Colombia is a hectic, complex, beautiful country currently facing a turning point in its history. Without exaggerating, it is one of the most exciting countries on the planet today. Change can be felt and seen in every corner, as a new country is reborn after decades of conflict. The UN Secretary General recently said that Colombia is one of the few sources of good news in the world, as a result of the recently concluded peace deal between the government and the FARC.
Dare to adventure into Colombian diversity, which stands out as the only country in Latin America touching the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, the Andes, and the Amazon Rainforest! Each region invites you to discover a new world of different flavors, rhythms, landscapes and traditions.
Even though Colombia is one of Latin America's oldest and most stable democracies, decades of violent conflict prevented it from flourishing as a prosperous nation - to the point that back in 2005 it was labeled as a “failed state”. Fast forward to the present and the difference is remarkable. Since 2002 the country has been making significant progress towards improving security (according to government figures, 2017 was the safest for the country in the past 40 years) and building the foundation of a new country.
Colombia seems to be ready to turn the page of conflict, which is great news if it leads to realizing the full potential of the country. In Colombian civil society, voices are increasingly demanding a political agenda focusing on bridging inequality divide and leveraging the rights of the traditionally excluded indigenous and afro-descendant communities. Justice Travel will guide you into some of the most fascinating stories in the country, of brave activists breaking with violence and pointing the way towards a prosperous future.
Read: Oblivion: A Memoir
Watch: There was no time for sadness
Colombia is a multiethnic country with an estimated 49 million people - the third most populous country in Latin America. Colombians have a diverse cultural heritage, descending from original indigenous communities, European immigrants primarily from Spain, Africans originally brought as slaves, and immigrants from the Middle East. Spanish is the most commonly spoken language but there are over 60 living indigenous languages.
Although diverse overall, there is a clear divide in the country, with the indigenous and afro-descendant populations inhabiting mainly rural and historically neglected territories, and areas where the armed conflict has been lived with greater intensity. These communities face death threats and violence, and they most affected by forced displacement - Colombia has the world’s second-largest population of internally displaced persons after Syria.
Read: ¡Basta ya! Colombia: memories of war and dignity
Watch: “Los Colores de la Montaña”
Colombian culture reflects the diversity of its peoples and variety of landscapes. Because of its natural structure, it can be differentiated six very distinct natural regions (Andean, Caribbean, Pacific, Orinoquia, Amazon and Insular regions), each one with unique traditions and cultural expressions. Clothing, cuisine, handcrafts, rhythms, even the character of people changes based on the region in which they live. Colombians often joke about how hard is to believe that they all belong to the same country.
Art is a key element for Colombian society, one of the few spaces allowing common ground and dialogue among people from different regions and backgrounds. Artistic expression allows people to tell their own stories, all sharing an essential Colombian quality: A country of extravagant beauty where violence has been a persistent sickness; a country full of creativity which often has been used for the wrong purposes; a country where the surreal and the real get mixed together. It is no coincidence that “magical realism”, literary genre found in the novels of Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was born here.
Read: A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Watch: Doris Salcedo's Public Works
Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America. It is about the same size as France, Spain and Portugal combined, or Texas and California put together. Colombia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean to the north, the only country in South America that has coastlines on both seas. The Amazon rainforest runs along its southern border, and the Andes mountains run north to south, giving the country a significant variation of climates and ecosystems. Among other amazing facts, you may find it interesting that:
- Per square foot, it is the most bio-diverse country in the world
- It has more species of birds and frogs than any other country
- Colombia has the sixth-largest renewable freshwater supply in the world
- Certain parts of Chocó, on the Pacific coast, receive more rainfall than anywhere else on Earth
- It is a major producer of gold, silver, emeralds, platinum and coal
With the end of over 50 years of civil war, there are great expectations for Colombia as an ecotourism hub. Nevertheless, there are huge challenges due to the strong link between conflict and environment. Large portions of the country have been left unexplored for decades because of the violence, and with peace a national debate has been ignited about land rights and land usage. At the core of that discussion is the return of indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations who were violently displaced from their ancestral territories, as well as the creation of sustainable alternatives to guarantee their livelihoods.
Read: Peace and environmental protection in Colombia
Watch: Colombia wild magic
Variety of climates and ecosystems make of Colombia a mecca for foodies. Exotic fruits are a delight for the senses, an extravaganza of flavors, shapes and colors. Colombian cuisine benefits from fresh and organic products coming from the different regions all year round, resulting in magnificent autochthonous dishes which blend food preparation traditions brought by migrants from around the world.
Colombia is one of the seven countries that the UN has identified as major future food producers. The post-conflict progress and further development of the country depend on how successful Colombia is at creating jobs and sustainable productive projects for the a burgeoning food industry, capable of raising living standards in rural areas and reaching new foreign markets to guarantee a stronger local economy.
We will have a unique opportunity to learn first-hand how the transition to peace is being paved by local producers. We will visit Granada, a small town outside of Medellín, where our partners Urbania Cafe and Tejipaz are supporting coffee-growing livelihoods for families forced to flee their homes during the decades of violence in the region.
Read: 23 Food Reasons Colombians Know What’s Good
Watch: Anthony Bourdain No Reservations - Colombia
Colombia is located on the Equator, meaning that in each region the temperature varies little throughout the year. However, Colombia's different regions are quite diverse and weather can change rapidly, so packing can be tricky. It also varies according to altitude so expect a cold climate in the mountains, and warm and tropical on the coasts and the north. Bogota is 45 to 67 Fahrenheit so you will need a jacket, especially during the nights when it can get really cold. Do not show up in shorts and flip-flops! Cali and Medellin (known as the city of eternal spring) have warmer temperatures between 63 and 87 Fahrenheit; while Cartagena and Santa Marta have temperatures rising up to 91 Fahrenheit so light clothing will be needed. It's always handy to have a light rain jacket with you throughout the tour.