Officially named the Republic of Colombia, this fascinating country is in the northwest part of South America. It is the only South American country which has coasts on both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. The official language is Spanish. Additionally, there are many different dialects spoken by minority groups in the country.
The land took its name in honour of Christopher Columbus, the explorer who discovered the Americas. Bogotá is the capital city. Medellín is the next major city, which is also the centre for industry. Cali is a significant business city. The bustling port town of Barranquilla is on the Carribean coast. One of the older settlements in Colombia is Cartagena de Indias. Here, the tremendous 17th-century Spanish wall dominates the town. Also, some of the cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings are up to 500 years old. Reachable by boat from here are Isla de Barú, with white-sand beaches and palm trees, and the Islas del Rosario, known for their coral reefs.
The following countries share borders with Colombia: Venezuela (east), Peru (south), Brazil (southeast), Ecuador (southwest) and Panama (west). Bordering Colombia on the sea, are Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Colombia has several natural areas, each with unique characteristics. Notably, the Andes mountains separate the country from Ecuador and Venezuela. The magnificent Amazon Rainforest shares borders with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.
Most of the 43 million people who live in Colombia reside in the Andes region. However, the plains make-up over half the land area. Surprisingly, only about 6% of the population lives in the plains. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range includes the country’s highest summits – Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar.
People have lived in Colombia for more than 20,000 years. Tribes inhabited the country including the Arawak, Caribe, and Chibcha people. Also, there were other smaller groups of people here, hundreds of years ago. The El Dorado legend derives from one of these groups – the Muisca people. The Muiscas king used the Guatavita Lake as his bath, and paid a significant amount of gold for the pleasure of doing so. The Spaniards heard about this and began to suspect that there was a great golden city nearby. Since that time, the hunt for El Dorado has continued – for those who believe the legend. The name of Bogotá´s International Airport is “El Dorado”.
Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. When he saw the coasts of Venezuela, Colombia and Panama, he decided to name the region after himself. But, it was Alonso de Ojeda who was the first to explore the Gulf of Darién.
The Spaniards founded the first European cities in the Americas, during the 1500s. They conquered the Incas of Peru and the Muisca people using Colombia as a base. In 1550, Spain declared the territory as a colony with its capital being the Spanish founded city, Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador declared independence from Spain, in 1819. Together they formed a country named “Gran Colombia”. Venezuela and Ecuador left the union in 1830. Colonel Simon Bolivar led the Colombian independence movement. Panama was still part of Colombia until 1903, at which point Panama proclaimed independence.
The temperature in each region changes with the altitude of the area. For example; the Andes Mountains are much colder than the coastal areas.
In fact, at the top of some of the mountains, there is enough snow for people to ski over the equator! As you move down to the lower mountain areas, the climate becomes warmer. Ocean breezes cool the sea, but near the equator, it is very hot at sea level.
Because of different altitudes and climates within the country, many different fruits and vegetables flourish. Additionally, there are all kinds of animals, reptiles and birdlife, especially in the Amazon region. Colombia is megadiverse. This means that the country is home to a majority of Earth’s species, many of which are endemic.
Colombia has 1,900 species of bird which is more than any other country in the world. With around 2,000 species of marine and freshwater fish, Colombia also has a vast number of amphibian species and reptiles. As for plants, there are nearly 45,000 species here. Finally, There are about 2,900 species of molluscs and about 300,000 species of invertebrates counted so far by experts.