup games next month in a new $300 million stadium that looks destined to become a white elephant. Arena Amazônia is the venue for England vs Italy, Cameroon vs Croatia, USA vs Portugal and Honduras vs Switzerland.

Here are some tips for getting to know Manaus from Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer visitors the best local insights.   Continued...

The Arena Amazonia soccer stadium is seen in this aerial view taken two days before its scheduled inauguration, in Manaus, in this file picture taken March 7, 2014.  REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/Files