Columbia’s Amazon region makes up a vast percentage of the country. Almost a third of Colombia is made up of jungle regions, and the south of Colombia is crisscrossed by some of the most important rivers of Amazonia: the Putumayo, Caqueta, Orinoco, Apaporis, and, of course, the mighty Amazon itself. In Colombia, the Amazon Region is formed by the Amazonas Department in the southeast of the country, as well as the Vaupés, Caquetá, Guainía, Guaviare and Putumayo departments.
Bogotá, abbreviated Bogotá, D.C., and formerly known as Santa Fe de Bogotá, is Colombia’s sprawling, high-altitude capital. La Candelaria, its cobblestoned centre, features colonial-era landmarks like the neoclassical performance hall Teatro Colón and the 17th-century Iglesia de San Francisco. It's also home to popular museums including the Museo Botero, showcasing Fernando Botero's art, and the Museo del Oro, displaying pre-Columbian gold pieces. The city is also very green thanks to its parks and the hills that extend along its eastern boundary, dwarfed by their two highest points, Monserrate and Guadalupe. Bogotá is the melting pot of Colombia. Here, all the cultures from different regions of the country have a place, from the cuisine of the Coffee Triangle to the exhilaration and joy of the Caribbean, or the artisanal heritage of Boyacá and the Valle de Cauca Festival.
CANO CRISTALES, LA MACARENA
Caño Cristales is a Colombian river located in the Serrania de la Macarena province of Meta, and is a tributary of the Guayabero River. The river is commonly called the "River of Five Colours" or the "Liquid Rainbow," and is noted for its striking colours. Also known as the "River of Five Colours", this liquid rainbow boasts the deepest shades of red, yellow, green, blue and black. The natural palette is caused by the flourishing of macarenia clavigera, an endemic species of aquatic plant that clings to rocks where the river's current is at its strongest. The Caño Cristales carves its way through the Sierra de la Macarena's National Park, the meeting point of the Amazon, Orinoco and Andes regions where attractions extend far beyond kaleidoscopic waters. A tour here may take in majestic waterfalls, wild-swimming spots, ancient rock formations and treks across biodiverse jungle, where lucky visitors will spot rare wildlife.
Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. By the sea is the walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, with squares, cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings. With a tropical climate, the city is also a popular beach destination. Reachable by boat are Isla de Barú, with white-sand beaches and palm trees, and the Islas del Rosario, known for their coral reefs. Framed by its stunning bay, Cartagena de Indias is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the Americas; a treasure that is currently one of the most heavily frequented tourist destinations in Colombia.
Huila is a department in southern Colombia, spanned by the Andes mountains and home to towering Nevado del Huila volcano. To the south, San Agustín Archaeological Park has hundreds of pre-Columbian monuments and sculptures. The Magdalena River runs through Huila's center. In northern Huila, the village of Villavieja is surrounded by the vast Tatacoa Desert, and the Observatorio Astronómico offers stargazing. There are few countries more famous for their coffee than Colombia. And within Colombia, no region produces more coffee than Huila, a mountainous department lying in the southwest.
La Guajira is a Colombian department on the Caribbean Sea, bordering Venezuela and encompassing most of the Guajira Peninsula. It's distinguished by desert landscapes, giant sand dunes and the remote ranches and fishing villages of the indigenous Wayuu people. Capital city Riohacha has a palm-lined waterfront, beaches and craft stalls, and serves as the gateway for adventure tourism in the region. English pirates, Dutch smugglers and Spanish pearl hunters have all tried to conquer the Guajira Peninsula – a vast swath of barren sea and sand that is Colombia's northernmost point – but none were able to overcome the indigenous Wayuu people, who wisely traded with, or waged war upon, the invaders.
Isla Majagua is a stunning island rich in marine wildlife and beautiful beaches and is part of the Rosario Islands archipelago. Around 45 miles from the coastal city of Cartagena lie the Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario), an archipelago formed by coral reefs with small white sand beaches, and clear Caribbean waters that invite snorkellers and divers to appreciate the diverse marine life. The 40 or so small islands have had protected status as a National Park in Colombia since 1977, with reportedly 1300 species found here.
Medellín is the capital of Colombia’s mountainous Antioquia province. Nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate weather, it hosts a famous annual Flower Festival. Modern metrocables link the city to surrounding barrios and offer views of the Aburrá Valley below. Sculptures by Fernando Botero decorate downtown's Botero Plaza, while the Museo de Antioquia displays more of the Colombian artist’s work. Once dubbed the 'most dangerous city on earth', Medellín is now one of Colombia's liveliest and most creative.
Pereira is a city in a mountainous, coffee-growing region of western Colombia known for mild Arabica beans. The main plaza, Bolívar Square, has a statue of independence hero Simón Bolívar, nude, on horseback. The 19th-century Cathedral of Our Lady of Poverty has an intricate latticework roof. César Gaviria Trujillo Viaduct is a cable-stayed bridge over the Otún River. Pereira can be best described as a mini-Medellín with a similar climate but less traffic and less pollution due to being a smaller city. Pereira is also the gateway to Parque Ucumarí and Santuario Otún Quimbaya, a pair of top nature reserves, and the relaxing thermal springs of Santa Rosa and San Vicente.
San Andrés is a Colombian island in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Nicaragua. It’s known for its coral reefs and reggae music. Lively Spratt Bight Beach features a palm-lined promenade. Offshore is Johnny Cay Park, a small island with coconut groves and white-sand beaches. Old Point Regional Mangrove Park is a wildlife sanctuary, with crabs, iguanas and birds. Just 150km east of Nicaragua and some 800km northwest of mainland Colombia, the seahorse-shaped island of San Andrés is best known as Colombia's favourite weekend getaway, where mainlanders love to come to drink, tax-free shop, sunbathe and party.
Santa Marta is a city on the Caribbean Sea in the northern Colombian department of Magdalena. A busy port, it was also the first Spanish settlement in Colombia. It's the gateway for trips into the Tayrona National Natural Park, and for multiday guided treks to the Lost City (Teyuna) archaeological site in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Actually the oldest city in the country, Santa Marta, Colombia was founded in 1525 by Spanish Conquistadors. However, most of its colonial heritage has been destroyed over the centuries by English and Dutch pirates. Although not as glamorous as its neighbour, cool and cultured Cartagena, you can still find pleasant plazas, old churches and tree-lined streets in the atmospheric city – despite the fact that things are a little rough around the edges!
Colombia is a land of stunning scenery and rich history. Along with the continent’s most welcoming people, it is a must for travellers to South America. Due to improved security conditions, it has led to a major increase in tourism in recent years. Colombia is now much easier to explore the beautiful colonial cities, palm lined beaches and towering snow-covered volcanoes and mountains of the Andes.
Nicknamed the ‘gateway to South America’ due to its location which sits in the north western part of the continent and where it connects with Central and North America. The country offers a large range of ecosystems from the Amazon rainforest near Leticia to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Colombia is a land of extremes. Through its centre runs the towering, snow-covered volcanoes and mountains of the Andes. Tropical beaches line the north and west. And there are deserts in the north and vast grasslands, called Los Llanos, in the east. Dense forests fill Colombia's Amazon Basin, which takes up nearly the country's entire southern half. In northwest Colombia, a warm, wet, jungle-filled area called the Chocó reaches across the Panama border.
When to Visit
Colombia’s proximity to the equator keeps regional temperatures stable throughout the year - around 24°C (75°F) along the coast and 7 to 17°C (45 to 63°F) as you move higher inland. However, rainfall does vary with the seasons.
In the Andean region there are two dry and two wet seasons per year, and the driest months, being from December to Marchand July to August.
In low-lying areas, especially southern Colombia, rainfall is more constant but showers never last very long.
The Amazon climate is uniformly wet the entire year.
When thinking about the best time to visit Colombia, it's worth bearing in mind that the most intense tourist seasons are from December to February and Semana Santa (Easter Week), the week before Easter.
Colombia’s national currency is the peso (COP$), divided into 100 centavos. Coins are for 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos and notes for 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 pesos. Changing large notes can be problematic outside big cities.
ATMs are plentiful, with at least one even in small towns. For changing money, casas de cambio offer slightly better rates, have more flexible hours and provide quicker service than most banks. Travellers’ cheques can also be exchanged at casas de cambios and banks, but few businesses accept them. Using moneychangers on the street is not recommended.
ATMs are widely available but note that not all foreign cards work in the ATMs.
Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, major shops and restaurants.
Visas and Vaccinations
You must have all visas (and vaccination) certificates that are necessary to enter or pass through Columbia.
Visa requirements are subject to change so please check with a Visa Service Company in the country in which you are located, or you can check details online instantly with companies such as CIBT Visas (https://cibtvisas.co.uk/. Visas can be obtained through the relevant embassy or consulate.
General Note: Some countries refuse admission to travellers not meeting their accepted standards of dress or appearance (even if they hold a visa). Entry may also be refused to certain countries if your passport bears stamps or visas (valid or expired) for Israel.
A useful general health advice website for travellers is http://www.who.int/ith/en/ and there are also advice sites in individual countries.
Please note it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct, current visa and vaccination information and that you act on it.