COLOMBIA FACTS AND CULTURE: Only South American country with Atlantic and Pacific coasts, with fabulous Andes and great culture in Cartagena

Colombia Facts


Covering about 1.14 million km2, Colombia is the only country in South America with coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Colombia borders Ecuador and Peru to the south, Brazil and Venezuela to the east, and Panama to the northwest. The country is connected to Central America by the Isthmus of Panama.


The Andean mountain ranges which run from North to South, occupy 30 % of the landmass, but are inhabited by 75% of the people, while 20 % lives in the Caribbean lowlands.


The Andean highlands to the east of the Magdalena Valley include Cundinamarca, where Bogota, the capital, is located. Medell?, the 2nd largest city, and Manizales are located in the central Andes.


Cali, the 3rd largest city, is located on the south in the Cauca Valley. This area contains some of the richest mineral deposits in the world, including gold and emeralds.


It has several small islands in the Caribbean, including San Andrea and Providencia, and in the Pacific, the Malpelo and Gorgona islands in the Pacific; the latter being nature reserves.


Lowland coastal areas and the Inland Ilanos (plains) are separated by the Andean Mountain Range. The Ilanos, lowlands that make up more than 60 % of the land area. While few crops are grown in this hot, flat region, the grassland provides ample space to graze cattle.


Colombia is a huge country and it is impossible to visit the entire country in a 2 weeks' vacation. The distances in the table give you a list of distances from Bogota to Colombia's major cities.


Distances in km and hours











































San Agust?



Santa Marta








Colombia has the world's second most biodiverse country in the world, after Brazil, 10 times its size. It is one of only 17 ?megadiverse? countries in the world. It has more than 1,800 species of birds and more than 13,000 species of plants. Much of this wealth of nature is protected in 43 national parks, which are all public lands.




Colombia is part of the Ring of Fire, a group of countries in the Pacific Ocean vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


The country has 6 major biological regions, each characterized by its own climate, geology and hydrology:

  1. Choc?/a>

  2. Andes Mountain Range

  3. Orinoqu? plains

  4. Amazon

  5. Caribbean

  6. Islands



The Atlantic or Caribbean coastal lowlands are becoming progressively dryer from humid tropical at the border with Panama to semi-desert at the Guajira Peninsula bordering with Venezuela.

The six biological regions of Colombia


  • The Pacific lowlands are formed by the humid tropics, with the world's highest rainfall near Nuqui.

  • The Andean climates vary with the elevation from extremely wet and warm in the foothills, while gradually becoming dryer at the higher elevations with lower temperatures, often considered a spring like climate.

  • Above the treelines the areas are called paramos which are characterized by frequent fogs and low temperatures. Above these areas rise several snow-capped mountains. The paramos receive heavy rainfall from April to June and September to December.

  • The fertile land of the Caribbean lowlands supports banana and sugarcane plantations along with cattle ranches. 

  • The equator runs through Colombia around Leticia in the South-East.



The population of Colombia is 50,000,000, with 70% living in cities.

Before the colonization, the Andes were occupied by indigenous groups that ranged from chiefdoms to tropical farm villages and nomadic hunter-gatherer groups. The social structures of these groups were destroyed during the conquest, as Indians were forced into slavery. As the Indian population decreased due to starvation and disease brought by the Spanish as well as to the intense labor of slavery, Spain imported slaves from Africa for gold and silver mining along the Pacific coast. The tri-ethnic composition of the population during this period led to the ethnic terminology still used today. Spaniards were referred to as Peninsulars, while their South-American-born descendants were called criollos (Creoles), while mestizos are from the intermarriage of whites and natives, mulattoes from that of blacks and whites, and zambos from that of blacks and Indians.


Currently, 75 % of the population is racially mixed; 55 % being mestizos, 16 % mulattoes, and 4 % zambos . The other 25 % is of direct European 20 %, African 4%, or Indian origin. The Indian population, which originally had about 1.5 - 2 million people in the pre-conquest period, currently numbers between 300,000 and 400,000 made up by more than Indian groups.



Food in Daily Life. Most middle-class families eat elaborate meals that reflect Spanish and indigenous traditions. A typical meal is identified by size rather than content, such as a light breakfast, a substantive midday lunch, and a lighter meal in the early evening. Dinner consists of fresh fruit, homemade soup, and a main dish with meat or fish accompanied by rice and/or potatoes. Lower-income people eat a more carbohydrate-rich diet. Meals usually end with a very sweet dessert, frequently made from panela, a type of brown sugar.


There are regional differences in foods. In the interior rural regions, a hearty breakfast consists of a strip of pork, rice and beans, sweet plantains, and a large steak with fried eggs. Dinner is similar, except for the eggs. In the coastal region, the emphasis is on seafood. In Cartagena, the typical lunch consists of rice with coconut, fried plantains, and shrimp. Colombians enjoy a variety of national and international cuisines.


Specialty dishes are eaten during holidays. A dish associated with the capital is ajiaco, a stew with three types of potato, chicken, and corn, that is served with capers, cream, and avocado. Another dish served during religious holidays is pasteles, while along the coast, people eat sancocho, a fish or chicken stew. Colombians consume large quantities of beer and coffee and relatively little milk or wine. Aguardiente combines local rum and a corn of sugar brandy.


A Brief History of Colombia

Conquest and Colonization

The discovery of the country's coastal lands in 1499, followed by Spanish occupation for the next 300 years, indicates the integral role Spain played in the region's cultural, religious, and political development. In the early part of the 1500s, Spain attempted to control the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, establishing Santa Marta in 1525 and Cartagena de Indias in 1533. In that year, the conquest of the Incas in Peru gave the Spaniards strategic positions in the north and south for the subjugation and colonization of Colombia. By the middle of the sixteenth century, the Spaniards had established a major foothold in the Americas.


10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN CARTAGENA COLOMBIA: The Cartagena City wall.CASTILLO DE SAN FELIPE, CARTAGENA FACTS: The entrance to the San felipe de de Barajas Castle.


Suppressive practices and decrees by the Spaniards created a desire for independence particularly among the resident elite.


Most traumatic was the practice of encomiendas, an institutionalized system in which Indians were "entrusted" to the care of the resident Spaniards called Encomienderos .These "caretakers" provided the Indians with religious instruction and a livelihood in exchange for their labor. In practice, this system amounted to enslavement.



In 1781, 20,000 Indians and mestizos attempted to march on the capital in what became known as the Comuneros revolt, but the revolt was crushed and its leaders were executed. There was little or no support from the Creole population, but some Creoles were appalled by the brutality of the Spaniards and began to spread the rebellious sentiment. The call for vengeance spread to other provinces, as government officials excluded Creoles from high governmental positions. After several minor uprisings, Colombia achieved independence after the decisive battle of Boyac?on 9 August 1819 under Simon Bolivar, a Creole who joined the patriotic movement in 1810 and General Fransisco Paulo de Santander.


10 THINGS TO DO IN VILLA DE LEIVA, COLOMBIA [2021]: Statue of General Francisco Paulo de Santander.10 THINGS TO DO IN VILLA DE LEIVA, COLOMBIA [2021]: The Boyaca Memorial Bridge.

General Fransisco Paulo de Santander at the Boyaca national monument.

The Boyaca Memorial Bridge.


Past relations with other regional cultures were based on the hierarchical society imposed by Spain, in which the upper class of "white" Spaniards enjoyed wealth, power, and prestige while blacks and Indians were at the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy. After independence, Creoles quickly replaced Spaniards in the upper echelons of the new society.


Over time, educated mestizos and mulattoes also ascended to high positions, while their "inclusion" was based on their level of education, wealth, and "whiteness". With education having spread, these distinctions are gradually disappearing.


The Flag

Francisco Miranda designed the flag in 1806 by dapting the red and yellow of the Spanish flag adding blue stripe symbolizing the ocean separating the independent country from Spain. The upper half of the flag is yellow, symbolizing the natural riches of the country, while the lower half is divided into two equal parts of blue and red, with the red symbolizing the blood shed in the war for independence. In 1834, the national shield, was added to to represent the defensive armament used in early battles, as well as the national symbol of the condor, which signifies liberty and sovereignty.


The flag of Colombia.


Guerilla War

Half  century ago, many politicians tried to reform the political system that acted in favor of the privileged few. After the assassination of Jorge Eli?er Gait? in 1948, old-line politicians fell into disfavor. Gait? had captivated the country with his focus on social inequality. Fearing Gait?'s election to the presidency he was assassinated. His death resulted in a period between 1946 and 1956 is known as La Violencia; over 350,000 people died in an armed uprising against social and political injustice. Guerrilla movements started organizing themselves into large groups, the largest of which being the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Army of National Liberation (ELN). Both have disrupted the government with guerilla war to bring about reform and social justice. They financed their activities with drug trafficking. With the larger of the two a peace agreement has been established.


Numbering 150,000, the military is divided into an army, a navy, and an air force. Mandated with protecting the country's borders and territorial waters, the military has been involved in internal conflicts such as fighting against guerrillas.



Important production sectors are manufacturing and agricultural, but this domestic production relies on expensive imports such as tractors, cars  and industrial machinery. Despite rich mineral deposits, Colombia derives less than 4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) from mining.


Economic progress has resulted from the government's efforts to make the economy more specialized and productive by encouraging trade, deregulation, and financial investment. While the executive and legislative branches can intervene in economic matters, the hands-off policy of the government has resulted in a 3 percent annual growth of the economy since the ending of government subsidies.


Land Tenure and Property. Most of the productive agricultural land forests are privately owned. The structure of owner-operator relationships varies: coffee is grown on small plots by sharecroppers, whereas plantation agriculture and forestry involve multinational joint ownership using local labor.


Land containing valuable minerals and hydrocarbons generally reverts to the government, which arranges contracts between domestic and foreign corporations.


The government has designated special lands for the indigenous groups. Land distribution has been a difficult issue, and deforestation is being examined in the context of management practices and trade policies.


More than half of the GDP comes from the commercial sector, which includes utilities, transportation, communications, wholesale commerce, real estate, retail banking, and stock exchanges. While these business sectors operate domestically, many have an international presence, including investment banking, insurance, commercial real estate, hotels, and advertising.


The manufacturing sector, which inter alea include textile, garment, furniture, and corrugated box manufacturing, employs more than a third of the workers. The largest industries in this sector are. Heavy industries include oil production, coal mining, chemical and resin-producing plants, and forestry.


Under the new peace agreements, tourism has been growing rapidly over the last decade.


Important export products are coffee, ornamental flowers, emeralds and leather goods. Being the world's second largest exporter of coffee, this product is sensitive to fluctuations in the international market price.  Other products are oil, coal, and bananas. The North American Free Trade Agreement has opened up the economy to benefit from foreign trade and foreign investment. A similar trade pact has been agreed with several Latin American countries.



The government has an executive branch led by an elected president, a bicameral (House of Representatives and Senate) legislative branch, and a judicial branch. The president is elected to a four-year term by popular vote and may not be reelected. The president runs for office with his vice president, and names the cabinet, which consists of ministers with administrative powers. The president's duties include enforcing laws, conducting foreign affairs, supervising public finances, maintaining public order, and serving as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.


WHAT R THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BOGOTA [2021]?: Presidential Palace from the side.BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, FUN FACTS: The Plaza Bolivar with the Justice  Plalace

The Presidential Palace with the Capitol in the background.

The Palace of Justice.


In the Congress, senators are elected by national vote, while representatives are elected by the people in their districts.



Higher Education

Higher education is considered essential to enhance progress and prosperity of the country. While the Catholic Church established the first universities in the sixteen hundreds, public universities were founded much later, but now number more than 40. National universities receive funding from the government, which in the 1958 constitution was mandated to spend at least 10 percent of the national budget on education.



Religious Beliefs. Ninety-five percent of the people consider themselves members of the Roman Catholic Church and attach great importance to Catholic sacraments. More than 85 percent of Catholics in urban parishes attend mass regularly.


BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, FUN FACTS: The Primada or National Cathedral and Capilla Sagrada and Cardinal's Palace.10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN CARTAGENA COLOMBIA: The San Pedro Claver Church main entrance.

Roman Catholic churches have been erected since the early days of Colonization and many Renaissance churches, like the Primada Cathedral in Bogot?are visited daily by the congregation.

The San Pedro Claver Church in Cartagena.




People in rural areas are said to be more devout than those in the cities, but their Catholicism is different from that of the urban upper and middle classes. In the countryside, Catholic practices and beliefs have been combined with indigenous, African, and sixteenth-century Spanish customs. People pray to a patron saint, who is considered to be more accessible than God. Rural villages have a patron saint who is honored each year with a fiesta.


Although the 1991 constitution established religious freedom and does not mention the Church by name, the Catholic Church continues to have significant influence. A Protestant movement has attracted more than 260,000 people. Protestants are a minority on the mainland but a majority on San Andres and Providencia islands. There are also small contingents of Muslims and Jews.


Colombia Culture

The national culture is dominated by the colonial culture and most indigenous groups embraced it, while many regional variations occur.


The ethnic mixture in Colombia -stemming from indigenous, African and Spanish roots- have given Colombia a strong and wide range of cultural elements that can be appreciated on many aspects of everyday life.


Languages of Colombia

The official language is Spanish, which all Colombians speak. In the San Andres & Providencia islands English is also spoken. In the rest of Colombia, English is remarkably little spoken; in fact throughout all Hispanic Latin America; only urban Brazil is an exception to this.  The Colombian Academy of Language was founded in 1871 by a commission from the Spanish Royal Academy of Language; it was the first such body established in Latin America. In addition to Spanish, over 200 indigenous languages and dialects are spoken.



Music clearly represents the various influences, being a very important part of the colombian culture. The music from the Andes region has indigenous as well as spanish influence, played mainly with string and wind instruments. In contrast, the music from the coasts has a clear african influence, with drum rhythms predominating. Salsa, cumbia and vallenato are very popular styles in the whole country, and have now reached global audiences.


Vallenato, a type of Colombian music and dance, originated on the Atlantic coast and is enjoyed throughout the country. Currulao, a type of music from the Pacific coast, uses the sea, rain, and rivers as its central themes and employs mostly ordinary wooden instruments. In the interior of the country, the two traditional types of music played throughout the Andean region are the Bambuco and the Guabina. Both types of music have considerable mestizo influence, often using as their undercurrents themes that emphasize the earth, mountains, and lakes. Joropo is considered to be "fierce" or Plains' music because it is played in the Llanos Orientales, or Eastern Plains, and reflects the cattle ranch workers' arduous way of life. Cumbia music and dance are considered Colombian national treasures whose rhythmic cadence and melodies echo the mulatto and indigenous flavor; it has become the flagship of Colombia's musical genres. Special mention should be paid to the "musical city" of Ibagu? which has contributed to the enrichment and dissemination of Colombian music. Colombian musicians such as Shakira and Carlos Vives are now well-known names internationally, promoting the country's rhythms around the world.


Artist Fernando Botero has taken colombian painting and sculpture to the best-known museums and galleries of the world, while colombian literature is well represented with writers like Alvaro Mutis and Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Just a few examples of Colombia's rich heritage and culture.



Colombia did not begin to develop a literary tradition until the arrival of the Spanish, and its literature still shows a strong European influence. After independence, writers began to develop their own styles, and wrote about national themes instead of European ones. Early writers such as Jorge Isaacs and Jos?Eustacio Rivera addressed the values of rural peasants and their struggle for existence. These and other stories about the regional populations influenced the development of distinct regional literary styles.


One of the writers whose style grew out of the artistic influences of the Caribbean coast is Gabriel Garc? M?quez, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1982. As a member of Jos??ix Fuenmayor's Group of Barranquilla, Garc? M?quez became known for his juxtaposition of myths, dreams, and reality ("magic realism"). Garc? M?quez and other writers are influencing a group of writers who embrace modern and post-modern themes.


Graphic Arts

Over 2,000 years ago, the Indian cultures produced intricate artwork, which were abandoned in favor of European styles after colonization. However, Colombia is attempting to carve a niche in the international art world with the production of works by painters such as Fernando Botero and Alejandro Obreg? and the sculptor Edgar Negret.


One of the leaders of national art was Pedro Nel G?ez, whose murals featured social criticism. Other artists followed the nationalistic and indigenous themes of the movement. Colombia takes pride in its artist mixed with modern elements.



In the nineteenth century, a new form of architecture began to develop from the efforts of artisans who incorporated elements of Greek, Roman, and Renaissance art. This style, known as republicano, represented the independence of Colombian art. This movement incorporated cement and steel building materials. Many government buildings follow the republicano architectural style.


WHAT R THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BOGOTA [2021]?: the National Capitol.BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, FUN FACTS: The Colon Theater of Bogota.

The National Capitol is a splendid example of  the Republicano style.

The Colon Theater with many clasical elementes of the Republicano style.



In the 1930s, Colombia began to embrace modern architecture. The new Liberal Party government tore down many older buildings to reject the conservative Apartment towers in Bogota. High-density public housing projects are common in the cities.


Most people lived in single-family dwellings until the migration to urban centers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The need for adequate housing persuaded the government to invest in high-density public housing projects during the early 1950s. In the poorer areas, large families live in small houses constructed from cinder blocks and covered with an adobe made of clay, cow manure, and hay. Nowadays the big cities have modern high-rises which are built in mixed style of concrete and natural looking bricks.


WHAT R THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BOGOTA [2021]?: Bogota, capital of Colombia, with 8 million inhabitants seen from the funicular rail track.WHAT R THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BOGOTA [2021]?: Plaza de Toros de Santa Maria.

High-rises in the business district of Bogot?

Modern apartment buildings with concrete cores and natural looking bricks outside.



Competition events

The crowning of Miss Colombia, the Reinado de Belleza or Miss Colombia and soccer are the most popular sports events, closely followed by bicycling. Bogota has South America?s largest network of bicycle routes: over 300km stretching from suburbs to the city centre.


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Destinations Overview:  Bogota old town, Cartagena, Villa de Leyva Zipaguira Salt Mine Church, Chingaza Reserve, Iguaque National Park, Flamencos Reserve, Cienega Mangroves Reserve, Lake Fuquene, Tayrona National Park, Manaure Salt Flats.


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