Welcome to Colombia! ¡Bienvenidos a Colombia!
This beautiful tropical country provides a great variety of contrasts, as much in its stunning landscapes, as in the customs of its inhabitants and its immensely rich biodiversity including its flora and fauna. Almost twice the size of Texas, this country that sits at the northern tip of South America is the only country to have both a Pacific as well as a Caribbean coastline. The Andes Mountains, stretching north to south along the western edge divides the country into three huge branches: the Caribbean coast with the majestic Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; the Pacific coast, full of unexplored vast jungles, and the Orinoquia / Amazon region, with its virgin and wild lands, some of which are untouched by humans to this day. These natural regions that provide innumerable and abundant resources are fabric in which, with its friendly, warm, hospitable and hard-working people, constitute Colombia’s most important heritage upon the dawn of the 21st century.
COLOMBIA: LAND OF CONTRASTFrom the air, Colombia seems to emerge from the ocean, bisected by powerful and dominant mountain chains which, separated by valleys and expansive rivers, stretch toward the north in an attempt to crest the continent. To the south-east, the countryside spreads out over an immense and abundantly rich plain which makes up the Orinoquia region and dense Amazon jungle. Situated between the Tropics (from latitude 12 degrees 30’ north to 4 degrees 13’ south), three quarters of Colombia is situated in the northern hemisphere. The equator runs through the southern sector of Colombia, leaving the vast majority of Colombia’s Amazon region in the southern hemisphere.
Colombia shares borders with Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. It covers an area approximately 457,360 square miles, including islands belonging to it, and is the fourth largest nation in South America after Brazil, Argentina and Peru. Colombia also has several islands, including the archipelago of San Andrés and Old Providence in the Caribbean, and Gorgona, Gorgonilla and Malpelo in the Pacific. As a result of its insular (island) possessions, Colombia has maritime limits with nations as far away Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Colombia shares a part of the Amazon, considered to be the planet’s largest ‘lung’, and its two million square miles of jungle with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. The Orinoquia region, which makes up the vast plains of eastern Colombia, stretches as far as the border of Venezuela. Colombia’s geographic location is a meeting point of the three Americas. It borders with the two largest oceans in the world and its particular condition of being simultaneously a Caribbean, Andean and Amazonian country with natural resources and riches reveal a great potential for exploration and discovery in this land of vast natural contrast.
Although representing less than 1% of the world’s available land, Colombia shares with Peru third place in the greatest diversity of living species, after Madagascar and Brazil. The country is considered to be a sanctuary for one out of every five species of known phanerogams (seed bearing plants). To date 130,000 plants have been classified, of which about half are indigenous. Colombia is famous for its flowers with over 50,000 species including the orchid, its national flower. The typical fauna of the rain-forest includes jaguars, armadillos, monkeys, snakes and a variety of bears, including the spectacled bear. This is one of the world’s most bio diverse habitats and has created an environment in which Colombia is a leader in several different areas including;
World Biomass Accolades:
|- Amphibians||#1 in the world with 583 species|
|- Bananas||#3 producer in the world|
|- Bio Diversity||#3 in the world, #1 per square meter|
|- Butterflies||#2 in number of species (approx. 14,000)|
|- Birds||#1 in number of species (approx. 1815). More than 20% of bird species exist here|
|- Carnations||#1 in the world|
|- Coal||#4 largest producer|
|- Coffee||#3 largest producer & #1 brand awareness|
|- Emeralds||#1 supplier/producer in the world|
|- Export||#2 exporter of agricultural products to USA|
|- Flowers||#1 in the world (over 50,000 species)|
|- Fresh Water Fish||#2 in the world|
|- Gold||Largest deposits in South America|
|- Mammals||#4 in species (456 species)|
|- Nickel||#4 producer in the world|
|- Oil||Estimated 37 billion potential reserves|
|- Orchids||Largest number of species (3500 types)|
|- Palm Oil||4th largest production. #1 in variety.|
|- Plants||#2 in the world|
|- Population||#2 in South America|
|- Potatoes||#1 in Latin America|
|- Raspberries||#2 producer/grower in the world|
|- Reptiles||#3 in species|
|- Roses||#1 producer/grower in the world|
|- Sugar||World leader in productivity|
And many, many more still being researched……..
Terrain & Water Systems of Colombia
Colombia is a Land of Mountains!
The Andes mountain range crosses South America like a great backbone, running north and south across the Pacific side of the continent . It enters Colombian territory on the border with Ecuador, where it forms the Nudo de los Pastos. Further north the mountain range divides into two branches: the Western and Central Cordilleras. From the Central Cordillera, a third range appears, the Eastern Cordillera. It crosses the country diagonally, marking the limit between two very unique and different regions. One of these regions is the Andean and the Plains, and the other is the Amazon.
The Western Cordillera is the lower of the three and second in length, being 680 miles long. The Eastern Cordillera is rugged in composition and there are several peaks including the Azufral Volcano, the Farallones of Cali, and the hills of Torrá, Tatamá and Tamaná in the northern sector of the state of Risaralda. In the region of Antioquia, the cordillera reaches a height of 14,600 feet above sea level on the Paramo of Frontino.
The Central Cordillera is the backbone of the Colombian Andes. It is the highest and oldest of the mountain system and has an average height 11,460 feet above sea level. Over 600 miles long, it covers 42,460 square miles. Its peaks include Galeras Volcano and Doña Juana Volcan, near the city of Pasto. The volcanos of Sotará and Puracé occupy the Colombian Massif and to the north stand the volcanic snow peaks of Ruiz, Santa Isabel, Quindío and Tolima, which make up Los Nevados National Park.
The Eastern Cordillera is the youngest in the Colombian Andes and has a different origin from the other two. Its creation is the result of the folding of the Guyanese Shield, which took place about 24 million years ago. The cordillera is 750 miles long with a maximum width of 155 miles. It has an average height of 9,750 feet above sea level and covers an area of 50,000 square miles. Here lie the highland plains of the Sabana de Bogotá, Duitama-Sogamoso, Belén and Santa Rosa, among others. Some of the main peaks include the Páramos of Guerrero and Merchán, Saboya Crag, the Páramo of Guántiva and the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, some of whose peaks are nearly 18,000 feet high.
There are other mountain ranges apart from the Andean system. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal sierra in the world. It has peaks of over 20,000 feet high which rise up from sea level to their summit of perpetual snow over a distance of only 19 miles. This is an amazing area of Colombia that attracts a lot of attention and is located near the jewel of the Colombian coast, Tayrona National Park.
To the southeast lies the Macarena Hill Range, incorporated as a National Nature Park. It is a formation independent of the Andean and Guyanese systems. It is 74 miles long and 19 miles at its widest point and the peaks range from 1,800 to 5,400 feet. It is one of the oldest formations on Earth. The sierras of Chiribiquete and Araracuara in the Amazon are other important hill ranges. Covering nearly 5000 square miles, the sierra of Chiribiquete is the largest preserved area in the country’s National Park system.
Colombia is a Land of Water!
Colombia is a country rich in water resources. Its abundant rivers represent a considerable potential for power generation, river transport, agriculture, fishing as well as recreation. Its hydrographic system is formed by four large basins: the Caribbean, Pacific, Catatumbo and Eastern systems. The Eastern system is comprised of the Amazon basin and that of the Orinoquia. The main rivers that make up the waterways in the Colombia Massif are the Magdalena, Cauca, Caquetá and the Patía.
Rivers which rise in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta also form part of the Caribbean basin. Both the Don Diego Dibulla and Ranchería flow directly into the Caribbean. Others, such as the Cesar River, flow into the Magdalena. The Atrato River, which rises to the west of the Caribbean basin on Plateado Hill, at 10,500 feet, is one of the largest rivers in the world in relation to the size of its catchment area. After the Magdalena, Cauca and Atrato rivers, the most important waterway of the Caribbean basin is the Sinú River, which rises on Paramillo Heights in the Western Cordillera.
The main rivers which make up the Pacific basin rise in the Nudo de Los Pastos, on the western slopes of the Western Cordillera and in the hill range of Baudó. The San Juan is the largest river and the Patía River is the longest river in the entire South American Pacific basin. The Atrato River rises near the San Juan River but flows into the Caribbean in the Gulf of Urabá. Other important rivers in this basin are the Tapaje, Iscuandé, Guapi, Micay, Telembí, Yurumanquí, Raposo, Dagua and Baudó rivers.
The Catatumbo basin, which forms part of the Caribbean catchment area, is formed by the Zulia, Táchira, Sardinata and Tarra rivers. These are tributaries of the Catatumbo River which flows into Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, after flowing through Colombian territory where it has its source.
The Eastern basin is formed by two main basins, those of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers, and covers 258,600 square miles of Colombian territory. The Orinoco catchment area is formed by the rivers which cross the Llanos Orientales (Eastern Plains) and which are subject to rising and diminishing water levels according to the amount of rainfall the area receives. Those of the Amazon catchment area are jungle rivers, whose course are fed by the high rainfall of the region, and are governed by a different climatic regime on account of their location in the southern hemisphere.
The Arauca River forms part of the border with Venezuela for 174 of its total 620 mile length. An intricate river network makes up the Amazon River Basin: the Guainía River flowing for 372 miles through Colombian territory, continued on into Venezuela where it is called the Black River. In the region bordering Brazil, the Caquetá River receives the waters of its principal Colombian tributary, the 750 mile long Apaporis River. The Putomayo River rises in the Nudo de Los Pastos, receives the waters of the Guamués River, its most important tributary, and flows into the Amazon in Brazilian territory. Its 1,120 mile course forms part of the border with Ecuador and the entire border between Colombia and Peru.
The Climate of Colombia
Although Colombia is situated between the Tropics, the Andean mountain system gives it a varied topography, which ranges from tropical rain forest and savannas at sea-level, to high, cold plateaus and perpetual snow. Colombia’s geo-astronomical position permits it to receive more or less constant solar radiation throughout the year, which is why day and night are equally divided. This is also why climatic variations are for the most part determined by altitude, seasonal trade winds, rainfall and humidity.
According to altitude, the mountain system is divided into four distinct climate zones. The temperature decreases about 2 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1000 feet in elevation.
Hot Zone: from 0 – 3,000 feet above sea level with mean temperatures around 77 degrees Fahrenheit covers 80% of the country.
Mild Zone: from 3,000 – 6,500 feet above sea level with mean temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, covers 10% of the country.
Cold Zone: from 6,500 – 10,000 feet above sea level with mean temperatures between 54 degrees and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, constitute 8% of the country.
High Mountain: over 10,000 feet above sea level with mean temperatures below 54 degrees Fahrenheit, represent 2% of the country.
Rainfall in Colombia
There are extreme variations in rainfall in Colombia with regions such as Chocó in the northwest region receiving some of the highest rainfall and humidity levels on Earth at over 275 inches per year. As an example, the average annual rainfall of Seattle, Washington is 37 inches per year. London receives about 30 inches of rain per year. In contrast regions such as La Guajira in the extreme northeast of the country, with desert like climate and high temperatures receive approximately 16 inches per year. However, as a general rule, the majority of the country receives in excess of 100 inches of rain per year. The highland areas including Bogota and Medellin receive slightly less rain. When you decide to visit Colombia, it is a good idea to bring a high quality compact umbrella at minimum. Other items such as a light raincoat and/or water repelling shoes are also a good idea. Click the precipitation map to the left to see more details.
Economy / Economic Outlook
The economic outlook has never been brighter for Colombia than now. Starting with Ex- President Alvaro Uribe’s tough stance on security and progressive economic policies starting in 2002, Colombia has flourished into a Latin American leader and continues to grow at unprecedented rates. Here are a few of the highlights regarding the new found prosperity of the republic;
- US$ 10.24 billion in total foreign investment in 2005. This represented the largest annualized foreign investment figure in Colombia history.
- US$ 7.571 billion in total foreign investment in 2007. This represented the second largest annualized foreign investment figure in Colombia history.
- Solid exponential economic growth for the past four years. In 2007, economic growth for Colombia was 7%.
- Investment announcements for 2008 in excess of US$ 20.8 billion!
Multinational companies have recognized Colombia’s immediate and future potential. According to the survey made by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on 2005, Colombia was chosen as the fifth most favored host economy location for investment in Latin America, after Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. Additionally, according to Doing Business 2005 Report made by the World Bank, Colombia was ranked in 2nd place among 145 economies in business climate improvement by facilitating specific regulations and policies that encourage investment, productivity and growth. In fact, there are over 700 multinational companies currently doing business in Colombia.