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Valle de Cocora, Colombia. Author McKay Savage. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution
Valle de Cocora, Colombia. Author McKay Savage

Colombia: a country with multiple and diverse landscapes

Colombia (República de Colombia/Republic of Colombia) is a presidential republic, located along the equator on the north-west side of South America. It is washed to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the north by the Caribbean Sea and bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil, to the south by Peru and Ecuador and to the north-west by Panama.

A part of Colombia are also the islets of Gorgona, Gorgonilla and Malpelo, located in the Pacific Ocean. The islands of Providencia, San Andrés and the islets and shoals of Roncador, Serrana, Quitasueno, Serranilla and Bajo Nuevo are located in the Caribbean Sea.

The capital of Colombia, Santa Fé de Bogotá, is located on a plateau, the Sabana of Bogota, on a height of over 2,600 meters. Other important cities of the country are Cali, Medellin, Cartagena and Barranquilla, the latter being the main port of the country.

Colombia Map

Colombia Map

Colombia is a country of beautiful landscapes. Its territory can be divided into a central area, being the mountains of the Cordillera de los Andes, two coastal areas to the north and to the west and to the south-east the region of the flat basin of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.

Some mountainous regions are not part of the Andes such as the Montes de María and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The latter chain has the highest mountains of the country: Pico Simón Bolívar and Pico Cristóbal Colón both with 5,775 metres. The coastal region to the west along the Pacific Ocean is flat, but with mountains not belonging to the Andes: the Serranía Baudó.

The central-western area of the country has the biggest population concentration of Colombia. It is crossed from north to south by the Cordillera de los Andes, dividing by the course of Rio Magdalena, the main Colombian river with a length of 1,540 km and Rio Cauca into three parallel chains: the Cordillera Occidental, the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Oriental. The Cordillera Central is developed for 800 km. It is the highest of the three chains, having significant volcanic peaks such as Nevado de Tolima with 5.215 metres, Nevado del Ruiz with 5.321 metres, Nevado de Santa Isabel with 4.950 meters and Nevado del Huila with 5.439 metres.

Playa Cristal, Parque Tayrona, Santa Marta, Colombia. Author Hugo Quintero. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

Playa Cristal, Parque Tayrona, Santa Marta, Colombia. Author Hugo Quintero

The Cordillera Oriental is the most extensive and complex of the three chains. In the middle are vast highlands including the Altiplano Cundiboyacense with an altitude of 2,600 meters. The northern part of the Cordillera contains the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, where the highest peaks of the cordillera are to be found, reaching its maximum elevation by Ritacuba Blanco with 5.330 metres. The Cordillera Occidental, running parallel to the Pacific Ocean, is the lowest of the three, reaching with its peaks 4,000 meters. The maximum height of 4,100 metres possess the Farallones de Cali. The south-east and east of the country is home to the flat region of the Amazon rainforest, crossed by the rivers Caquetá and Putumayo and other tributaries of the Amazon. The region of llanos (savannahs) is crossed by the rivers Meta and Guaviare and other tributaries of the Orinoco.

The economy of Colombia remains essentially agricultural. At the base of the rural economy is coffee, of which the country is the largest exporter in the world after Brazil. Other major agricultural products are bananas, tobacco, cotton, cocoa, sugar cane, maize, rice, sorghum, wheat, potatoes and cassava. Colombia also produces cannabis and cocaine, whose proceeds are illegal, even exceeding the legal exports of all other producing sectors. Farming is an important resource: Raising cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and horses. Very rich are the forest reserves, which provide valuable timber, rubber, textile fibres, medicines and substances such as quinine. Noteworthy are the resources of the subsoil: emeralds, of which Colombia is one of the world’s largest producers, oil, gold, platinum, natural gas, coal, lead, zinc, mercury, silver, nickel, copper, bauxite, iron ore, uranium, rock salt and sea salt. The industry has developed in the textiles, food, footwear, chemical, mechanical, cement, paper and tobacco sectors.

English text correction by Dietrich Köster.

  • Area: 1,141,748 sq km: arable land 4,8%, pastures 35,6%, forests and bushland 43,9%, uncultivated and unproductive land 15,7%
  • Population: 44,065,000 (as of 2007): Mestizos (descendants of Europeans and Amerindians) 58%, Europeans 20%, Mulattos (descendants of Europeans and Africans) 14%, Africans 4%, Zambos (descendants of Africans and Amerindians) 3%, Amerindians 1%
  • State Capital: Santa Fé de Bogotá.
  • Official Language: The official language is Spanish. The indigenous population on the plateau speaks Chibcha and in the lowlands Amazonic languages.
  • Religion: Roman Catholics 95% and Protestants 5%.
  • Currency: Peso (COP).
  • Time Zone: UTC-5 hours.

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