Have you ever wondered what Colombia is famous for? What should you know before visiting? We have an extensive list of 44 interesting facts about Colombia for you.
Colombia is becoming very popular among travellers. It’s best known for the diverse landscape, and you can say Colombia has it all – Amazon jungles, Caribbean beaches, and Andes mountains.
We’ve visited Colombia during month 5 and month 6 of our trip around the world and spent 31 days in the country. During that time, we visited the lakeside town of Guatape, currently the most innovative city with a complicated past Medellin, the coffee region of Salento with famous wax palms, Cartagena and Isla Grande in the Caribbean, and Bogota, the capital city of Colombia.
We left with beautiful memories and a desire to come back again.
Whether you plan to visit or learn something about Colombia, this post is for you. You find some surprising and interesting facts about Colombia that will help you understand the country.
Because of Colombia’s past fighting with drug lords, it used to be a dangerous country to visit.
If you’re reading this after watching the Netflix show Narcos about the life of Pablo Escobar, you’re in for a real treat! Colombia is so diverse and magnificent that I’m sure you’ll want to visit.
For easier navigation, our post about interesting facts about Colombia is divided into several sections:
- Interesting facts about Colombia – the nature
- People & culture
- Interesting facts about Colombian cities
- Colombia economy
- Interesting facts about Colombia’s food
- Fun facts about Colombia
- Colombian drugs
Interesting facts about Colombia – the nature
1. Amazon rainforest
One-third of Colombia is covered with the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, and you can visit year-round, either hike in the area or take a boat.
Almost one million Indians live in the Amazon region comprising these countries: Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. The 400 different tribes have their own language, culture, and territory.
2. Only two seasons
Colombia is a tropical country passing the equator on the south, so there aren’t four seasons. Temperatures are stable throughout the year, and the only thing that changes is a rainy season with a dry season.
Some parts of Colombia have the same weather all year round, such as Medellin. It’s called “The City of the Eternal Spring”.
3. World’s most beautiful river
Liquid Rainbow, or the most beautiful river in the world, is in Colombia. It’s pretty hard to get to, requiring transportation by plane and then horseback ride or donkey.
For most of the year, it’s a regular river and turns to rainbow colours between September and November. During this time, river plants change colour to red, and with the colours of river bedrock, water reflection creates River of Five Colours.
4. High coastal range
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in northern Colombia, is the world’s highest coastal mountain range. You can get from the sea level to 5,700 m elevation in only 42 km. Areas within this mountain range are the world’s most irreplaceable protected areas due to their endangered habitat.
5. National Parks
Colombia has 60 national parks, with Tayrona National Park being the most popular. You can swim in the Caribbean Sea with a view of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
6. Wax palm, a symbol of Colombia
Wax palm is a national tree and symbol of Colombia. The Colombian government set up Los Nevados National Natural Park where Cocora Valley is a part. You can go hiking in Cocora Valley, the protected forest reserve, and be surrounded by 45-meter tall wax palms, the tallest palm trees on the planet.
7. Pink dolphins
One of the rarest species of dolphins is found in Colombia. Pink dolphins are an endangered species; it’s estimated only around 20 dolphins remain to live.
8. Massive biodiversity
Colombia belongs to a group of 17 megadiverse countries. These countries have more than 5,000 biological species. It has one of the highest numbers of species by area in the world, including butterflies, amphibian species and has more bird species than Europe and North America combined.
9. Access to two coastlines
Colombia is the only country in South America with access to the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The Pacific Coast is a dense jungle with the world’s most biodiversity. On the other hand, the Caribbean coastline is popular among travellers for its beaches.
People & culture
10. The happiest place in the world
Colombia has been for many years one of the happiest countries in the world. People filled out a survey based on their feeling of being happy or unhappy, and it turned out that more than 85% of Colombians feel happy.
11. Indigenous nations
There are 80 indigenous nations and 88 languages spoken in Colombia. While you mostly hear Spanish while visiting Colombia, you hear mostly Creole if you visit the Caribbean side.
12. Colombia not Columbia
Colombia (Spanish) and Columbia (English) described the new world discovered in the 15th century, now known as North and South America. Many people misspell Colombia for Columbia. The country, Colombia, is from Spanish and therefore writing Columbia is a big mistake, and Colombians may feel offended.
13. Second most holiday days
Looking for a place to work? Go to Colombia. Colombians have the second most Bank Holidays globally, which are usually celebrated on Mondays. Who knows, maybe long weekends and balanced work and personal life is the secret to the happiest nation in the world.
14. Women are bosses
There are only three countries where it is more likely to have a female boss instead of a man. In Colombia, 53% of bosses are women. Only one country has a more women bosses ratio – Jamaica, where 59 out of 100 bosses are women.
15. President awarded a Nobel Prize
Past Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for signing a deal with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2016. This deal will help to end a 50-year guerrilla war in Colombia. Colombian Congress approved the agreement despite more than half of Colombians voting against it.
16. Diverse country
The ethnically diverse Colombia is a mix of indigenous descendants, Spanish, people from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. There’s no one skin colour dominant in Colombia, and often you can’t tell if the person is Colombian or a visitor.
17. More Spanish speaking ratio than in Spain
In Colombia, 99.2% of people speak Spanish compared to Spain, where 99% speak Spanish. Colombia is a country that has the second biggest ratio of Spanish-speaking people right after Mexico.
18. Greatest Colombian who ever lived
Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote the most-sold novel in the Spanish language and won a Nobel Prize for literature. He was a great friend of Fidel Castro. Marquez was described as “the greatest Colombian who ever lived” at his funeral.
19. Famous Colombian artist
Fernando Botero is the most famous Colombian artist, very well-known worldwide. His extravagant paintings and statues can be found in Botero Museum in Bogota or at Plaza Botero in Medellin. Plaza Botero is also part of the free walking tour in Medellin we participated in, as mentioned below under Medellin.
20. The most famous Colombian
Talking about famous Colombians, the current most famous person from Colombia is probably Shakira. She is one of the most popular singers in the world, born in Barranquilla.
21. Country of dances
Colombia is famous for its dancing. People say that Colombians have a natural talent, and they’re born dancers.
There is actually only one dance that originated in the northern Colombian part: cumbia. All other famous dances such as samba or reggaeton were imported from the Caribbean islands. Colombia is great at adopting dances and making them popular.
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Interesting facts about Colombian Cities
22. Medellin city center
Medellin city center is a really strange place and not the best place for kids. Street vendors sell porn DVDs right on the streets, and prostitutes offer their services right next to the church’s entrances. At least redemption is right next door.
We had the best time on free walking with Real City Tours with our guide Pablo. Check them out if you visit Medellin.
23. World’s theatre capital
The world’s biggest theatre festival Iberoamericana is held every other year in Bogota. You can see theatres from all over the world performing concerts, circus or arts for 17 days. Therefore Bogota is called the world’s theatre capital.
24. One of the highest capital cities
One of the most interesting facts about Colombia is that Bogota is the fourth highest capital globally (the first is La Paz in Bolivia at 3,869 m). It lies at an elevation of 2,640 meters above sea level. Within cities bigger than 3 million people, it is the highest. Half of the world’s population lives below 200 meters of elevation.
Bogota has the most extensive network (300km) of biking routes in South America. Every Sunday city of Bogota closes 75 km of public roads for motorized traffic and lets cyclists, roller-bladers, and runners use it without traffic restrictions.
This event, called Ciclovia, is probably the biggest sports event happening every week. A car-free initiative that is spreading around the world – Mexico City, Paris, Singapore and many more are participating in a traffic-free environment for at least one day a month.
26. A coffee region named a heritage site
Colombia is the biggest producer of Arabica coffee beans in the world. Counting all types of coffee, the country is the third biggest producer. Coffee plants require high altitudes, warm but not sunny weather to grow the best harvest. UNESCO rewarded the Colombian coffee cultural landscape as Heritage Site.
27. City of gold
When Europeans came to South America and heard stories about the city of gold called El Dorado, it inspired many to go on a hunt for this place. A legendary place of untold riches was never found, and most expeditions expected it to be hidden in Colombian Andes.
28. Emerald production
Colombia is by far the biggest producer of emeralds. Emerald belongs to the most precious gemstones, and it’s estimated that every second emerald on the planet comes from Colombia. Emerald trade was a big contributor to civil problems that ended in 2016 with a peace deal between the government and FARC.
Interesting facts about Colombia’s food
Colombia has more than 400 fruit. They grow pineapple, banana, avocado, lime, and mango from well-known fruit. Colombia’s most exotic fruits are lulo, passion fruit, zapote, dragon fruit, borojo, curuba, gulupa, and golden berry.
30. Bandeja Paisa
The most famous food in Colombia is bandeja paisa, a mix of ground beef, chicharrones (fried pork), avocado, rice, beans, plantain, fried egg, arepas, and chorizo (sausage). It’s a very fulfilling meal you can find in any Colombian restaurant.
31. National drink
The national drink of Colombia is Aguardiente, translated to burning water. It’s a liquor made of sugarcane with anise flavour, and you drink it from a shot glass, just like you would vodka.
Fun facts about Colombia
32. Named after Christopher Columbus
Colombia is named after the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. The country has undergone many name changes, including the Republic of New Granada. Since 1886, the official name has been the Republic of Colombia. This is, for me, the most interesting fact about Colombia.
33. Dark at 6 pm
The equator passes through Colombia, and therefore it gets dark t 6 pm year-round. Something that it’s quite hard to get used to. Especially when most people expect long light in summer.
34. Toughest bike path
Alto de Letras is one of the most strenuous cycling climbs in the world. The 300 km route includes an 80 km incline leading from Mariquita at 468 metres above sea level to Paramo de Letras at 3,663 metres. No wonder Colombia has so many fantastic cyclists.
35. No alcohol
The government prohibits drinking alcohol during major events such as political elections or World Cup to avoid violence.
36. One of the biggest patriots
Colombians are one of the biggest patriots; television and radio have to play the National anthem at 6 am and 6 pm every day. Maybe the government doesn’t want people to forget the lyrics.
37. National sport
The national sport of Colombia is Tejo, throwing metal disks into pits covered with gunpowder and then exploding. While this is mostly alcohol friendly game, Colombia’s most popular sport is football (soccer).
38. Children drink coffee
With Colombia being one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world, no wonder every adult enjoys a cup or two a day. But did you know even children drink coffee? It might be diluted with milk, but adults drink the same coffee.
39. Ruins older than Machu Picchu
Ciudad Perdida, or Lost City, is an ancient city built of mountainside terraces in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Archaeologists believe the city was founded 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu in Peru.
This truly is one of the most interesting facts about Colombia – Machu Picchu is better known but younger than Ciudad Perdida.
Tourist agencies now offer a Lost City jungle trek which usually takes 4-6 days, passes indigenous villages, and covers 70 km.
40. Festival has Unesco designation
The Carnaval of Negros y Blancas, translated to the Festival of Black and Whites, is celebrated in January every year. It’s a big festival, broadly popular, and shows how diverse the country is.
41. The highest waterfall
The highest waterfall of Colombia is La Chorrera Falls, a cascading waterfall 590 meters high.
You can easily visit La Chorrera Falls from Bogota by taking a shuttle bus. The hike to the falls goes through the beautiful countryside but don’t expect anything marvellous, such as Angel Falls in Venezuela. The flow is very low, but on the other hand, it’s a beautiful nature experience because of the lack of crowds.
42. Transformation in progress
Former murder capital of the world, Medellin lost its title, which now belongs to Celaya in Mexico. Medellin gained the title “thanks” to Pablo Escobar’s drug wars and transformed into a great city that welcomes visitors. Medellin was declared the World’s Most Innovative City in 2012.
43. Biggest cocaine producer
Colombia is the world’s biggest cocaine producer. For a long time, it ranks within the first 3 places, followed by Peru and Bolivia. The Colombian government can confiscate about 80% of the cocaine every year. Around 100 tons make it to the market.
44. Drug deaths
In the USA, almost half a million people die every year from smoking American tobacco. Cocaine, mainly from Colombia, kills roughly 15,000 people. Was the War on Drugs led in the right countries, for the right cause, or should the USA rather ban tobacco instead?
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