Until roughly 30 years ago, Columbia was a peaceful country. Rebel groups and the influence of cocaine production have changed that. Here’s an overview of Columbia for travelers.

Overview of Columbia for Travelers

The Spanish first colonized Columbia in 1525. Full independence was claimed in 1813. In 1819, Greater Columbia was formed which included modern day countries Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. This conglomeration fell apart fairly quickly.

In 1978, political disputes and corruption led to rebel groups pursuing violent insurrection attempts. The primary groups were the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Democratic Alliance/M-19 (M-19). These two entities have subsequently pursued a civil war against the federal government, often controlling parts of the country. Since 2000, the rebel groups have lost much of their ability and no major attacks have occurred.

Starting in the late 1970s, the cocaine industry became big in Columbia. Cartels formed to control production and became rich and powerful in the late 80s. Efforts by the government to control the cartels led to open violence and massive corruption. In the late 90s, the massive cartels were finally broken up. Cocaine production hasn’t really been effected, it is just controlled by smaller, more discreet cartels.

The official name of the country is Republic of Columbia. Columbia covers an area of about 440,000 square miles and is the fourth largest country in South America. The capital is Bogotá with a population of just over 7 million people. Other major population areas include the cities of Medellin, Cali and Cartagena. The terrain in Columbia varies from rugged mountains to coastline on the Pacific Ocean to flat grasslands. Temperatures are generally warm and humid with the exception of cooler climates in the higher mountain areas.

The people of Columbia are known as Colombians. The total population is just over 46 million with a growth rate just under two percent annually. Roman Catholic is the dominant religious faith and Spanish is the language. Literacy rates are 93 percent in urban areas and 67 percent in more rural locations. Life expectancy for a Columbian man is 69 years and 75 for a Columbian woman. Ethnic break down is primarily Mestizo at 58 percent of the population followed by white at 20 percent, mulatto at 14 percent and black at four percent.

As these facts on Columbia reveal, the country is going through a massive period of destabilization with narcotics and guerrilla warfare an overwhelming problem. Only the future will reveal whether Columbia pulls out of the mess.

Best of Colombia

Once a very untouchable country, Colombia today is more open to international travelers than it has ever been. The soaring peaks of the Andes and the motley ecology of the lowlands contributes to the indefinable nature of this ever-evolving nation. Yu will be able to swim in the Caribbean, hike through the Amazon, climb to exhilarating heights and, at the end of the day, sip premium coffee and cocoa with the locals.

The independent nation of Colombia is located in the northwest corner of the South American Continent, just across the Canal from Panama. To understand the infinite diversity of Colombian travel, one must understand its size and neighbors. Colombia is more than twice the size of France and is the only South American country to have a border with both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Airfare to Colombia is also a fantastic place to start in South America as Colombia shares borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Sweet and Soulful City Life in Colombia

Travel to Colombian cities is a magical vacuum of time where colonial Spanish balconies hang regally over plazas next to modern commercial complexes along stone paved streets. For a uniquely urban Andean experience, visit the capital city of Bogotá at an elevation of 8,660 feet. Airfare to Colombia through Bogotá is also quite common. The city is rich with Colombian history and culture, as well as posh nightclubs, swanky restaurants and some unique boutiques. Make sure to visit the Museo del Oro where spectacular gold and precious gem items from numerous Hispanic archeological sites have been preserved.

Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most famous and most photographed cities. Located along the Caribbean, visitors get to enjoy monumental Spanish architecture and exotic plazas within the old wall of this World Heritage Site with the gentle ocean breeze in the background. Dining and nightlife feature prominently in Cartagena’s cultural dynamics. Also, the Ciudad Perdida, or Lost City, is a must see for history buffs and relaxed vacationers alike. The remains of this indigenous community date from the 11th to the 14th century. The Lost City is one of the largest Pre-Columbian settlements and requires an exhilarating 6 day hike through thickly forested hills and valleys. This is a real hands-on way to become acquainted with the countryside!

Can’t Get enough of Colombia

When you book your airfare to Colombia, be aware of the vast and wondrous national parks, wilderness reserves and sparkling stretches of beach. Map out your itinerary and then your flight accordingly, as Colombia is expansive. If a private hammock on the beach is your ideal stay, do not miss the lavish beauty of El Parque Tayrona. For the avid divers and snorkelers, spend a few days among the whales and sea turtles of Isla Gorgona.