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Country description

Country description

In several publications we can read the opinions of travelers from different countries, which claim that Colombia is the most beautiful country in Latin America.

We agree with this view, which also confirm about 3.8 million foreign travelers every year in Colombia and the 250,000 foreigners who live and work here in Colombia.

The Colombia of today is not the Colombia of the 80 or 90. Colombia today is a country, just as any other country in Latin America in terms of security and infrastructure. Colombia today has an emerging economy and is an economic power in the region.

A great television commercial in Colombia ends with the words:

“The greatest danger in Colombia is,… that you do not want to go back.”

… and this is also our opinion!

The Republic of Colombia is a transcontinental country largely situated in the northwest of South America, with territories in North America. Colombia is bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru and it shares maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. It is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments.

The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization ultimately creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada, with its capital at Bogotá. Independence from Spain was won in 1819, but by 1830 the “Gran Colombia” Federation was dissolved. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886. Panama seceded in 1903.

Colombia is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world giving rise to a rich cultural heritage. This has also been influenced by Colombia’s varied geography, and the imposing landscape of the country has resulted in the development of very strong regional identities. The majority of the urban centers are located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, but Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines.

Ecologically, Colombia is considered one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, and of these, the most biodiverse per square kilometer. Colombia is a middle power and a regional actor with the fourth largest economy in Latin America, is part of the CIVETS group of six leading emerging markets and is an accessing member to the OECD. Colombia has a diversified economy with macroeconomic stability and favorable growth prospects in the long run.

Etymology

The name “Colombia” is derived from the last name of Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish: Cristóbal Colón). It was conceived by the Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to all the New World, but especially to those under the Spanish and Portuguese rule. The name was later adopted by the Republic of Colombia of 1819, formed out of the territories of the old Viceroyalty of New Granada (modern-day Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, and northwest Brazil).

When Venezuela, Ecuador and Cundinamarca came to exist as independent states, the former Department of Cundinamarca adopted the name “Republic of New Granada”. In 1858 New Granada officially changed its name to the Granadine Confederation, then in 1863 the United States of Colombia, before finally adopting its present name – the Republic of Colombia – in 1886. To refer to this country, the Colombian government uses the terms Colombia and República de Colombia.

History

Due to its location, the present territory of Colombia was a corridor of early human migration from Mesoamerica and the Caribbean to the Andes and Amazon. The oldest archaeological finds are from the Pubenza and El Totumo sites in the Magdalena Valley 100 km southwest of Bogotá. These sites date from the Paleoindian period (18,000–8000 BCE). At Puerto Hormiga and other sites, traces from the Archaic Period (~8000–2000 BCE) have been found. Vestiges indicate that there was also early occupation in the regions of El Abra and Tequendama in Cundinamarca. The oldest pottery discovered in the Americas, found at San Jacinto, dates to 5000 – 4000 BCE.

By 10,500 BCE, the territory of what is now Colombia was inhabited by aboriginal people. Nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes existed near present-day Bogotá (at El Abra and Tequendama sites) which traded with one another and with cultures living in the Magdalena River Valley. Between 5000 and 1000 BCE, hunter-gatherer tribes transitioned to agrarian societies; fixed settlements were established, and pottery appeared. Beginning in the 1st millennium BCE, groups of Amerindians including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona developed the political system of cacicazgos with a pyramidal structure of power headed by caciques. The Muisca inhabited mainly the area of what is now the Departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca high plateau (Altiplano Cundiboyacense) where they formed the Muisca Confederation. They farmed maize, potato, quinoa and cotton, and traded gold, emeralds, blankets, ceramic handicrafts, coca and salt with neighboring nations. The Taironas inhabited northern Colombia in the isolated Andes mountain range of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Quimbayas inhabited regions of the Cauca River Valley between the Occidental and Central cordilleras. The Incas expanded their empire on the southwest part of the country.

Geography

The geography of Colombia is characterized by its six main natural regions that present their own unique characteristics, from the Andes mountain range region shared with Ecuador and Venezuela; the Pacific coastal region shared with Panama and Ecuador; the Caribbean coastal region shared with Venezuela and Panama; the Llanos (plains) shared with Venezuela; the Amazon Rainforest region shared with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador; to the insular area, comprising islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Colombia is bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; it established its maritime boundaries with neighboring countries through seven agreements on the Caribbean Sea and three on the Pacific Ocean. It lies between latitudes 12°N and 4°S, and longitudes 67° and 79°W.

Part of the Ring of Fire, a region of the world subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Colombia is dominated by the Andes (which contain the majority of the country’s urban centres). Beyond the Colombian Massif (in the south-western departments of Cauca and Nariño) these are divided into three branches known as cordilleras (mountain ranges): the Cordillera Occidental, running adjacent to the Pacific coast and including the city of Cali; the Cordillera Central, running between the Cauca and Magdalena River valleys (to the west and east respectively) and including the cities of Medellín, Manizales, Pereira and Armenia; and the Cordillera Oriental, extending north east to the Guajira Peninsula and including Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.

Peaks in the Cordillera Occidental exceed 4,700 m (15,420 ft), and in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental they reach 5,000 m (16,404 ft). At 2,600 m (8,530 ft), Bogotá is the highest city of its size in the world.

East of the Andes lies the savanna of the Llanos, part of the Orinoco River basin, and, in the far south east, the jungle of the Amazon rainforest. Together these lowlands comprise over half Colombia’s territory, but they contain less than 6% of the population. To the north the Caribbean coast, home to 21.9% of the population and the location of the major port cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena, generally consists of low-lying plains, but it also contains the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, which includes the country’s tallest peaks (Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar), and the La Guajira Desert. By contrast the narrow and discontinuous Pacific coastal lowlands, backed by the Serranía de Baudó mountains, are sparsely populated and covered in dense vegetation. The principal Pacific port is Buenaventura.

The main rivers of Colombia are Magdalena, Cauca, Guaviare, Atrato, Meta, Putumayo and Caquetá. Colombia has four main drainage systems: the Pacific drain, the Caribbean drain, the Orinoco Basin and the Amazon Basin. The Orinoco and Amazon Rivers mark limits with Colombia to Venezuela and Peru respectively.

Protected areas and the “National Park System” cover an area of about 14,268,224 hectares (142,682.24 km2) and account for 12.77% of the Colombian territory. Compared to neighboring countries, rates of deforestation in Colombia are still relatively low. Colombia is the sixth country in the world by magnitude of total renewable freshwater supply, and still has large reserves of freshwater.

Climate

Colombians customarily describe their country in terms of the climatic zones. Below 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) in elevation is the tierra caliente (hot land), where temperatures are above 24 °C (75.2 °F). About 82.5% of the country’s total area lies in the hot land.

The majority of the population can be found in the warm land (temperate land, between 1,001 and 2,000 meters (3,284 and 6,562 ft)), where temperatures vary between 17 and 24 °C (62.6 and 75.2 °F) and the tierra fría (cold land, 2,001 and 3,000 meters (6,565 and 9,843 ft)). In the tierra fría mean temperatures range between 12 and 17 °C (53.6 and 62.6 °F). Beyond the tierra fría lie the alpine conditions of the forested zone and then the treeless grasslands of the páramos. Above 4,000 meters (13,123 ft), where temperatures are below freezing, is the tierra helada, a zone of permanent snow and ice.

Biodiversity

Colombia is one of the megadiverse countries in biodiversity, ranking first in bird species. As for plants, the country has between 40,000 and 45,000 plant species, equivalent to 10 or 20% of total global species, this is even more remarkable given that Colombia is considered a country of intermediate size. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, lagging only after Brazil which is approximately 7 times bigger.

Colombia is the country in the planet more characterized by a high biodiversity, with the highest rate of species by area unit worldwide and it has the largest number of endemisms (species that are not found naturally anywhere else) of any country. About 10% of the species of the Earth live in Colombia, including over 1,900 species of bird, more than in Europe and North America combined, Colombia has 10% of the world’s mammals species, 14% of the amphibian species and 18% of the bird species of the world.

Colombia has about 2,000 species of marine fish and is the second most diverse country in freshwater fish. Colombia is the country with more endemic species of butterflies, number 1 in terms of orchid species and approximately 7,000 species of beetles. Colombia is second in the number of amphibian species and is the third most diverse country in reptiles and palms. There are about 2,900 species of mollusks and according to estimates there are about 300,000 species of invertebrates in the country. In Colombia there are 32 terrestrial biomes and 314 types of ecosystems.

Government and politics

The government of Colombia takes place within the framework of a presidential participatory democratic republic as established in the Constitution of 1991. In accordance with the principle of separation of powers, government is divided into three branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch.

As the head of the executive branch, the President of Colombia serves as both head of state and head of government, followed by the Vice President and the Council of Ministers. The president is elected by popular vote to serve four-year term (In 2015 the Colombia’s Congress approved the repeal of a 2004 constitutional amendment that eliminated the one-term limit for presidents). At the provincial level executive power is vested in department governors, municipal mayors and local administrators for smaller administrative subdivisions, such as corregimientos or comunas. All regional elections are held one year and five months after the presidential election.

Infrastructure

Transportation in Colombia is regulated within the functions of the Ministry of Transport and entities such as the National Roads Institute (INVÍAS) responsible for the Highways in Colombia (13,000 km), the Aerocivil, responsible for civil aviation and airports, the National Infrastructure Agency, in charge of concessions through public–private partnerships, for the design, construction, maintenance, operation, and administration of the transport infrastructure, the General Maritime Directorate (Dimar) has the responsibility of coordinating maritime traffic control along with the Colombian Navy, among others and under the supervision of the Superintendency of Ports and Transport.

The target of Colombia’s government is to build 7,000 km of roads for the 2016–2020 period and reduce travel times by 30 per cent and transport costs by 20 per cent. A toll road concession programme will comprise 40 projects, and is part of a larger strategic goal to invest nearly $50bn in transport infrastructure, including: railway systems; making the Magdalena river navigable again; improving port facilities; as well as an expansion of Bogotá’s airport.

Demographics

With an estimated 48 million people in 2015, Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. It is also home to the third-largest number of Spanish speakers in the world after Mexico and the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century, Colombia’s population was approximately 4 million. The birth rate remained at high levels until the early 1970s, but since then, Colombia has experienced steady declines in its fertility, mortality, and population growth rates. Colombia is projected to have a population of 50.2 million by 2020 and 55.3 million by 2050. These trends are reflected in the country’s age profile. In 2005 over 30% of the population was under 15 years old, compared to just 6.3% aged 65 and over. The total fertility rate was 1.9 births per woman in 2014.

The population is concentrated in the Andean highlands and along the Caribbean coast, also the population densities are generally higher in the Andean region. The nine eastern lowland departments, comprising about 54% of Colombia’s area, have less than 6% of the population. Traditionally a rural society, movement to urban areas was very heavy in the mid-20th century, and Colombia is now one of the most urbanized countries in Latin America. The urban population increased from 31% of the total in 1938 to nearly 60% in 1973, and by 2014 the figure stood at 76%. The population of Bogotá alone has increased from just over 300,000 in 1938 to approximately 8 million today. In total seventy-two cities now have populations of 100,000 or more (2015). As of 2012 Colombia has the world’s largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), estimated to be up to 4.9 million people.

The life expectancy is 74.8 years in 2015 and infant mortality is 13.6 per thousand in 2015. In 2013, 93.6% of adults and 98.2% of youth are literate and the government spends about 4.9% of its GDP in education.
Colombia is ranked third in the world in the Happy Planet Index.

Languages

More than 99.2% of Colombians speak Spanish, also called Castilian; 65 Amerindian languages, two Creole languages, the Romani language and Colombian Sign Language are also spoken in the country. English has official status in the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

Including Spanish, a total of 101 languages are listed for Colombia in the Ethnologue database. The specific number of spoken languages varies slightly since some authors consider as different languages what others consider are varieties or dialects of the same language. The best estimates recorded that 71 languages are spoken in the country today. Most of these belong to the Chibchan, Tucanoan, Bora–Witoto, Guajiboan, Arawakan, Cariban, Barbacoan, and Saliban language families. There are currently about 850,000 speakers of native languages.

Ethnic groups

Colombia is ethnically diverse, its people descending from the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans originally brought to the country as slaves, and 20th-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East, all contributing to a diverse cultural heritage. The demographic distribution reflects a pattern that is influenced by colonial history. Whites tend to live mainly in urban centers, like Bogotá, Medellín or Cali, and the burgeoning highland cities. The populations of the major cities also include mestizos. Mestizo campesinos (people living in rural areas) also live in the Andean highlands where some Spanish conquerors mixed with the women of Amerindian chiefdoms. Mestizos include artisans and small tradesmen that have played a major part in the urban expansion of recent decades.

Religion

The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) does not collect religious statistics, and accurate reports are difficult to obtain. However, based on various studies and a survey, about 90% of the population adheres to Christianity, the majority of which (70.9%) are Roman Catholic, while a significant minority (16.7%) adhere to Protestantism (primarily Evangelicalism). Some 4.7% of the population is atheist or agnostic, while 3.5% claim to believe in God but do not follow a specific religion. 1.8% of Colombians adhere to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Adventism and less than 1% adhere to other religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Indigenous religions, Hare Krishna movement, Rastafari movement, Orthodox Catholic Church, and spiritual studies. The remaining people either did not respond or replied that they did not know. In addition to the above statistics, 35.9% of Colombians reported that they did not practice their faith actively.

While Colombia remains a mostly Roman Catholic country by baptism numbers, the 1991 Colombian constitution guarantees freedom and equality of religion.

Cuisine

Colombia’s varied cuisine is influenced by its diverse fauna and flora as well as the cultural traditions of the ethnic groups. Colombian dishes and ingredients vary widely by region. Some of the most common ingredients are: cereals such as rice and maize; tubers such as potato and cassava; assorted legumes; meats, including beef, chicken, pork and goat; fish; and seafood. Colombia cuisine also features a variety of tropical fruits such as cape gooseberry, feijoa, arazá, dragon fruit, mangostino, granadilla, papaya, guava, mora (blackberry), lulo, soursop and passionfruit.

Among the most representative appetizers and soups are patacones (fried green plantains), sancocho de gallina (chicken soup with root vegetables) and ajiaco (potato and corn soup). Representative snacks and breads are pandebono, arepas (corn cakes), aborrajados (fried sweet plantains with cheese), torta de choclo, empanadas and almojábanas. Representative main courses are bandeja paisa, lechona tolimense, mamona, tamales and fish dishes (such as arroz de lisa), especially in coastal regions where suero, costeño cheese and carimañolas are also eaten. Representative side dishes are papas criollas al horno (roasted Andean potatoes), papas chorreadas (potatoes with cheese) and arroz con coco (coconut rice). Organic food is a current trend in big cities, although in general across the country the fruits and veggies are very natural and fresh.

Representative desserts are buñuelos, natillas, Maria Luisa cake, bocadillo made of guayaba (guava jelly), cocadas (coconut balls), casquitos de guayaba (candied guava peels), torta de natas, obleas, flan de arequipe, roscón, milhoja, and the tres leches cake (a sponge cake soaked in milk, covered in whipped cream, then served with condensed milk). Typical sauces (salsas) are hogao (tomato and onion sauce) and Colombian-style ají.

Some representative beverages are coffee (Tinto), champús, cholado, lulada, avena colombiana, sugarcane juice, aguapanela, aguardiente, hot chocolate and fresh fruit juices (often made with sugar and water or milk).

Health

Colombia leads the annual ranking of the best clinics and hospitals in Latin America.

Life expectancy at birth in 2000 was 70.99 years; the life expectancy increased to 74.8 years by 2015. Health standards in Colombia have improved very much since the 1980s, healthcare reforms have led to the massive improvements in the healthcare systems of the country. Although this new system has widened population coverage by the social and health security system from 21% (pre-1993) to 96% in 2012, health disparities persist, with the poor continuing to suffer less attention in their medical procedures.

Through health tourism, many people from over the world travel from their places of residence to other countries in search of medical treatment and the attractions in the countries visited. Colombia is projected as one of Latin America’s main destinations in terms of health tourism due to the quality of its health care professionals, a good number of institutions devoted to health, and an immense inventory of natural and architectural sites. Cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Bucaramanga are the most visited in cardiology procedures, neurology, dental treatments, stem cell therapy, ENT, ophthalmology and joint replacements among others for the medical services of high quality.

A study conducted by América Economía magazine ranked 22 Colombian health care institutions among the top 43 in Latin America, amounting to 51 percent of the total.

A great Country is waiting for you… and so it continues!

Now please have a look on our photo gallery from Colombia. If we could convince you of this beautiful country and you are interested, then you will get in touch with us. We are glad to find your “house” here in Colombia.

First of all you are welcome for once vacation in Colombia and during your trip, we can show you some “houses” and at the end of your holiday you will find out:

“The greatest danger in Colombia is,… that you do not want to go back.”

We will gladly answer your questions and look forward to your contacting us.

Credit: VVC-Group – Tax accountancy, Das Wurschtblatt und Wikipedia

 

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