Ready to discover one of South America’s most secret of wonders? Presenting the Castillo San Felipe of Cartagena, Colombia, one of the most awe-inspiring fortresses in the whole continent. Dominating the hill of San Lazaro, overlooking the vibrant city of Cartagena, the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is one of Colombia’s most famous and formidable sites. The colonial-era castle will …READ MORE
Colombia seems to be one of those countries that have been on every western government warning list since time immemorial. It’s probably no wonder then, that “Is it safe to travel to Colombia?” be one of the most often-asked questions we face here at Chimu Adventures. Like all countries plagued by decades of political instability and national unrest, Colombia is …READ MORE
As far as South American travel goes, Colombia is one of the roads less traveled. It still features on many ‘Don’t Travel’ lists and is perceived as dangerous, due to its history of violence and drug trafficking. But with a drastic and continued reduction in violence over the last decade and its government dedicating real money towards tourism and safety, …READ MORE
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Colombia was originally inhabited by many major indigenous cultures such as the Tayrona, Muisca and Quimbaya. The area that is now Colombia was colonised by the Spanish after their arrival in 1499, and the social structures of the areas were radically altered by colonisation. The Spanish brought war and disease, resulting in the indigenous populations shrinking dramatically in size. They also brought European settlers and African slaves.
The country gained independence from Spain in 1819. It was one of five countries liberated by Simón Bolívar, along with Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia.
Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama formed the first Republic of Colombia, but by 1830 "Gran Colombia’’ had collapsed with Ecuador and Venezuela declaring their independence from Colombia. Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada, with the new Republic of Colombia being declared in 1886. Panama declared independence in 1903.
Following independence, the history of Colombia was marked by several civil wars. These conflicts, together with problematic social issues, early state repression against rural communities and world polarisation caused by the Cold War, culminated in a communist insurgent campaign by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN to overthrow the Colombian Government. The years of the conflict were marked by heavy fighting between the communist guerrillas, the Colombian state and military, right-wing paramilitaries and several drug cartels giving the country a terrible reputation.
In 2012 the government and the FARC began peace talks aimed at bringing the 50 year old Civil War to an end. Colombia is currently in a process of recovery, and is finally becoming the tourist destination that it deserves to be.
The geography of Colombia is characterized by its six main natural regions that each present their own unique characteristics - the high Andes mountain range region, the Pacific coastal region, the Caribbean coastal region, the Llanos (lowland plains), the Amazon Rainforest and the insular area, comprising islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Colombia is bordered to the northwest by Panama, to the east by Venezuela and Brazil and to the south by Ecuador and Peru. It is the only South American country with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Galeras, at an elevation of 4,276m is one of Colombia’s most active volcanoes. It erupted in 2009 and 2010.
The highest point in Colombia is Pico Cristobal Colon at 5,775m, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The mountain is part of the world’s highest coastal range.
Colombia’s natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, gold, copper, emeralds and hydro-power.
Colombia is ethnically diverse with a diverse cultural heritage. The population is comprised of the descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans originally brought to the country as slaves as well as 20th-century immigrants from the Middle East and Europe. Very strong regional identities are also as a result of Colombia's varied geography and the imposing landscape of the country. The majority of the urban centres are located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, but Colombia also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines.
Spanish is the first language of Colombia and is spoken by over 99% of the population. Other languages include 2 Creole languages, 65 Amerindian languages and the Romani language. In San Andres, Providential and Santa Catalina Islands, English is also stated as an official language.
Colombia’s predominant religion is Roman Catholic accounting for about 70% of the population.
Colombia’s music is an amalgamation of sounds and rhythms, drawing on Indigenous, European and African influences, resulting in a dynamic musical mix.
Colombia’s cuisine is also varied, being influenced by the cultural traditions of the various ethnic groups as well as by the country’s diverse flora and fauna. Colombian dishes and ingredients vary widely by region. Common ingredients include rice, maize and tubers such as cassava. Popular dishes include patacones (fried green plantains), empanadas, tamales and papas criollas al horno (roasted Andean potatoes).
The Colombian economy has been growing at an average rate of 4% in the past few years, but as the country depends heavily on mining and energy exports, it is vulnerable to a fall in commodity prices.
Colombia is the fourth largest exporter of coal in the world and Latin America’s fourth largest oil producer. The country is rich in natural resources, its main exports including mineral fuels, oil, precious stones, forest products, coffee, cereals, cotton and sugars. Colombia is an important global source of emeralds and 70% of the USA’s imported cut flowers are Colombian.
Colombia’s main trading partners are the United States, India, China, the European Union and some Latin American countries. It is a founding member of the Pacific Alliance.
Colombia has an unemployment rate close of 8.5%, one of Latin America’s highest. The country’s most significant challenges include inequality, poverty, drug-trafficking as well as its infrastructure.
Colombia is a presidential representative democratic republic. Government is divided into three branches – executive, legislative and judicial. There are 32 departments and 1 capital district. The President of Colombia is the head of the executive branch and serves as both the head of state and head of government. The president is elected by popular vote for four-year terms, limited to a maximum of two terms.
Universal suffrage is granted to those 18 years of age.