COLOMBIA: GATEWAY TO SOUTH AMERICA
Straddling the north-western tip of South America, with coasts on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, Colombia is certainly the Gateway to South America.
The history of modern Colombia begins in 1819 when the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, as it was then known, was liberated by Simon Bolivar, thus ending more than 300 years of colonial domination by Spain.
Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America and is also the only South American country with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Colombians are proud of their linguistic heritage and take great pains to preserve the purity of their official language, Castilian Spanish. Aside from Spanish, there are about 68 indigenous languages and dialects corresponding to five major linguistic groups.
Religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution, but most Colombians are Roman Catholic. Despite the endeavors of many missionaries, a number of Indians still cling to the practice of their traditional religious beliefs. Agriculture is the basis of the Colombian economy and, thanks to the country’s varied geography it can produce a great many crops, ranging from wheat and corn to tropical fruit and cotton. Mining, fishing, and manufacturing are on a definite growth curve and represent potential sources of wealth. But development, rapid population growth, and industrialization are a serious challenge to the country’s economic planners.
Size: 44,083 mi² (slightly less than twice the size of Texas or slightly larger than South Africa)
Population: Estimated at 44,205,293 people. Colombia's population is divided into four ethnic groups: Mestizos and Mulattos, 74%; Whites, 20%; Blacks, 5%, and Pure Amerindians, 1%.
Border countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru & Venezuela 2,050
Elevation Extremes: Lowest point: the Pacific Ocean at 0 feet; Highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon at 18,946 feet
Tropical along the coast and eastern plains; cooler in highlands
Colombia’s proximity to the Equator keeps the country’s climate pretty steady without extreme differences in temperatures between the seasons. The rainfall, however, is not evenly “distributed” between the months. The best time to visit Colombia is probably between December through and March, when it rains less; During the months of May through July as well as October through December heavy showers are often, but these are usually followed by bright sunshine.
Within the different regions of the country, temperatures vary a lot, depending mostly on the elevation and proximity to the oceans. The coastal regions have maximum temperatures of 70-80F (23-32C) throughout the year. Away for the coast, into the heart of Colombia (including the capital, Bogota) temperatures drop to comfortable 60-70F (17-27C), and may get quite cool during the nights.
Bogota is the capital of the Republic of Colombia. It was founded in 1538 by Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada on the high plateau known as the Sabana de Bogota, more than 1.5 miles above sea level and bounded by the eastern range of the Andes.
The current population is about 7 million and counting. This booming growth of Bogota is generating some stark contrasts: skyscrapers looming over single-storey colonial homes, or high-powered automobiles sharing a modern expressway with mule carts.
Although the Colombian coast was known to Europeans since 1501, it was not until 1533 that Don Pedro de Heredia founded the city originally named Cartagena del Poniente (sunset) to distinguish it from Cartagena del Levante (sunrise) established by the early Carthaginians in Spain. The city was eventually renamed Cartagena de Indias and it was the only Spanish port in South America until 1580 when Juan de Garay founded the city of Buenos Aires. With its ample harbor, fortifications and growing trade, Cartagena became the biggest slave market in the continent and the staging area for the Spanish fleets that came to pick up gold, silver and other commodities brought in from the surrounding South American colonies. In 1610 the city became a seat of the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
The enormous wealth of Cartagena became a tantalizing temptation for English, French and Dutch pirates and the city had to turn itself into a fortified enclave. Today Cartagena is Colombia’s fifth-largest city, with some of the best-preserved fortifications and colonial architecture in the country ...and it is also one of the most attractive holiday destinations. It was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Between the Mountains and the Deep Blue Sea
Santa Marta was founded in 1525. It is the oldest Spanish settlement on the South American continent. Ideally located, with the deep blue harbor at its feet and the emerald mountains of the Sierra Nevada at its back, it is no wonder they called it the Pearl of America. The sheer beauty of the white sand beaches, together with the comfortable hotels, provides the knowledgeable visitor with a matchless holiday hideaway. There are interesting escapades to hidden coves, mountains to be climbed, wetlands and rivers to be explored, and exuberant tropical flora and fauna, all waiting to whet your curiosity.
THE COFFEE REGION
The very first coffee plantations were established in the Central Range of the Colombian Andes and soon became the country’s most important source of income as Colombia developed into the top producer of mild coffee in the world.
In the regions of Manizales and Armenia, many old cafe tables (coffee plantations) were converted to tourist lodges, where foreign and Colombian travelers can get away from it all and delve into the intricacies of coffee cultivation amid the typical architecture of the area and the beautiful natural surroundings.
7 Days / 6 Nights • Daily arrivals in Bogota, all Year-Round
A Journey by Private Car & Guide
Featuring: Bogota, Cartagena, Rosario Islands, Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park
Explore a country of great diversity, culture, natural beauty, and passionate people. Admire the richness of ancient times at the newly-renovated, Gold Museum in Bogota; walk the quaint streets of Colonial Cartagena; and soak the sun in the spectacular Tayrona Park, in Santa Marta.
7 Days / 6 Nights • Daily Arrivals in Bogota, all Year-Round
A Journey by Private Car & Private Guide
Featuring: Bogota, Zipaquira, the Sacred Lake of Guatavita, Armenia and the Cocora Valley
The Zona Cafetera (Coffee Zone) of Colombia is not just the production place of some of the world’s best coffee beans. It is also a region of striking natural beauty, charming Colonial Towns and welcoming Haciendas. Discover the wonderful “aroma” of Colombia!
Originally built as a convent in 1621, the Sofitel Santa Clara is a legendary landmark in the heart of Cartagena's walled city. Transformed into a luxury hotel in 1995, the Sofitel Santa Clara, unique in style, combines the allure of history with local hospitality and the art of French savoir-faire.