Putumayo (meaning in Quechua language: "gushing river") is a south-western province ("Departamento") of Colombia. It borders the countries of Ecuador and Peru as well as the Colombian provinces of Nariño (west), Cauca and Caquetá (north), and Amazonas (east). The capital of Putumayo is Mocoa.
The departamento Putumayo was established in 1991 and has a size of 24,885 km2 (9,608 sq mi) with a population of approximately 337,054 (2013). Two third of the people life in rural areas. The population density is 14/km2 (35/sq mi).
Regions of Putumayo plus population (estimate 2005):
Mocoa (Capital of Putumayo) Puerto Asis Orito Villagarzon
The land in the region is very fertile and therefore predestined for agriculture. Farms plant (amongst other things) bananas, rice, sugar cane, maize, potatoes, yucca, beans and yam. Much of the regions wealth is generated through oil production and gold-/silver-mining. There is also a great variety of wood, medicinal plants and rubber.
The mountains in the west belong to the Andes and reach altitudes up to 3,500 meters. But most of the land is flat and part of the Amazon jungle. There are numerous large and turbulent rivers as well as countless Waterfalls.
Most of the inhabitants are natives belonging to the Sibundoyes, Huitotos, Inganos, Coreguajes, Camsás, Sionas, Cafanes and Paeces tribes. The rest of the population are colonists from other parts of the country.
Originally, the south west of the department was territory of the Cofán Indians, the north west of the Kamentxá Indians, and the center and south belong to tribes that spoke Tukano languages (such as the Siona), and the east to tribes that spoke Witoto languages. Part of the Kamentxá territory was conquered by the Inca Huayna Cápac in 1492, who after crossing the Cofán territory, established a Quechua population on the valley of Sibundoy, that is known today as Ingas. After the Inca defeat in 1533, the region was invaded by the Spanish in 1542 and since 1547 administered by catholic missions.
Most common way to get into Putumayo is by bus from either the north or from the south and almost always goes over the capital Mocoa.
These are just a few (more common) ways:
or when you come from Ecuador:
Please inform yourself in Mocoa! To most places in the west of Putumayo you can take buses or (so called) "Collectivos" (Pick-Ups or Mini-Vans). Taxis are in and outside of towns an option, too, but rather expensive. Hitchhiking is possible but not very common and you should certainly inform yourself about the current situation (through asking locals or Hitchwiki.org)
Once you get in the more rural areas and more to towards the east, the only way of transport is with boats along the rivers. (unfortunately I don't have any information's about this, so again, please inform yourself in Mocoa or any of the other towns you'll come through)
In urban areas people will speak generally Spanish. In more rural areas and in the east you might come across all kinds of different indigenous languages. Usually English won't help you much.
Putumayo is said to be quite dangerous. However, the situation in Colombia has improved dramatically since the '80s and '90s. Colombia is on the path to recovery and as long as you stay either with locals or visit tourist destinations like Mocoa you'll have nothing to worry about. If you stay smart and respectful to the locals you'll encounter one of the friendliest places on earth. Still, be sure to read Government Travel Advisory in order to stay up to date on the situation and speak to locals and ask them about their opinions on safety. Thus you can reduce a lot of potential risk!