About Colombia

Colombia is South America’s second most populous country, located in the North West of the South American continent.A country that is characterized by its vast variety in biodiversity and topography. It is home to many original cultures and boasts a long and often adventurous history.

Bogotá Museo Botero. Foto: The Colombian Way.
Bogotá, Museo Botero. Foto: The Colombian Way.

A country that has spawned countless men of genius. The Novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez set mainly on the Caribbean coast. The Sculptures by Fernando Botero in the centre of Medellin, the hometown of the country’s most famous living artist.

The country’s history goes back over many thousands of years before the country was conquered by the Spaniards, it was inhabited by many indigenous civilizations. The remains of these cultures are visited by us on our tours. Be it the Archaeological Park of San Agustin,Tierradentro or Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, all these places showcase Colombia’s cultural wealth. Bogotá’s Gold Museum also offers a fascinating insight into Colombia’s rich history.

The 16th Century marked the start of Colombia’s era of colonization. The capital was founded in Bogotá. The walled city of Cartagena was the main slave market. Popayan was also of importance during the colonial period, the city is situated on the road to Quito, a strategically important South American route.

Culture

Indígenas Guambianos. Foto: The Colombian Way.
Niños Guambianos en el Cauca. Foto: The Colombian Way.

With the Spanish conquest came the homogenization of cultures. The Spanish brought in slaves from Africa. Gran Colombia was a multi-cultural multi-ethnic state. In the Andes, you can feel the European ancestry. The Caribbean culture echoesthe fusion of indigenous people and Africans. The Pacific culture is a mix of African roots and Amazonian traditions.

Colombia is home to 87 ethnic groups, that in turn speak 64 native languages. In Colombia, Afro-Colombians, mestizos, Gypsies and many other immigrants from different regions live side by side.

Music

On the Caribbean coast you can hear the accordion infused rhythm of vallenato. Valledupar is the birthplace of vallenato music. Champeta, a type of reggaeton can also be heard in Cartagena.

Cali and Barranquilla are the capitals of salsa music. The Feria de Cali (between Christmas and New Year) is the most famous salsa festival in the world. From Cali, there are numerous groups such as Grupo Niche, Son de Cali, Guayacan. The best-known representative of “Tropical Salsa” from the coast was Joe Arroyo, who passed away in 2011.

Colombia has also contributed its share to the international Latin pop scene with Shakira and Maía from Barranquilla and Medellín’sJuanes

Festivals

Colombia is a land of festivals. Here is a brief overview of where, when and why they are celebrated (only the largest and most important festivals, there are many more):

Carnival of Blacks and Whites

This festival takes place each year in Pasto from the 4th to the 6th of January. The carnival is a traditional cultural festival borne out of a homage to the gods by the indigenous tribes. The partygoers paint their faces, play music and show off their handmade cultural sculptures.

Carnival of Barranquilla

This colourful festival on the coast is held each February. It is one of Colombia’s biggest parties and the perfect way to experience the warmth and cheerfulness of the Caribbean coast. It is probably the most authentic expression of the joy of life in Colombia. The highlight is the choosing of the carnival queen. This festival lasts for 4 days. The hotels are booked up quickly, we recommend early planning.

Easter processions

The best known of the Easter processions is that of Popayan. A procession that has taken place for over 400 years. The city is filled with pilgrims and on each day there are processions and parades. A very interesting experience for people who are interested in religion and culture. Other well-known Easter celebrations take place in Pamplona and Mompox.

Feria de las Flores

The Feria de las Flores is an annual festival taking place every July in Medellín. The Feria is renouned throughout Colombia and wider afield as it epitomises all that is Paisa culture. The highlight of the Feria is the Parada de los Silleteros, a parade where the campesinos from the local area come to Medellín and and walk under the huge weight of their impressive flower displays.

The Paisa people are well known for their friendly ways and the Feria de las Flores is the ultimate expression of this joy.

Feria de Cali

The Feria de Cali is one of the world’s biggest salsa festivals happening each year between Christmas and New Year in Cali. It is arguably the best international salsa festival of its kind with bands coming from all over the world and the cream of Calí’s salsa dancers moving in a way that only they know how.

Cali´s nickname, coined during one of the ferias is La sucursal del cielo which roughly means a “a branch of heaven.”   Paying a visit to the Feria de Cali is the only way to understand what they mean by that.

Geography

Colombia is the only South American country with two ocean coasts (Atlantic & Pacific) To the north it borders Panama, To the East and South East, Venezuela& Brazil, To the South and South West, Peru and Ecuador. The country lies near to the equator whichdetermines the climate. From the cool and spring-like Andean regions, to the hot Caribbean region Colombia boasts a broad range of climates. Colombia is not a country of four seasons, rather its tropical location makes it either rainy or not rainy, often with 4 seasons in just one day.

In recent years climate change has made the rainy seasons less predictable. Colombia’s days are always the same length, a little over 12 hours of sunlight per day year round

The country has several islands. San Andres and Providencia in the Caribbean, Gorogona and Malpelo (the diving paradise) in the Pacific.

  • Area: 1.138.748 km2
  • Population: Ca. 42 Million
  • Independence: 20 July 1810
  • International Dialling Code: +57
  • Currency: Colombian Peso (COP)
  • Constitution: Presidential republic
  • President: Juan Manuel Santos