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is the only country in [[South America]] with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea as well as the world's second country with the most biodiversity. Lying to the south of [[Panama]], Colombia controls the land access between [[Central America|Central]] and South America. With Panama to the north, Colombia is surrounded by [[Venezuela]] to the east, [[Brazil]] to the southeast, and [[Ecuador]] and [[Peru]] to the south west. The country was named in honor of Christopher Columbus, following the Italian version of his name (Cristoforo Colombo). Although Columbus never actually set foot on the current Colombian territory, in his fourth voyage he visited Panama, which was part of Colombia until 1903.
A country twice the size of France, and with a diversity of landscapes and cultures that would be hard to find even in countries five times its size, Colombia belongs in the upper echelons of the world's most incredible travel destinations, now you can enjoy one of Latin America's best kept secrets for you and an increasing numbers of tourists.
The political violence has subsided substantially throughout the majority of the country and savvy travelers have already flocked here from around the world—come before everyone else catches on!
Pick a climate, and it's yours—if you find the light jacket weather of Bogotá cold, drive an hour down through the mountains and sunbathe next to the pool of your rented hacienda. If you don't want to sit still, head off into the Amazon or any of the country's other many inland jungles, snow-capped volcanoes, rocky deserts, endless plains, lush valleys, coffee plantations, alpine lakes, deserted beaches.
Culture? Intellectual Bogotá might lead the rest of Latin America in experimental theater, indie-rock, and just sheer volume of bookstores, but you could also get a completely alien education in an Amazonian ''malocca'', or you could delve into the huge Latin music scene of salsa and cumbia, with the most exciting dance display being the enormous Carnival of [[Barranquilla]].
History? Wander the narrow streets of [[South America]]'s original capital in Bogotá, check out old Spanish colonial provincial retreats like [[Villa de Leyva]], trek through the thick jungle- covered mountains of the northeast to the [[Ciudad Perdida|Lost City]] of the Tayrona Indians. Walk the walls of [[Cartagena (Colombia)|Cartagena]]'s achingly beautiful old city, looking over the fortified ramparts upon which the colonial history of South America pivoted.
Nightlife? It really doesn' t get better than in the undisputed salsa capital of the world, with hot [[ Cali]] claiming that competitive distinction even over Colombia's other vibrant big city party scenes.
Dining? Colombians know a thing about how to eat right, and you'll everything from the ubiquitous cheap, delicious Colombian home-style meals to world-class upscale and modern culinary arts in the big cities, with cuisines from all corners of the world represented. Relax? There's nowhere more laid back an peaceful than the idyllic and unspoilt Caribbean island of [[Providencia]].
Traveling in Colombia is definitely worthwhile. From Bogota, with a temperate climate 2,600 m (8530 ft) above sea level and at a constant temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, a drive of one or two hours North, South, East or West can take you to landscapes which are as diverse as they are beautiful. To historic city centres and towns, modern and energetic party cities, oriental plains which stretch out far beyond the horizon with little modulation. rugged contours of the higher Andean region, the Guajira peninsula and its desert, iddylic beaches, the tropical jungle of the Amazon and the Choco with abundant flora and fauna, snowy peaks and volcanoes, ancient ruines, the Magdalena River valley and its hot weather, beautiful coral reefs and an abundant underwater marine life together with pleasant relaxed tropical islands, and the ability to rest and relax in a privately rented ''hacienda'' that lets you have and enjoy these treasures to yourself. Such a diversity comes in with an equal diverse amount of traditions and foods. Colombia is one of the equatorial countries of the world, but unique in its extreme topography and abundance of water and has something for everyone.
However it is really important to understand that Colombia is a country of civil conflict. Although the situation in cities and most tourist areas has improved in the years following 2002, there are still areas of the country that are [http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5931.html considered too dangerous for tourism]. Heavy day-to-day fighting between guerrillas, paramilitaries and state forces takes place in most of southern, south-eastern and north-western Colombia as of 2010, including certain smaller urban centers. Rural areas bordering Venezuela are also to be avoided. It is not considered appropriate to travel by bus across the country; instead domestic airlines like Avianca are to be preferred. Although many parts of the country are now considered relatively safe for tourism, it is also important to remember that millions of Colombians, predominantly from the poorer classes, suffer from the ongoing conflict every day. Nevertheless, the most dangerous are provincial areas in the country. There are ongoing fights in the Cauca region in the southwest of the country, but not in the provincial capital. Major cities, like Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Bucaramanga, Cucuta, and generally speaking, province capitals are very safe, although you should avoid going out to certain areas of said cities in the night, as crime is often common, just like in any other city in the world. Common sense must be used, as you should use it anywhere.
Take your pick, really. Colombia is an equatorial country with amazing variance in altitude, so it's going to be pretty whatever temperature you like best all year long somewhere! The climate is tropical along the coast, eastern plains, and Amazon; cold in the highlands with periodic droughts. Lacking the usual seasons, Colombians normally refer to rainy seasons as winter—but the differences in terrain and altitude mean the rainy seasons are different in every corner of the country!
The one downside to all this climactic diversity, though, is that you'll have to bring a fair amount of different clothes if you plan to travel extensively. Cities in the center like Bogotá and those to the north in [[Boyacá]] can potentially reach temperatures below 0° Celsius, so bring a coat. Some mountains are also covered in snow year-long. Cities along the Caribbean coast like [[Cartagena (Colombia)|Cartagena]], [[Barranquilla]], and Santa Marta are hot and humid, while some cities at mid-altitude in the Andes like [[Medellín]] (the City of Eternal Spring), [[Manizales]], and other cities in the Coffee Triangle region have beautiful temperate weather always.
Flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains
[[Image:San Felix surroundings.JPG|thumb|Countryside in the Andes]]
'''Natural hazards''': highlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes. Recent volcanic disaster occurred in Armero, 1985. 25,000 people were buried by lahars that the Nevado del Ruiz produced.
''Highest point'': Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m (18950 ft) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The mountain is the world's highest coastal range.
''note:'' nearby Pico Simon Bolivar has the same elevation
Colombia was originally by numerous, major indigenous cultures like the Muisca and the Tayrona. The area that now is Colombia was colonised by the Spanish when America was 'discovered' by Europeans. The process of colonisation radically altered the social structures of the areas and through war and disease brought by the Spanish, the indigenous populations shrank dramatically in size and their numbers dwindle since then. The Spanish brought European settlers and African slaves, while most of the population in the colony was of mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry. The country became independent from Spain in 1810. It was one of the five countries liberated by Simón Bolívar (the others being Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia). Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama then formed the first Republic of Colombia. Ecuador and Venezuela declared their independence from Colombia in 1830. Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903. The history of the country in the years to come following independence was marked by several civil wars. The legacy of these conflicts, together with troublesome social issues, early state repression against rural communities and peasants and world polarisation caused by the Cold War culminated in a communist insurgent campaign by the FARC and the ELN to overthrow the Colombian Government. Although the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. The years during the conflict were marked by heavy fighting between the communist guerrillas, the Colombian state and military, right-wing paramilitaries and several drug cartels gave the country a terrible reputation. In the years following 2002 the safety has been improving throughout the country. In 2012 the government and the FARC started peace talks aiming at ending the 50 year old Civil War to an end once and for all. Colombia is currently in a process of recovery, and this country is creating an economy thriving and attractive to many national and international investors. Ending the conflict, high income inequalities and rebuilding itself from the legacy of war are some of the issues that confront the country.
* [[Tayrona National Park]] — Some of the loveliest coastline in all of [[South America]].
| alert=Even though security in Colombia has increased significantly, travel in Colombia outside metropolitan areas, especially in the south, is considered dangerous. Guerrilla movements including FARC and ELN guerrillas are still operational in 30 out of the 32 departments of the country, and especially in rural areas of the south, southwest, southeast and northwest. Jungle regions near the Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Venezuelan borders are also base areas for guerrillas. These groups frequently target locals and occasionally foreign visitors, sometimes for attacks but especially for kidnapping. In November of 2010 the US State Department, UK Foreign Office and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs renewed their annual travel advisory for Colombia, and continue to recommend against ''all non-essential travel'' to large swathes of the country.}}
Colombia has continued to make significant progress towards establishing a peaceful and welcoming country. The peace talks have resulted in an formal acknowledgement by governing bodies and credit agencies. Colombia has suffered from a terrible reputation as a dangerous and violent country but the situation has improved a lot in recent times. In the last five years safety has improved significantly and Colombia no longer has the highest rate of kidnappings in the world. Tourists will only face problems if they decide to fool around in certain neighborhoods of the main cities. Of course it pays to think safe, just as you would in any other large metropolitan city. To discover the forest, ask somebody to stay with you. Walk relatively free during the day, but during the night take precautions and from time to time observe who's around you. In recent years, there have been reports of '''scopolamine,''' a date-rape drug, being used on unwary tourists. Scopolamine makes the victim highly open to suggestion, allowing the attacker to confiscate your wallet, keys, or anything else they may want. Always be cautious, especially when approached by strangers. The US Embassy in Bogota advises their government employees and any other Americans traveling through the country to always watch their drinks in any bar or other establishment.
Colombia is on the path to recovery currently, and Colombians are very proud of the progress they have made. The security situation is different for many parts of the country currently. Parts of the jungle are safe to visit, (particularly in the area around Leticia, see [[ Amazonia (Colombia)|Amazonia]] ). Avoid the Darien gap, Putumayo and Caqueta areas because of the constant presence of armed groups in these areas of Colombia. Be sure to check individual region guides, as security varies widely between different parts of the country.
As of 2010 Colombia has the second highest amount of land mines in the world, only [[Afghanistan]] has more. Therefore it is not appropriate to walk around in the countryside without consulting locals first. Land mines are found in 31 out of Colombia's 32 departments, [http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=381917&CategoryId=12393] and new ones are planted every day by guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers . Due to this it is difficult, even for locals and police, to know where the land mines are, as areas free of landmines today can be full of them tomorrow.[http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-colombia-rats-20101204,0,7210218.story] Therefore it is important for travellers to observe extreme caution outside of urban centers.
There was an agreement in 2005 with the government which resulted in the disarmament of some of the paramilitaries. Paramilitaries however are still active in drug business and as a political force.
It is not expected that they will intentionally harm tourists, but especially in rural areas and in or around [[Medellín]] it is recommended to be careful.
At the end of the 90s and in the early 2000s, kidnapping became one of the most cost-effective ways of financing for the guerrillas of the FARC and the ELN and other armed groups but, thanks to improvements in security and the progressive weakening of the guerrillas and other armed groups, the number of kidnappings in Colombia has been constantly declining. 3,000 Kidnappings took place in 2000 while 229 cases occurred in 2011. The number of kidnappings continues to decline. Kidnappings are still a problem in some southern departments like [[Valle del Cauca]], [[Cauca]], and [[Caquetá]]. Colombia happily no longer has the highest rate of kidnappings in the world.
The guerrilla movements which includes FARC and ELN guerrillas are still operational, though they are greatly weakened compared to the 1990s as the Colombian army has killed most of their leaders. These guerrillas operate mainly in southern, southeastern and nortwestern Colombia, although they have a presence in 30 out of the country's 32 departments. Big cities
rarely see guerrilla activity . As long as you stay in the metropolitan areas or nearby, you should be safe. River police, highway police, newspapers, and fellow travelers can be a useful source of information . (Note that the native pronunciation of ''guerrilla'' in Colombia is "gair-EE- ja" [or "gair-EE-ya" for Spanish natives], not the English expression "guh- RILL- a". )
The crime rate in Colombia has been significantly reduced since its peak in the late 80's and 90's
, however, major urban centers and the countryside Colombia still have very high crime rates, and crime has increased dramatically in 2009 and 2010 compared to earlier years . In 2010 more than 16,000 people were murdered in Colombia. If you just take some usual precautions you should be fine. In the downtown areas of most cities it is not rare to encounter problems and it is very important to exercise extreme caution in the less developed parts of the urban regions. In major cities, to remain safe if you want to take a taxi, ask for it using a phone service—it costs the same and your call will be answered rapidly. Official taxi ranks are safe as well ( Airport, bus terminals, shopping malls).
If you want to travel around Colombia you should research the areas you intend to visit and try to not go alone, since some distant parts outside the cities are not recommended for tourists or even locals. If possible speak to a trusted local. It is often advised to try to avoid ' looking rich'. In March 2011 two tourists were robbed and murdered in [ http://www.colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/14680-spanish-tourist-murdered-in-barranquilla.html Barranquilla] and Medellín. Authorities claim this is because the culprits identified them as [http://www.colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/14757-british-man-shot-and-killed-in-medellin.html ' rich foreigners'].
Try, if possible, to dress like the local population.
===Drugs=== Cocaine manufactured in Colombia was historically mostly consumed in the US and the United States of America is still the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs. However, with US consumption on the decline more and more of it is going to the [[EU]] instead. Local consumption is low. However, it can be seen in certain areas.
Widespread drugs and cartels have created a negative image of the country. The police and the armed forces are fighting strongly to combat them. The Colombian government has a strong commitment to fight drug production and trade. A previous president, Alvaro Uribe, with significant aid from the US government, led a policy of massively destroying drug plantations using chemical defoliants, achieving a great decrease in cocaine production. Thanks to this, White House drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske [http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2012/07/white-house-colombia-is-no-longer-top-cocaine-producer/1 announced that Colombia is no longer the world's biggest producer of cocaine].
'''Be sensitive.''' Colombians are a proud people, and are proud of the progress they've made. Do not make jokes about the drug trade in Colombia, as it has ruined many innocent citizens' lives.
Given Colombia's increasing aggression toward combating the drug trade, drug offenses are not treated lightly. If you are caught by the authorities possessing a controlled substance, expect serious problems.
Marijuana is illegal. Police will tolerate you having a few grams of this drug on your person, but you are flirting with danger if you carry much more. The real danger is consuming drugs as a foreigner in Colombia. If you are caught smoking marijuana on the street in most towns in Colombia, you will be in serious trouble. It is not always the police you have to deal with, but a vigilante. Often the vigilantes keep the peace in towns and they have a very severe way of dealing with problems. As you probably don't want to go to jail there, it is best not to get into trouble related to the traffic of drugs.