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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).


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.

The current territory of Putumayo was linked to Popayan during the Spanish Colony and on the firsts Republican decades belonged to the "Azuay Department", that included territories in Ecuador and Perú. Later starts a long process of territorial redistributions:

   1831: Popayán Province.
   1857: Estado Federal del Cauca.
   1886: Cauca Department.
   1905: Intendencia del Putumayo.
   1909: Intendencia del Caquetá.
   1912: Comisaría Especial del Putumayo.
   1953: Departament of Nariño.
   1957: Comisaría Especial del Putumayo.
   1968: Intendencia Especial del Putumayo.
   1991: Putumayo Department.


Regions of Putumayo plus population (estimate 2005):

  • Puerto Asís (55.759)
  • Valle del Guamuez (44.959)
  • Orito (43.654)
  • Mocoa (35.755)
  • Puerto Guzmán (22.679)
  • San Miguel (21.838)
  • Villagarzón (20.785)
  • Leguízamo (16.044)
  • Puerto Caicedo (14.206)
  • Sibundoy (13.270)
  • Santiago (9.209)
  • San Francisco (6.808)
  • Colón (5.166)

Other destinations

  • National Park La Paya: home to a great variety of plants, all kinds of birds and many wild animals
  • Mandiyaco Canyon
  • Sibundoy Valley
  • San Miguel
  • Yunguillo
  • Amazon plains

Stay safe

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 only tourist destinations like Mocoa you'll have nothing to worry about. 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.