Colombia is full of surprises, which means there is always something new to discover. From Colombia’s cultural and natural diversity and intriguing history to the warmth of its people and the uniqueness of its celebrations, here we reveal 10 curious facts about Colombia.
Discover the legend of El Dorado
Guatavita lake, high in the country’s Andean mountains, is the origin of the legend of El Dorado. This is one of the most significant tales in Colombian folklore and a story that is well-known across the world. The ancient Muisca people were known for carrying out their ceremonies in this lake and making offerings of gold to their gods. Legend has it that, once a year, their chief dived into the lake covered in gold. Stories of this ceremony inspired the now legendary quest for the treasure of El Dorado. Thousands of people still visit the lake, many hundreds of years later, inspired by the tales of its past and the lush forests that surround it, as well as its unparalleled views across the mountains. Over the years, treasure hunters have carried out underwater expeditions in the lake and found gold and other pieces of pre-Columbian art, which are now on display in Bogotá. You can see them at the Gold Museum, another unmissable experience for visitors.
Palenque: home to some of the first people to resist colonial slavery
San Basilio de Palenque, a small town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, was once home to some of the first people to escape slavery in all of the Americas. The town’s origins date back to the shipwreck of a boat the Spanish were using to transport slaves in the colonial era. A small group of slaves escaped and later started a resistance movement that encouraged its members to fight for their freedom and live in free towns known as palenques, across the Colombian coast. A visit to San Basilio de Palenque evokes its ancestral traditions and cultural richness, as well as summoning the spirit of its inhabitants. Most famous are the palenqueras, women who dress in bold colors and carry baskets of tropical fruit on their heads to greet visitors in the walled city of Cartagena.
Colombia borders two great oceans
Colombia sits in an extremely privileged position in one of South America’s most northerly corners. Its coastline dips into the waters of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. That’s one reason why the country is so jaw-droppingly biodiverse. Its Caribbean waters offer jewels such as the aquamarine seas that lap the shores of Santa Marta, La Guajira and the islands of San Andres, while its Pacific coast gives visitors the chance to enjoy rare natural phenomenon, such as the arrival of the country’s humpback whales. These majestic giants travel north in the last months of every year in search of warmer waters where they can give birth and nurse their young. Colombians are always happy to claim the humpback whales as their own. Not only are they born in the country’s seas, but they always raise a friendly fin to those who take a small boat out to greet them. Colombian’s coasts have given rise to stunning scenery and awesome natural spectacles, no matter which of the two you choose to visit.
Sierra Nevada: Where snow-capped mountains meet the sea
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is one of Colombia’s most beloved national parks, treasured by Colombians and visitors alike. This rich and mysterious place, brimming with rare and endemic species, sits on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and from there rises into a snow-covered mountain range that peaks at 5,775m. Besides its enormous natural wealth and diverse flora and fauna, this mountain range is home to Indigenous communities that utilise their vast ancestral knowledge in order to protect them. Visitors to this natural park are keen to immerse themselves in its tropical forests and spot rare species. They can also learn from the ancient wisdom of its peoples, including following them on the secluded trail to the Lost City, built many thousands of years ago.
Leticia: The Colombian city with a window on three countries
Colombia’s far south is one of its most fascinating regions, cloaked in some of the most biodiverse forests in all of the Amazon. The city of Leticia sits at the heart of this ancient rainforest, on the banks of the fast-flowing River Amazon. Visitors to this lively town can visit three countries in a day, enjoying breakfast in Colombia, lunch in Peru and dinner in Brazil. Peru’s nature reserves, brimming with wildlife, are a picturesque boat ride away, whereas Brazil lies at the end of a short walk along Leticia’s La Amistad avenue. One of the many wonders of the Amazon rainforest is that it knows no borders, its immense biodiversity stretches in every direction. Look out for friendly creatures such as sloths, river dolphins, parrots and monkeys and expect a warm welcome from the people of this part of Colombia, who are always keen to help visitors explore.
Colombians are proud and passionate hosts
Colombians are proud of their country and keen to make its visitors feel at home. That’s one reason why they are known worldwide for their warm and welcoming nature and determination to ensure visitors enjoy every inch of their homeland. Visitors are always surprised by the reception they receive from Colombians, who want them to explore and experience the very best the country has to offer. Expect to be offered all manner of tropical fruits and traditional drinks and dishes, as well as impromptu dance lessons and trips to the country’s most traditional and historic sights. It’s no wonder so many visitors say that out of everything they see, feel and live in this fascinating place, the kind, positive and passionate nature of its people is the greatest gift of all.
Colombia has one of the world’s greatest diversities of birdlife
Bird spotters in 2020 revealed that Colombia is home to the world’s greatest number of bird species. More than 1,900 different species of birds soar above its lands, inhabiting its jungles, forests, deserts and wetlands, even its biggest cities. Colombia’s birds are big and small, colorful and discreet, shy and surprisingly bold. They await visitors at every turn. All you need is patience and, if you’re searching for a particular species, to make sure you visit the right eco-system. Bird-watching is a unique activity and Colombia is the best place in the world to do it. You’ll also experience Colombia’s vast array of birdlife if you go hiking or undertake any outdoor activity. Listen hard and look up. You’ll soon find yourself connecting with some of nature’s greatest creations.
Colombia, a country brimming with carnivals, festivals and fairs
Colombia is known for the happiness and joy of its people, and their passion for celebrating its rich and varied culture. Carnivals, festivals and fairs are held throughout the year and every town and region takes the opportunity to show itself at its best. Visitors are invited to join in the fun at the country’s famous Flower Festival, Joropo Festival (which celebrates the traditional dance of the Eastern Plains) and even the ‘Fried Festival’, which honors the delicious snacks cooked up on the country’s Caribbean coast. Whatever season you visit, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a carnival, festival or fair, and join in the celebration of Colombia’s culture, food, music and dance. Colombians will be there beside you, demonstrating their pride in their country and their passion for its traditions.
Colombia is the home of the world’s favorite drink
Colombian coffee is famous across the globe, recognized for its smoothness, quality and taste, and the fact it keeps coffee lovers coming back for more. Every drop in every cup represents Colombians’ hard work, ingenuity and love for the rolling hills of its countryside. It doesn’t matter where you go in Colombia, you’ll always be offered a cup of coffee (known locally as tinto) when you arrive. Take a sip. It will help you relax, recharge and soak up some of the affection typical of the country’s people.
More than 60 Indigenous languages are spoken across Colombia
Colombia is home to Indigenous communities that have preserved their culture, traditions and languages through the ages. They continue to work hard to protect the country’s vast biodiversity and pass on their ancestral knowledge. More than 60 Indigenous languages are spoken across the country, and many of Colombia’s Indigenous communities are happy to engage with visitors and teach them about their customs, beliefs and role in the country today.
These are just 10 curious facts about Colombia, a country filled with myths and legends, as well as stunning scenery and opportunities to interact with nature. Visitors are welcomed with open arms, so what are you waiting for? Come to Colombia and prepare to be enthralled by a country brimming with adventure.
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