Colombia

Population 47.12 million

 

Geography

You will be challenged to find a country that has more to offer geographically than Colombia. This country has the best of everything that you are looking for.

Situated on the very top of South America, the country is bordered by the Caribbean Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Venezuela, Ecuador Peru and Brazil.

In Colombia, you can find crystal blue ocean water, stunning mountains, dense jungles and some of the most breathtaking views you will find anywhere in the world. Our longer itineraries are intended to give you the best of every part of this country where you could also spend months getting to know the various regions.  

People/Groups

The energy of the Colombian people is contagious; their spirit for life is inspiring. The population is a mix of various ethnicities, which over its history have blended and created a more passionate, more diverse people.

The largest ethnic groups, including afro-Colombians, indigenous populations and Spanish decedents are largely concentrated in various pockets throughout the country, with different groups comprising the majority in different areas. Cities, however, have become increasingly mixed and, despite lingering issues with racism and a more stark issue of classism, are slowly becoming more diverse and accepting.  

In the various regions around the country, you will find vastly different cultures, traditions and lifestyles, all of which are uniquely fascinating and worth experiencing first hand.         

 

Language

The official language of Colombia is Spanish, which is spoken by approximately 99% of the population. However, there are an estimated 60 – 80 indigenous languages spoken in various parts of the country, amongst the diverse indigenous groups. Additionally, there are parts of the country where you will hear certain dialects that are a blend of Spanish and languages originally introduced to the country by slaves.

Political Landscape  

Colombia has perhaps one of the best known histories in the world, with a civil war that was the longest ever on record and which is just now coming to a close, with the recent signing of a peace agreement between the rebel group known as FARC and the Colombian government. That said, this country, once famous for its drug cartels and war, has made tremendous progress in the last decade and has changed its image to now be considered a safe place to visit.

When you are in Colombia, you will hear various opinions from all different political viewpoints and there are certainly positives and negatives regarding the current political situation. However, Colombia has one of the strongest records of democracy, even in light of the civil war, in Latin America. The country has become more aware as to the impact corruption had on their legal systems in the past and, while they still have a long way to go in many respects, the government has made a conscious effort to clean itself up, with one of the most recent changes being limiting the term limit of most major political figures, including the President, to one term of four years.

When traveling in different regions, you will get a feel for different viewpoints. Note that in smaller towns and in areas where the civil war was felt most strongly, there may be tremendous sensitivities and you should be careful not to get too wrapped up in political discussion. We will be updating our website with more details as to the current status of the political situation as new changes start playing out, including providing updates as to the implementation of the peace agreement.

 

Art

The artistic products available in Colombia are nearly as diverse as its geography. As a result of the vast resources of the country, as well as the diversity of its population, the country has something to satisfy nearly everyone’s tastes. The most popular artistic products include: Gold

The primary reason why the Spanish were originally interested in exploring the territory that is now Colombia, Gold has been a staple of indigenous life for centuries. The ornate jewelry and sacrificial items made by indigenous groups centuries ago are now on display in some of Colombia’s top museums, such as the Gold Museum in Bogotá, however, an adapted version of these beautiful pieces, as well as more modern options, can be found in various parts of the country.  

Textiles

The textiles found in Colombia may be considered less elaborate than those found in some of its neighbors and other countries in the region, however, certain regions of the country still offer truly beautiful designs, which are much more unique to Colombia itself.

In the northwest part of the country, there are colorful textiles called molas, made by combining different layers of colored cloth. Along the Caribbean coast in the region of Guajira, you will find bags known as mochilas that are hand crafted by the indigenous community the Wayuu and come in varying styles and colors. These bags are available throughout the country, but this region is one of the most authentic. The bags are easy to find and readily available is Santa Marta and other larger cities in the region.

 

Weaving

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of Colombia is the Sombrero Vueltiao, which is a wide brimmed, woven hat, with black and white striped looking weaving. These hats are found in a number of symbols for the country and are very uniquely Colombian.

Another craft originating from indigenous groups is baskets, which are beautifully hand woven and can be found in different regions, in different styles. The most famous are those made out of palm fibers. In the cities, particularly in Bogota, you will find a number of options of baskets to purchase, which have been brought from various parts of the country. The most famous, perhaps is the Werregue basket, which are often much larger and incorporate dyed fibers to have beautiful and varying colors.

 

Wood

A number of different items, from varying regions, are made out of beautifully carved wood. These items include musical instruments, masks and other specialty items, including furniture. You can also find items from Chocó and the Amazon made out of nuts, which are truly unique to these regions and a bit more unusual than the other wood products.

 

Leather

One of Colombia’s food specialties is beef and, correspondingly, it is easy to find well-made leather goods. You are able to find nicely crafted leather jackets, bags and shoes, particularly in the south near Pasto and in parts of each major city.

 

Pottery

If you are interested in pottery, you cannot miss a trip to Ráquira, which is in the Boyacá region, only a few hours from Bogota. This small town is full of uniquely crafted pottery and the town itself is a beautifully colorful pueblo that itself is worth the visit, even if you are not interested in the pottery. You shouldn’t leave Colombia without picking up an iconic piggy bank! The original is a brown, basic looking pig, but you can now find colorfully painted pigs that will meet your every desire.   

 

Holidays

Catholic holidays reign king in Colombia, with the majority of days off (and there are many!) coming from the celebration of various religious holidays.

The absolute best week to visit Colombia, in any region, if you are looking for anything from a party to more subdued religious traditions, is during the week leading up to Easter, known in the Catholic religion as Holy Week. Colombians have the majority of this week off of work and the few days where they are required to go to the office, they usually take off anyways. The beach is packed, but the party is tremendous in the coastal areas during this time. Many small towns, or pueblos, will celebrate the holiday with unique traditions and beautiful religious displays. Every part of the country has something going on and it is definitely a fun time to visit.  

Christmas time is also a phenomenal time to visit the country, as it goes all out! The light display alone is worth booking a ticket! This is particularly true in Medellin, where the number of lights throughout the city will really take your breath away. Additionally, a number of cities have various festivals or street fairs going on, with the most notable being in Cali, where you should go prepared to dance your heart out and only sleep when the sun is out! After Christmas, other towns and cities have large New Years celebrations which are also worth sticking around for.

Other major holidays and festivals include:

  • Independence Day (July 20)

  • Black and White Festival (Pasto; January)

  • Manizales Festival (Manizales; January, right after new year)

  • Carnival (Barranquilla; February)

  • Easter Processions (Popayan; Easter)

  • World Salsa Festival (Cali; August)

  • Festival of Flowers (Medellin; August)

  • Folklife Festival (Buenaventura; August)

  • Cali Festival (Cali; December)

 

University

Colombia has an almost overwhelming number of universities, with the number increasing on a regular basis. As the population seeks to become better educated and the middle class continues to grow, so too does the number of universities. Below, then, is a quick list of some of the most notable and highest ranked universities. Note that different universities tend to be better recognized for different things and only a few universities offer a wide range of disciplines. Those included in the list below are also some that offer the widest range of degree options:

  • Universidad de los Andes (Bogota)

  • Universidad Nacional (Bogota)

  • Universidad de Antioquía (Medellin)

  • Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogota)

  • Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (Medellin)

  • Universidad del Valle (Cali)

  • Universidad del Rosario (Bogota)

Literacy  93%

 

Products (Imports/Exports)

Top Exports:

  • Crude Petroleum

  • Coal Briquettes

  • Refined Petroleum

  • Coffee

  • Gold

 

Top Imports:

  • Machinery

  • Electronic Equipment

  • Oil

  • Vehicles

  • Aircraft

  • Plastics

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Organic Chemicals

  • Medical/Technical Equipment

  • Cereals