By: Mary Shepherd
Colombia is a beautiful country bordered on the northwest by Panama, on the east by Venezuela and Brazil, and on the southwest by Peru and Ecuador. The western half of the country has three Andean ranges that run north and south. The eastern half is a low, jungle-covered plain, while the fertile plateau and valley of the eastern range are the most densely populated parts of the country.
There were various Indian tribes who inhabited Colombia before the Spanish arrived in 1510. Darien was the first permanent European settlement on the American mainland. In 1538 the colony of New Granada was established, the area's name until 1861, which was then changed to, you guessed it, Colombia.
After a 14-year struggle, during which time Simón Bolívar's Venezuelan troops won the battle of Boyacá in Colombia on Aug. 7, 1819, independence was attained in 1824. Bolívar united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador in the Republic of Greater Colombia (1819–1830), but he lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists.
Santander served as president between 1832 and 1836, a period of relative stability, but by 1840 civil war had erupted. Other periods of Liberal dominance (1849–1857 and 1861–1880), which sought to disestablish the Roman Catholic Church, were marked by insurrection. Nine different governments followed, each rewriting the constitution. In 1861, the country was called the United States of New Granada; in 1863 it became the United States of Colombia; and in 1885, it was named the Republic of Colombia.
In 1899, a brutal civil war broke out between the liberals and the conservatives, the War of a Thousand Days, that lasted until 1902. The following year, Colombia lost its claims to Panama because it refused to ratify the lease to the United States of the Canal Zone. Panama declared its independence in 1903.
Places to Visit
Here are some places in Colombia you might want to consider visiting if you ever go there. The description of each place will be under its picture.
La Candelaria in Bogota
Bogota is an incredible place. It is impossible to escape "history" when you are there. Many streets still retain their colonial charm. In the historic centre of Bogota, you can have a cup of world-famous Colombian coffee atop one of the most famous and iconic mountain peaks in Colombia—Cerro Monserrate. You can also check out the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) which house the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold work in the world. You won't leave this recently renovated and incredible museum disappointed. While in the historic center of Bogota, you should check out the central plaza—Plaza de Bolívar and the famous historic neighborhood, la Candelaria.
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
The small town of Zipaquira is famous for its salt mines and for the Salt Cathedral built inside the network of monumental chambers and tunnels that were left behind when mining operations ceased. This cathedral is unlike any other in the world, in terms of its amazing architecture. It was opened in 1995 and represents an eclectic mix of religion and architecture to maximise protection from the ever-present risks of working in a mine.
Mompox is a stunning Colombian town known for its architecture, culture and its great natural surrounding landscape. It's a town frozen in time. While the rest of the country has evolved and modernised, Mompox looks pretty much as it used to be during colonial times. Santa Cruz de Mompox(its official name) is located in an island surrounded by an arm of the Magdalena river. The town was founded in 1540 and was an important trading centre during the Spanish rule due to its strategic location. The Magdalena is Colombia's longest river and was the main transport route from the Caribbean coast to the centre of the country during colonial times. Mompox was also a safe place for the Spaniards to keep gold and other treasures protected from the siege of pirates and a refuge for the families running away from the pirate attacks in Cartagena. It's an amazing town.
Perhaps the best known town in Santander, to many Colombians, is the small and colonial town of Barichara. Barichara lies a mere 2.5 hours outside the Santanderian capital city of Bucaramanga, but couldn't be more different. Barichara has been deemed "the prettiest town in Colombia," and offers a unique charming, colonial, and romantic atmosphere. When visiting this picturesque little town, make sure you try some hormigas culonas (giant ants)-a regional specialty (we will talk about them in more detail later), visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate, and climb to the Church of Santa Barbara, located at the top of a hill overlooking the town, a truly beautiful sight.
Cabo de la Vela en la Guajira
A visit to Cabo de la Vela requires a quite long journey to the north of the Caribbean coast, in the departure of la Guajira but it is worth it! This is probably my personal favorite of all the places listed. La Guajira with its desert and almost alien landscapes is one of the most amazing and remote places you can visit in Colombia, with Cabo de la Vela documented as the first point in the South American continent where an European laid foot back in 1499. At Cabo de la Vela, you will find beautiful places like: The "Pilon de Azucar, a small peak, from where you will see the stunning views of the region, and the beach "Ojo de agua" a very nice beach to relax, enjoy the spectacular landscape and take a refreshing bath in the Caribbean sea. Again, just an amazing place to go, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone in the area.
Villa de Leyva
Villa de Leyva is definitely the most touristy and popular town in Boyaca. This is a colonial village frozen in time, much like one of the previous towns mentioned, it will make you feel like you have been transported back to the colonial times. Its main plaza is surrounded by magnificent colonial structures and a beautiful parish church, the area of the plaza is about 14000 square meters and it is considered the largest plaza in Colombia. The town has various historic sites, which are also museums like: La Casa Museo Antonio Nariño, (Antonio Nariño is a Colombian independence hero), the Museo del Carmen, a religious museum exhibiting valuable paintings and religious objects from the 16th century onwards, and the Paleontological Museum, which has a collection of fossils dating from the Cretaceous and Mesozoic period when this area was covered by the sea. I think those first couple museums I mentioned require a certain taste, but the fossil museum sounds rather cool! But moving on, near Villa de Leyva you can also visit the Archeological Park of Moniquira, also known as "El Infiernito". This is an old Muisca sanctuary with a solar calendar and huge sculptures to the fertility of the land. You can also visit the Fossil Museum to see the petrified skeleton of a large marine reptile that inhabited this region 120 million years ago. Wow...
The Coffee Region
Oh yes, the Coffee Region, how exiting, especially if you really like coffee. Colombia's coffee region is also called the Coffee Triangle. This fertile region, located in the heart of the Andes, is where the majority of the famous Colombian coffee is produced. This region not only has the perfect weather conditions to grow the best quality coffee but also with a great variety of options for rural tourism, including visits to coffee farms to learn about the coffee production process, hiking in natural parks or visiting traditional paisa towns.
Okay, now if you're not huge into the towns, and you're a more natural places kind of person, this is the last town place, I swear. Alright, so Cartagena is the capital city of the Colombian department of Bolívar and is located along the central part of the Colombian Caribbean Coast. Cartagena was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 for its historical importance as a port city, as well as for its impressive fortification. It was one of the first cities founded in Latin America so its colorful streets are full of history. It is within the walled city that you will find the historic heart and soul of this colonial city. The architecture, the historical sites, the colors, the sounds, the aromas and the atmosphere within the walled city are not only inspiring, but many say they also come together to create the perfect ambience for a little romance.
Tayrona National Natural Park
The Tayrona National Natural Park is another place of fantastic natural beauty with a high diversity of fauna and flora (plants and animals). The park lies at the Caribbean coast near Santa Marta. It is home of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You can spend a day hiking along its rain forest eco-system and sandy beaches, and have the opportunity to swim, or practice snorkeling at some of the beaches.
Caño Cristales is the most beautiful river in Colombia and perhaps one of the most unspoiled natural places to visit in the country. Caño Cristales is located inside the National Natural Park La Macarena in the department of Meta in the Eastern region of Colombia know as The Plains. Caño Cristales is a unique natural wonder due to its outstanding combination of colors like yellow, green, blue, black and specially the red color given by the sub aquatic plant "Macarenia clavigera". This plant lines on the floor of the river and turns red during the wet season (from June to November); during this period of time the water flows too fast and deep, obscuring the bottom of the river and cutting off sunlight that turns the Macarenia clavigera red. The other colors are given by the minerals found on the rocks of the river. At Caño Cristales, you can trek along the three branches of the river to see the spectacular succession of rapids, waterfalls and natural pools running throughout the old rocks of the canyon. There, you can take pictures, swim or just enjoy the astonishing views of this paradisiacal place.
This is the section where you will learn about the great and interesting foods of Colombia. The description of each food will, again, be under its picture.
I did promise, earlier in the presentation, that I would talk more about the Colombian edible ants, so, here you go. This actually isn't a common food in the average Colombian's diet, but it is still a large enough phenomenon to consider. During the raining season the ants are harvested, and the queen ants are used with their large legs and wings being removed. The ants are then soaked in salty water and roasted in a ceramic pot. The tradition dates back to pre Colombian times and the harvest is done mainly by peasants living in the North-eastern corner of Colombia. Research shows that the ants are actually excellent sources of protein, however as popularity is growing internationally the ants are being harvested to extinction.
Tamales are cooked corn dough filled with meat, chicken and vegetable wrapped in banana leaves. The Tamales Tolimenses which are famous in the Tolima region are filled with chicken, pork, rice, potatoes, carrots, peas and spices. I love tamales, and they're actually pretty popular in various parts of the world.
Arroz Con Coco
The name of this dish makes it sound like something pretty fancy and it's really not, but it sounds good though. It's a common side dish of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. White rice is cooked in coconut milk with water, salt and sugar.
I hope you've enjoyed learning about Colombia as much as I have. It's an amazing country, and would be a great and interesting vacation destination for people of all ages. If you're interested in Colombia, I recommend doing even more research on this amazing country. Thank you for watching through this whole tackk. Buy for now.