Geographic Regions of Colombia
Five natural geographic regions can be distinguished in Colombia for their particular physical and climatic characteristics, and the composition of their soils and vegetation:
THE CARIBBEAN REGION
The coastal area and vast inland savannas which are situated between the Caribbean and the northernmost spines of the Andes are gently rolling in nature. Here you will find no peaks more than 1000 feet above sea level (except for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta). The region is full of rivers, streams, spring fed marshlands (ciénagas), channels, shallows and flood plains whose forms and sizes vary greatly. The climate is hot and the soil becomes desert in much of the peninsula of La Guajira.
The states of La Guajira, Cesar, Magdalena, Atlántico, Bolívar, Sucre, Córdoba, and the northern part of the state of Antioquia and Chocó are situated in the Caribbean, which include cities such as Cartegena, Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Riohacha, Valledupar, Sincelejo, Montería and Mompox. Island such as San Andrés, Old Providence, the Rosary Islands, San Bernardo as well as several other cayes and small islands make up the Caribbean as well.
THE PACIFIC REGION
With its wild coastal swathe covered in jungle and mangrove swamps, this humid region has one of the heaviest rainfall climates in the world. It stretches for 800 miles between Colombia’s borders with Panama all the way down south to Ecuador. The seaboard is shared by the states of Chocó, Valle, Cauca and Nariño. This sparsely populated Pacific has only one economically active city, Buenaventura. It is the most important seaport in the country and accounts for the majority of imports and exports leaving the Pacific. The second port on the coast is Tumaco, in the state of Nariño. The islands of Gorgona, Gorgonilla and Malpelo belong to the Pacific as well.
THE ANDEAN REGION
Covering all three cordilleras, the Andean region is the most densely populated and has attained a great degree of economic and social development. The main cities of the region include Bogotá, the nation’s capital as well as Medellín, Cali, Popayán, Pasto, Manizales, Pereira, Armenia, Neiva, Ibagué, Tunja, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.
THE LLANOS ORIENTALES OR ORINOQUIA REGION
This area includes the states (departmentos) of Arauca, Casanare, Meta and Vichada. The llanos (plains) of both Colombia and Venezuela make up the savannas of the Orinoco River. The Llanos is sparsely populated and the majority of settlements are situated in the foothills of the Eastern Cordillera. Here you will find such cities as Villavicencio, also known as the ‘gateway’ to the llanos and capital of the state of Meta. Also noted in this region are cities such as Acacías, Villanueva, Yopal and Tame. Oil fields discovered in Arauca and Casanare have attracted many new settlers to the Orinoquia region.
THE COLOMBIAN AMAZON REGION
This region is larger than the Llanos Orientales and less populated. It covers the states of Caquetá, Putumayo, Guaviare, Vaupés, Guanía and Amazonas for a total area of over 163,000 square miles. There are about 50,000 Indians dispersed in numerous communities which are situated near rivers crossing the Amazon jungle. Settlers make up the rest of the population in the Amazon. The region has a high rainfall and humidity levels, and the heat is constant throughout the year, which make it difficult for cattle ranching and agriculture commerce. The most important city of the region is Leticia, capital of the state of Amazonas and a port on the Amazon River. Leticia is a small city of approximately 37,000 inhabitants and also the point in which Colombia, Brazil and Peru come together in an area called Tres Fronteras (three borders). Economic activity for Leticia includes being the shipping point for tropical fish that are sold to the aquarium trade.