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Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. 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, Ecuador and Peru to the south west.

Quick facts

Regions

Cities

  • Bogotá - The Republic's Capital, a city where all the country converges. Bogotá hosts various internationally acclaimed events such as the Iberoamerican Theatre Festival (largest one on Earth) and "Rock to the Park", a concert featuring rock stars from around the globe. The city also offers a great variety of restaurants and museums, such as Andrés Carne de Res and the National Museum of Colombia.
      
  • Barranquilla - Colombia's Golden Port and capital of the Atlántico department. Barranquilla holds its world famous Carnival each February.
      
  • Cartagena - Called "The Heroic City", it is capital of the Bolívar department and is Colombia's most touristy city. The colonial architecture and the skyscrapers can be be seen together in this city that offers a unique experience of festivals, restaurants and hotels.
      
  • Manizales - capital of the Caldas department. A city full of parks and republican architecture and a gateway to the coffee region.
      
  • Medellín - The City of Eternal Spring and capital of the Antioquia department is famous for its large textile industry, which manufactures top quality clothingto be sent all over the world. It's also the birthplace of master painter Fernando Botero.
      
  • Pereira - Called the "The lovely City" is capital of the Risaralda department and a major city of the coffee region. It is an modern city described as commercial and touristy. The famous "Bolivar naked" and Matecana Zoo are found here as well as the Santa Rosa hot spring and the National Park of "Los Nevados".

  • Popayan - This beautiful, white-washed city is Colombia's religious center. Home to the second largest Easter festival in the world (after Seville, Spain), this town has contributed more Colombian presidents than any other. Bordered by the Purace National Park and gateway to the archeological sites of San Agustin and Tierra Dentro in nearby Huilla.
      
  • Santa Marta - One of the most touristy cities in Colombia and capital of the Magdalena department. Santa Marta is unique in the sense that it offers beautiful beaches and within one a one day walk, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain on earth. It's also the place where Liberator General Simón Bolívar died, at La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.
      
  • Leticia - Capital of the Amazonas department, this city is the a place to experience the Colombian Amazon.
      
  • Other destinations

  • San Jeronimo, Sopetran and Santa Fe de Antioquia - Going north-west from downtown Medellin, you arrive at the longest and newest South American tunnel: 4.7 km. After you pass through that tunnel, you start descending mountains and a few minutes later, you are in San Jeronimo, Antioquia. Weather here is 25 degrees during the whole year. Very close you will find Sopetran, the Antioquias fruits lovely capital. Finally, you get to Santa Fe de Antioquia, one of the five colonial destinations in Colombia, and the way to the Caribbean. This road will take you to Turbo and to the Panama frontier line and is a real safe backpacking choice, since you can visit the whole South American Caribbean coast, starting in Turbo and go all the way to Cartagena or keep going until you find Guyanas!
      
  • San Agustín and Tierradentro - Archeological sites in south-western Colombia.
      
  • Isla Gorgona - This former prison island in the Pacific Ocean is now a nature reserve open for visitors. There is abundant wildlife like monkeys, snakes, whales and sea turtles. It offers excellent diving conditions.
      
  • Ciudad Perdida is a pre-Columbian city located in the Colombian jungle close to Santa Marta. Built between the eighth and the fourteenth century by the Tayrona Indians. Nowadays only stone circular shaped terraces covered by jungle remain. Nearby is the spectacular El Dorado reserve and EcoLodge that is easily accessible from the city of Santa Marta.
      
  • Río Claro: Beautiful, unique and unbelievable place. Now it is safe for all. It's a canyon of a very clear river. The floor of this river is marble. Caves, jungle and beautiful landscape. To go take a bus from Medellín 3-4 h. in the direction of Bogotá. Private nature reserve, you can stay in the hotel or camping. Don't miss this place.
  • Advice

    Although there is a certain amount of violence in remote areas, the current government has increased its presence in the countryside and in all major tourist areas, so whereas in the past travel might have been too risky, travel is possible if you are careful, except in the areas of known guerrilla presence.

    Traveling in Colombia is definitely worthwhile. From Bogota, with a temperate climate 2,600 m (8530 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 the East are the oriental plains which stretch out far beyond the horizon with little modulation. To the North are the more rugged contours of the higher Andean region. To the South the weather is sub-tropical and has flora and fauna concomitant with this, and to the West you can find the Magdalena River valley and its hot weather. Colombia is one of the equatorial countries of the world, but unique in its extreme topography and abundance of water.

    Climate

    The climate is tropical along coast and eastern plains; cold in the highlands; periodic droughts. Colombia is an equatorial country, so there are no seasons in the common sense of the word. Temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. What Colombians normally refer to as the winter is the rainy season. Cities such as Bogotá, Tunja, and Pasto have been known to reach temperatures under 0 degrees Celsius, so if you are sensitive to cold weather be prepared.

    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 (18950 ft) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The mountain is the world's highest costal range. note: nearby Pico Simon Bolivar has the same elevation

    History

    Colombia became independent from Spain in 1819. It was one of the five countries liberated by Simon Bolivar (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 with the support of the United States of America. A 40-year communist insurgent campaign to overthrow the Colombian Government escalated during the 1990s, under girded in part by funds from the drug trade. Although the violence is deadly and large swaths of the rural countryside are under guerrilla influence, the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. Illegal anti-insurgent paramilitary groups have grown to be several thocolombiand strong in recent years, challenging the insurgents for control of territory and illicit industries such as the drug trade and also the government's ability to exert its dominion over rural areas. While Bogotá continues to try to negotiate a settlement, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders.

    Languages

    If you've recently learned Spanish, its a relief to know that the Colombian variety is clear and easy to understand. The Spanish does vary, however, from Cartagena to Bogota to Cali. Generally the Spanish on the coasts is spoken more rapidly, and Spanish from Medellin has its own idiosyncrasies. Note that in cities like Cali, the dialect of Spanish is the voseo form. Meaning that instead of the first person familiar pronoun , vos is used instead. Though is also understood by the people of Cali.

    English is taught in school, and Colombians are often exposed to subtitled Hollywood films, so while shy many Colombians know at least a few basic phrases in English. Expect to meet teenage Colombians who will want to practice their English skills with you.

    Colombians from more affluent backgrounds will have lived and worked in the U.S., Canada, England and possibly Australia in order to learn English. Many university text books are in English, and the majority of high ranking professionals, executives and government workers in Colombia speak some English.

    French and German are also spoken, but to a much lesser extent.

    Colombian Spanish is considered by many around the world as the purest in Latin America and there are many universities and language schools that have language programs.

    Colombia education is generally strict and is kept to high standards. Most Colombian degrees can be legalized in foreign countries. You can find several programs in different universities around the country. You can also find programs with language institutes that could offer a variety of courses.

    Health

    Drink only bottled water outside the major cities. The water in major cities is safe. Anywhere else, never get drinks with ice cubes in them, and always make sure that the water you are served in restaurants comes from a bottle (they should open it in front of you). Doing anything else may result in health problems.

    If you're staying with relatives or friends especially you could ask for boiled water since families are used to having it around.

    In cities like Bogotá, Pereira, Manizales or Medellin, the quality of the water is good. In Pereira or Manizales the water comes from pristine natural sources near a nevado. In Bogotá, the water comes from the high mountains, 3,330 meters above sea level.



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