Colombia is blessed with natural beauty, from the high Andean peaks, Caribbean beaches, pristine Amazon jungle, mysterious archaeological sites, colonial treasures and thriving cities.
Bogota is the capital and it is at the heart of it all. The city is one of South America’s trendiest destinations; a place of hip bars and street art, vibrant markets and colourful architecture. Sprawled across the Andean plateau, Bogota offers a fabulous mix of old and new, from the cobbled streets of La Candelaria to the urban chic of Zona Rosa.
Colombia’s colonial towns have been lovingly preserved, most notably the UNESCO-listed city of Cartagena. But there are many other historic cities like Mompós, Villa de Leiva and Barichara. The mysterious “lost city” of Ciudad Perdida is thought-provoking.
Diversity is everywhere, while the Caribbean and Pacific shores boast beautiful beaches, islands and coral reefs, the lofty Andes offer high-altitude plains, snow-capped mountains and limpid lakes. Then there are the eastern lowlands with their grassy wetlands and bountiful birdlife and the virgin forests of the Amazon.
Colombian culture is no less magical. Garcia Marquez’s land of magic realism is alive with festivals and music; the high-energy city of Cali is recognized as the salsa capital of Colombia, while bustling Barranquilla hosts a dazzling carnival to rival Rio’s. Expect a warm welcome from the country’s friendly inhabitants, who, after years in the wilderness, can finally show their true colours.
Prior to the Spanish invasion, the land was ruled by various Amerindian tribes who were spread across the entire continent, traded with each other and established their own civilisation. The two main tribes were the Taironas, who were largely based in the Caribbean, and the Muiscas, who were settled in the highlands around Bogotá. To this day, indigenous peoples who have descended from the Taironas live in Tairona National Park. These two tribes spoke the same language Chibcha, words are still used as names for certain animals and plants.
The country was named after Christopher Columbus who discovered South America and since the 1800’s Colombia has maintained its present form. Before the 1800’s Colombia was part of the New Granada where modern-day Venezuela, Ecuador and parts of Brazil and Panama are situated, this area was ruled from Europe.
With the discontent among mixed-race Creoles, lower-class Spanish immigrants and indigenous people rose seeking independence from Spain. This eventually led to the 1819 rebellion under the legendary figure of Simón Bolívar, which resulted in the area being split into the four provinces of Gran Colombia: Panama, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. Colombia separated from the others soon after Bolívar's death in 1830 and became the Republic of Colombia 1855.
Colombia is situated in South America, bordered by the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. The Andes Mountains extend into the country in three ranges running south to north, dipping finally into the lowlands of the Caribbean coast.
Along the southern Pacific coast run marshy lowlands and rugged low mountains. The southwestern coastal lowlands extend in a trough running from the port of Buenaventura to the Caribbean. East of this rise the slopes of the Western Cordillera which, with the Central Cordillera range, runs north to the Caribbean lowlands from Ecuador. Further north lies the fertile Cauca Valley, which becomes a deep gorge running between the Cordilleras to the Caribbean lowlands.
The Eastern Cordillera, the longest range, rises north of the Ecuadorean border and runs north then northeast towards Venezuela. Flat grassy prairies in the east along with the jungles and towering rainforests of the Amazon make up over half the country's area. Colombia also claims two small islands, San Andrés and Providencia, located 700km (430 miles) north of the coast.