PACIFIC OCEAN
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PACIFIC OCEAN

The Pacific Ocean belongs to the part of Colombia, which is not only one of most exotic and pristine regions in Colombia, but also in all of Latin America. The region begins in the foothills of the Eastern Cordilleras with its characteristic jungle vegetation, and extends almost to the edge of the Pacific Ocean and is bordered by miles of unspoiled beaches. The people, mostly of African-American origin, are very open-minded and interested in chatting with visitors. Nowadays, Colombia is particularly proud of the region of Chocó, which has remained almost entirely untouched; it does not have any hint of industry and stands out as a pristine natural treasure. The region of Chocó is known for its biodiversity and is in fact an exotic laboratory for oceanographers and experts in botany. If you have a good eye, the spirit of an explorer and a little bit of luck you might just uncover plants and animal species that have never been seen. And while you are at it you can tack on the unforgettable experience of whale watching during the whale season (July – October). Places to See: • Bahía Solano • Nuquí

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LLANOS
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LLANOS

The wide plains called „Llanos“ that can be found in between the deltas of the Eastern Cordillera and the banks of the Orinoco river are populated by traditional cattlemen. The plain landscape of the region with its capital Villavicencio meets all the necessary requirements needed for ‘green’ agro-tourism. This is due to the fact that it is not only possible to enjoy almost pristine nature but also to learn about the typical tasks on a cattle farm. On agro-touristic farms and fincas, you will be able to ride horses, go swimming in rivers with crystal-clear water or just enjoy the warm climate and the fantastic view over the region, especially at the setting of the sun. The exquisite local cuisine and nights with entertaining folk music being played forms the ideal surrounding for people who love a combination of tradition and an almost pristine nature. Places worth visiting: • Villavicencio • The agro-ecological parc Merecure • Caño Cristales • Lagos de Menegua • Ecolodge Hato la Aurora

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ANDES
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ANDES

As a result of their topographical and climatic differences, the Colombian Andes are one of the most diverse areas in South America. The landscape features a number of agricultural areas, snow-capped mountains in the Coffee Zone and Boyacá, green coffee landscapes and fertile plateaus where one can find potato and wheat fields. The Colombian part of the Andes consists of three foothills that rise parallel in a north-southerly direction. The valleys are crossed by the Magdalena and Cauca rivers. This area is home to most of the large urban centers of Colombia. Bogotá DC, which is the most important city of Colombia, is also the political, cultural and economic centre of the country. The diversity in history, culture and landscape of this area is impressive: small colonial cities, archaeological sites, coffee haciendas, large cities, snow-capped mountains and a large variety of different climate zones and vegetation make this area a destination that offers many different opportunities to be explored. Places to See: • Bogotá D.C. • Medellín • Cali • Boyacá (Tunja, Villa de Leyva, Ráquira, Chiquinquirá, Tota, etc.) • Santander und Norte de Santander (Bucaramanga, San Gil, Cañón del Chicamocha, etc.) • El Alto Magdalena (Melgar, Honda, Ibagué, San Agustín, Popayán, etc.) • Coffee region (Manizales, Armenia, Pereira, Los Nevados National Park etc.)

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AMAZONAS
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AMAZONAS

The Colombian Amazon is the largest department of Colombia in terms of area, and it includes the area of the Colombian Amazon rainforest, which is located on the left bank on the longest river of the world of the same name. The mighty Amazon River, with its many tributaries, not only runs through the rainforest, but it also flows through several nature reserves and vast savannas. This is a perfect place for visitors to discover and experience the beauty of wild landscapes and hidden natural secrets. Leticia, the capital of this department is the main center for a wide range of environmental research projects in the region. The Amazon region is exotic and exciting, and nowadays attracts not only extreme adventurers but also leisure travelers. Leticia, the capital, can be reached by a direct flight from Bogotá, and one can choose between luxury accommodation, spending romantic nights under palm leaves or in simple eco-lodges where it is common to sleep in hammocks. Places to see: • Leticia • Tabatinga • Amacayacu Nationalpark • Isla de los Micos (Island of the Apes) • Palmarí

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CARIBBEAN
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CARIBBEAN

With a coastline that extends more than 1,600 km, the Caribbean coast of Colombia offers much more than just your typical beach holiday. Magnificent colonial cities and pre-colombian culture, combined with beautiful beaches surrounded by small bays that melt straight into the tropical rain forests; this is the Caribbean dream! The capitals of a number of different departments, Bolivar (Cartagena), Atlántico (Barranquilla) and Magdalena (Santa Marta) are located directly on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Here you will hear the sounds of joy and life, which the Colombians express through the rhythms of the region, Cumbia and Vallenato. The Caribbean coast of Colombia is one of the most diversified coastlines of the South American continent, ranging from the evergreen tropical rain forests in the southwest up to the dry dusty Guajira desert in the northeast. In between you find many lagoon-filled landscapes and the highest coastal mountain in the world, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with its snow-capped peaks, Pico Colón and Pico Bolívar. The more than 10 vast national parks help provide natural means for the preservation of the ecosystems in this area. With an excellent and extensive hotel infrastructure, the Caribbean coast of Colombia offers everything a tourist’s heart could desire - from first class hotels to traditional Caribbean lodges. The unmistakable openness and joy of life expressed by the local people is well known throughout the country and makes it easy for visitors and locals to get to know each other. Places to See: • Cartagena • Islas del Rosario • Santa Marta • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta • Tayrona National Park • San Andrés and Providencia • La Guajira • Barranquilla

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Why Colombia

Coffee, emeralds, the legend of El Dorado, the magical world of Macondo are just a few examples of things that make Colombia famous; but the most northern country in South America has a lot more to offer. We invite you to discover a new world! Colombia is a country that is like its own continent! Its enormous landscape diversity is reflected in the many different regional lifestyles and cultural characteristics that all blend to create the special charm of Colombia. You will only truly begin to understand Colombia when you meet its people. Colombians are very warm and welcoming, full of life and are considered as some of the happiest people in the world.

History

Colombia was discovered in 1499 by Spanish conquerors and has been settled since 1511. However, long before the arrival of the Spanish, the area of present-day Colombia had been populated by several Indian civilizations who were mastering the art of goldsmithing at its height. Between the years 4000 B.C. until the year 1600 A.D., they were manufacturing clay into thousands of figures and objects. Due to the geographic dispersal and the nature of the country, precolonial Colombia has not come up with a unified form of government comparable to the Incan Empire of Peru. Instead, there were several Indian tribes colonizing the country, leaving behind artifacts such as jewelry and statues which can still be visited today.
There are a few tribes to be emphasized; the Muisca who lived on the plateau of the Eastern Cordillera; the Tayrona who built the so-called Ciudad Perdida in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as one of the first cities on the South-American continent; the Sinú who populated the area along the Sinú River; the Quimbaya in the area of today’s coffee region on the western side of the central Cordillera; and lastly but not least, the mysterious cultures of San Agustín with their stone sculptures and the Tierradentro with their painted tombs, having reached their height long before the arrival of the Spanish.
The “discovery” of Colombia by Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci took place in 1499. Both discoverers initially landed on the peninsula “La Guajira” which they named “Isla de Coquivacoa” (“Island of Coquivacoa”) thinking that it was an island. Further parts of the country were discovered afterwards by Rodrigo de Bastidas or Juan de la Cosa, among others, who explored and frequently also plundered the place. The conquistadores, attracted by gold and emeralds, occupied the country in rapid succession. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, for example, who founded today’s capital of Colombia, Santa Fé de Bogotá, and Sebastián de Belalcázar, who initiated the founding of cities in Colombia; Cali and Popayan are two examples.
Due to its central prominence of the Spanish occupation in northern South America, Bogotá became the place of the “Viceroyalty of New-Granada.” During the colonial period, Cartagena de Indias evolved into one of the most important and highly protected ports of the New World. After the discovery of Central America by Spanish sailors, Santa Marta (1525), and Cartagena de Indias (1533) developed as the first colonial bases on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. Shortly thereafter, a province was founded and later turned into the Viceroyalty of New-Granada. The prosperity of the country is regarded as the reason for several pirate raids on the harbor town fortress of Cartagena which were led by Sir Francis Drake in 1544, 1560, and 1586.
During the 17th century, about 80 percent of the worldwide gold production came from Colombia. Many indigenous Americans were working in the gold mines of the country and died in large numbers due to illnesses introduced by Europeans. After which, the work was undertaken mostly by African slaves who could be bought in through the port of Cartagena. The city was attacked in 1741 by an English armada of 186 warships and defended by Spanish troops, fighting under the command of Don Blas de Lezo. This conflict, resulting in Colombia’s independence from Spain, took place between 1810 and 1819. In the beginning, there was a dispute between a group of American rebels and the Spaniard José González Llorente in Bogotá. The latter refused to leave a flower vase to the group of rebels which was asked for, and was therefore perceived as insulting, consequently starting a revolt that escalated into a shout of independence.
Colombia is one of the countries that was formed as a result of the breakup of Gran Colombia in the year 1830 (the others being Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela). Until 1861, it was still called New-Granada whose name was changed into Colombia in honor of Christopher Columbus. Until the year 1903, modern-day Panama belonged to Colombia as well. Only in 1886, Colombia was able to unite and became a centrally administrated republic, and put to the proof again in 1898 when persistent internal conflicts erupted into the “Thousand Days’ War.” Between 1899 and 1902, oppositional liberals fought against the conservative central government without either one of them coming out as the winner. The devastating conflict with over a hundred dead was finally alleviated by a peace contract, assuring the liberals of a government participation in the future. Nevertheless, the “conservative hegemony” from 1886 survived until 1930.
Much more serious than the materialistic devastation of the war, however, was its aftermath regarding foreign affairs, in which the USA took advantage of Colombia’s weakness in 1903 to assert its geostrategic interests in Panama. For Theodore Roosevelt, United States president from 1901-1908, the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama was regarded as a military importance. A separation was created by poor integration of the isthmus into the central state of Colombia as well as a feeling of being infantilized and ignored by those responsible in Bogotá on the part of the local trade oligarchy. Prior to this, the Colombian senate had rejected the construction of the Panama Canal expedited by the USA with reference to an imminent loss of sovereignty where upon the United States, in coordination with the Panamanian separatist movement, enforced the independence of the isthmus department. Colombia had come out of the Thousand Days’ War so weakened that it accepted reluctantly the militarily shielded takeover in Panama City.
In the first half of the 20th century, Colombia underwent a period of economic prosperity. In the 1920s, coffee represented up to 90% of Colombia’s export and facilitated the country’s investment into the expansion of transportation infrastructure and the strengthening of governmental institutions. In the middle of the past century, two political groups with different ideological concepts began to establish their claim of the state leadership: the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. Later on, a breakthrough of other societal groups developed and sought to extend the political spectrum of the country; ethnic minorities, Indian tribes, and independent public campaigns were then integrated into the political events of the country.

Local Holidays

The most valuable memory of this country is its people! If you go through the Colombian Fairs and Festivals calendar you will be able to prove this. Here is a brief overview of the 6 most important Fairs and Festivals that we also highly recommend.

JANUARY Carnaval de Blancos y Negros

PLACE: Pasto (Southern colombia)
SPECIAL FEATURE: Black makeup, white tallow and the happiness of the inhabitants of Pasto. The Carnival was declared a UNESCO World Heritage.

JANUARY Feria de Manizales

PLACE: Manizales (Coffeeregion)
SPECIAL FEATURE: Bullfighting in the coffee triangle, the festival has Spanish roots. Part of the program is also traditionally the coffee beauty pageant.

FEBRUARY Carnaval de Barranquilla

PLACE: Barranquilla (Caribic Coast)
SPECIAL FEATURE: Certainly one of the most spectacular carnivals in South America. Represents with its parades the mestizo population and the fusion of cultures and races. It has been declared a UNESCO heritage. Amazing musical mix of rhythms like Cumbias, Porros, Fandango, Mapalés

APRIL Festival de la leyenda Vallenata

PLACE: Valledupar (north – east Colombia)
SPECIAL FEATURE: Vallenato is, as well as the Cumbia, the prevalent music style along the Atlantic Coast of Colombia. It is traditionally played by an ensemble of accordion, drum and güira. Everybody who wants to enjoy the world’s best Vallenato music must visit Valledupar by end of april.

AUGUST Feria de las Flores Medellín

PLACE: Medellín
SPECIAL FEATURE: Horse parades, orchids – and bird exhibitions as well as the special parade of the Silleteros (men and women from the village of Santa Elena), who carry at the Flower Festival original and beautiful flower arrangements on their shoulders.

DECEMBER Feria de Cali

PLACE: Cali
SPECIAL FEATURE: The main attraction is the salsa music: Both, orchestras and dance groups are invited to perform. This is where the world’s best salsa dancers show up!

Climate and Travel Season

Colombia can be visited during the whole year and we assume that the visitor gets good weather in every part of the country, apart from some little exceptions.

The intertropical zone in these latitudes makes that the temperature depends on the height above sea level. As a general rule there can be said that per increase in height by 1000 meters the temperature shrinks by 6°C.

There are no seasons in Colombia, they only differentiate between winter (rainy period) and summer (dry period). Normally, the dry period is from December to March and from Juli to August.

The rainy period is generally during April, May, October and November. Whereas it doesn’t rain permanently during these months, the rain falls are rather short and occur once a day.

But it is highly important to announce that because of the meteorological phenomenons  „El Niño“ and „La Niña“ it has been very difficult in recent times to predict the weather exactly. Many times the weather really surprised us…

The main vacation an travel season starts with Christmas more or less for the local tourism and ends in January, as well as during Eastern and from the middle of June until the middle of July.

Up to 1.000 m

Tropical climate with an average temperature of 25°C, here they call it „Tierra Caliente“.

1.000-2.000 m

Moderate climate with an average temperature between 18 and 24 °C, also known as „Tierra Templada“. It is equivalent to Central European summer climate.

2.000-3.000 m

Cold climate between 12 and 18 °C, also known as „Tierra Fría“. It is equivalent to European Central Climate like in spring or autumn.

3.000 – 5.000 m

“Páramo“-Landscape with temperatures above 12°C.

Above 5.000 m

All year snow cover or glacier.

Security

Good news first: Colombia is nowadays as safe as all the other countries in Latin America.

However, we don’t want to whitewash everything. Colombia also has a lot of problems, of course. There are the drug problems by which other huge conflicts are co-financed and created. Furthermore, it promotes the unjust distribution of the income and the prosperity of the country. Colombia is as safe as most of the other Latin American countries. However, certain precautionary measures should be taken. Please comply with the following basic rules:

– avoid desolate and dark streets
– don’t present jewelry and other valuable objects openly
– wear your camera, your purse, and your passports as inconspicuously as possible and close to your body
– keep your eyes glued to your luggage
– try to avoid overnight busses if possible
– try to reserve a cab via your hotel
– change your money just in safe places where it is impossible to be observed and don’t accept any help from strangers
– keep small amounts of money handy but leave large amounts of money as home or in the hotel safe
– don’t trust strangers if you have a bad feeling
– listen to your common sense

Please copy your passport, your flight tickets, and your traveler-checks. You are suggested to always have your passport with you to be able to present it when you are checked.

If necessary, even if it is not official, a copy of the passport as well as your ID card are sufficient.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are worried of wish to have more detailed information. We are continuously in close contact to our partners in the whole country, as well as to the German embassy and are therefore able to give you truthful and most relevant information.