Nowadays Colombia is very different from the country once synonymous with FARC rebels, Pablo Escobar and the Medellin drugs cartel. The reign of the Medellin cartel has long since ended and, with a recent peace accord signed with FARC, Colombia is once more a land rich in natural and manmade attractions just waiting to be discovered.
Colombia is a huge country covering over one million square kilometres. Occupying much of northwest South America, it stretches from the Central American jungles of the Darien in the north to the vast Amazon basin at Leticia in the far south. Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama (which was once part of Colombia) all share borders with the country, and its unique geographical position allows Colombia to have both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines simultaneously. There are some 3,200 kilometres of seashore in total, encircling a remarkable array of geographical and climatic regions: the wet Pacific Choco region; the mighty Amazon rainforests which covers one third of the landmass; the vast tropical savannas of the Llanos to the east that continue deep into Venezuela; the tropical Caribbean lowlands of the east; and the majestic mountains of the Andes.
Within Colombia the giant Andean chain splits into three immense ranges that run almost to the Caribbean, dividing the country into distinctive, isolated regions. The result, along with the tropical lowlands, is a stunning and unparalleled wealth of cultural, natural and geographical diversity, much of it unique and little known.
Culturally, Colombia has indigenous peoples such as the Kogi and Kamsa; burgeoning urban centres striving to innovate and reinvent themselves like Bogota and Medellin; beautifully preserved Spanish colonial towns such as Cartagena de Indias, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Caribbean coast, and Villa de Leyva in the eastern Andes; highland landscapes of rolling coffee farms; verdant wooded valleys and snow-capped volcanoes; dense rainforests in almost every corner; and possibly the most extraordinary concentration of biodiversity on the planet – the mystical Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world’s highest coastal range.
With all this wealth of variety, Colombia has to be seen to be believed and is without doubt one of the world’s great destinations.