Colombia

Understand

Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea as well as the country with the world's second most biodiversity. Lying to the south of Panama, Colombia controls the land access between Central and South America. With Panama to the north, Colombia is surrounded by Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, and Ecuador and Peru to the south west. The country was named in honor of Christopher Columbus, following the Italian version of his name Cristoforo Colombo. Although Columbus never actually set foot on the current Colombian territory, in his fourth voyage he visited Panama, which was part of Colombia until 1903.

Traveling in Colombia is definitely worthwhile. From Bogota, with a temperate climate 2,600 m 8,530 ft above sea level and at a constant temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, a drive of one or two hours North, South, East or West can take you to landscapes which are as diverse as they are beautiful. To historic city centres and towns, modern and energetic party cities, oriental plains which stretch out far beyond the horizon with little modulation. rugged contours of the higher Andean region, the Guajira peninsula and its desert, idylic beaches, the tropical jungle of the Amazon and the Choco with abundant flora and fauna, snowy peaks and volcanoes, ancient ruins, the Magdalena River valley and its hot weather, beautiful coral reefs and an abundant underwater marine life together with pleasant relaxed tropical islands, and the ability to rest and relax in a privately rented hacienda that lets you have and enjoy these treasures to yourself. Such a diversity comes in with an equal diverse amount of traditions and foods. Colombia is one of the equatorial countries of the world, but unique in its extreme topography and abundance of water and has something for everyone.

History

Colombia was originally inhabited by numerous, major indigenous cultures like the Muisca and the Tayrona. The area that now is Colombia was colonised by the Spanish when America was 'discovered' by Europeans. The process of colonisation radically altered the social structures of the areas and through war and disease brought by the Spanish, the indigenous populations shrank dramatically in size and their numbers dwindle since then. The Spanish brought European settlers and African slaves, while most of the population in the colony was of mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry. The country became independent from Spain in 1810. It was one of the five countries liberated by Simón Bolívar the others being Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama then formed the first Republic of Colombia. Ecuador and Venezuela declared their independence from Colombia in 1830. Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903. The history of the country in the years to come following independence was marked by several civil wars. The legacy of these conflicts, together with troublesome social issues, early state repression against rural communities and peasants and world polarisation caused by the Cold War culminated in a communist insurgent campaign by the FARC and the ELN to overthrow the Colombian Government. Although the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. The years during the conflict were marked by heavy fighting between the communist guerrillas, the Colombian state and military, right-wing paramilitaries and several drug cartels gave the country a terrible reputation. In the years following 2002 the safety has been improving throughout the country. In 2012 the government and the FARC started peace talks aiming at bringing the 50 year old Civil War to an end once and for all. Colombia is currently in a process of recovery, and this country is creating an economy thriving and attractive to many national and international investors. Ending the conflict, high income inequalities and rebuilding itself from the legacy of war are some of the issues that confront the country.

Climate

Take your pick, really. Colombia is an equatorial country with amazing variance in altitude, so it's going to be pretty whatever temperature you like best all year long somewhere! The climate is tropical along the coast, eastern plains, and Amazon; cold in the highlands with periodic droughts. Lacking the usual seasons, Colombians normally refer to rainy seasons as winter—but the differences in terrain and altitude mean the rainy seasons are different in every corner of the country!

The one downside to all this climactic diversity, though, is that you'll have to bring a fair amount of different clothes if you plan to travel extensively. Cities in the center like Bogotá and those to the north in Boyacá can potentially reach temperatures below 0° Celsius, so bring a coat. Some mountains are also covered in snow year-long. Cities along the Caribbean coast like Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta are hot and humid, while some cities at mid-altitude in the Andes like Medellín the City of Eternal Spring, Manizales, and other cities in the Coffee Triangle region have beautiful temperate weather always.

Terrain

Flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains

Natural hazards: highlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes. Recent volcanic disaster occurred in Armero, 1985. 25,000 people were buried by lahars that the Nevado del Ruiz produced.

Highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m 18,950 ft of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The mountain is part of the world's highest coastal range. Nearby Pico Simon Bolivar has the same elevation