Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a country in South America. Colombia is famous for its vibrant music scene, idyllic beaches, unbelievably delicious food, and stunning natural scenery. A diverse country with numerous cultures and languages, Colombia is a fascinating country worth getting to know. Here are some interesting facts about Colombia.
Facts about Colombia
1. Colombia is the 25th largest country in the world and the fourth largest country in South America.
Colombia has a total area of 1,141,748 km² (440,831 sq mi), which makes it slightly less than twice the size of the US state of Texas.
2. Colombia is the only country in South America that has a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Colombia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean, on the north. Colombia’s coastline extends for 3,208 km (1,993 mi).
3. Colombia shares a land border with five countries.
Colombia is bordered by Panama (339 km/211 mi) to the northwest, Ecuador (708 km/440 mi) and Peru (1,494 km/928 mi) to the south, Venezuela (2,341 km/1,455 mi) to the east, and Brazil (1,790 km/1,112 mi) to the southeast.
4. Colombia is the only country in South America connected by land to Central America.
Colombia is the only country in South America that is connected by landmass to Central America. It shares a land boundary in the northwest with Panama, which is a Central American country.
5. Colombia is home to the northernmost point on the mainland of South America.
Punta Gallinas, which literally translates as “Chicken Head”, is the northernmost point on the mainland of South America.
6. Colombia has more species of birds than all of Europe and North America combined.
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world after Brazil. It is home to over 1,800 species of birds, more than in Europe and North America combined. The country accounts for over 18% of the world’s bird species. In addition, Colombia has 10% of the world’s mammals species and 14% of the amphibian species.
7. Colombia is home to the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated mountain range in northern Colombia. It is located only 42 km (26 mi) south of the Caribbean coast of the country and reaches a maximum altitude of about 5,730 m (18,800 ft). The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains are also home to Colombia’s highest mountain, Pico Cristóbal Colón.
8. One-third of the area of Colombia comprises the Amazon rainforest.
Colombia is home to 10% of the Amazon rainforest, which covers about one-third area of the country. The majority of Colombia’s Amazon rainforest hasn’t been explored yet as this large area is hard to access.
9. The name “Colombia” is derived from the last name of the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus.
Colombia was named after Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer and navigator whose voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, opened the way for European exploration and colonization of the Americas. Ironically, Columbus never set foot in Colombia.
10. Before colonization, several indigenous groups occupied Colombia.
Several Amerindian groups such as the Muisca, Zenú, Calima, Nariño, Quimbaya, and Tairona called Colombia home before colonization. The Muiscas and the Tairona had the most intricate and advanced societies.
However, little is known of the groups and by the time colonization began, the first inhabitants were living in small, scattered communities, subsisting on agriculture or trade.
Within the first century after colonization, nearly 95 percent of all the indigenous people in Colombia had died. Many were killed during armed conflicts with European settlers, but the majority of deaths were caused by diseases such as smallpox and measles.
11. Colombia was colonized by Spain.
Although Alonso de Ojeda was the first recorded European to arrive in Colombia in 1499, It was not until 1525, that the Spanish began a process of colonization of Colombia, leading to it becoming an integrated colony of the Spanish empire.
Within two short centuries, Colombia became one of the most prominent headquarters of the Spanish empire in the New World and was made the capital of New Granada which then comprised the territories of modern-day Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. After declaring independence from Spain in 1810, complete independence was achieved in 1819 after Simon Bolivar’s forces defeated the Spanish at Boyacá.
12. The official language of Colombia is Spanish.
More than 99% of Colombians speak Spanish. Colombian Spanish is said to be one of the most neutral Spanish accents, making it easier to understand than other Spanish accents.
13. Colombia is very multiethnic.
One of the remarkable facts about Colombia is how ethnically diverse its population is. The Colombian population consists of four main groups—Native Colombians (indigenous people), mestizos (of mixed indigenous and European descent), Afro-Colombians, and people of European & Middle Eastern descent.
There is such a generalized mixing of races over time that it is difficult to define exact parameters for any individual. It is estimated that mestizos form about half the population, people of European & Middle Eastern ancestry (whites) account for about 35% of the population, Afro-Colombians make up 10% of the population, and native Colombians make up about 5% of the population.
The largest indigenous groups are the Wayuu, the Paez, and the Emberá. White Colombians are mostly of Spanish descent from the early settlers, but also those who arrived in the last 150 years from places like Germany, France, Lithuania, Poland, Italy, Lebanon, and Syria.
Afro-Colombians are descendants of African slaves taken to Colombia from the 16th to 18th centuries from places such as modern-day Angola, Benin, Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal.
14. There are over 60 indigenous languages still spoken in Colombia.
Although Spanish is unquestionably Colombia’s dominant language, it’s certainly not the only language spoken in the country. The exact number is not clear but according to experts, indigenous languages are spoken by somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million people.
The three largest indigenous languages in Colombia are Wayúu, Paez, and Embera. More than 30 indigenous languages have fewer than 1,000 living speakers, putting them at serious risk of disappearance.
15. Colombia’s capital Bogota is the third-highest capital city in the world.
Bogota is situated at an average elevation of 2,640 m (8,660 ft), making it the third-highest capital city in the world after La Paz and Quito. La Paz is also Colombia’s largest city, and its main commercial and cultural center.
16. Christianity is the major religion in Colombia.
Colombia is a predominantly Christian country. The majority of the population identifies as Roman Catholic (≈70-80%), while approximately 15-20% identify as Protestant. The remainder of the Colombian population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions.
17. The Andean Condor is the national animal of Colombia.
With a wingspan of over 3 m (10 ft), the Andean Condor is one of the world’s largest flying birds, making an unmistakable silhouette as it soars above the Andes mountains at altitudes of up to 6,500 m (21,325 ft).
18. The national currency of Colombia is the Colombian peso (COP).
The Colombian peso (COP) is the official currency circulating in Colombia since 1810, and since 1837 it has been the sole currency the year when it replaced the real, the legal tender until that time. The official peso symbol is “$”.
19. Football is the most popular sport in Colombia.
No surprises here. Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the country. The Colombian men’s national football team has qualified for the FIFA World Cup on six occasions – in 1962, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2014, and 2018.
Their biggest success came in 2001 when they won the Copa América, the main men’s football tournament contested among national teams from South America. Some of the most famous Colombian footballers are Carlos Valderrama, Radamel Falcao, James Rodeiguez, Rene Higuita, Faustino Asprilla, and Andrés Escobar.
20. The national sport of Colombia is Tejo.
One of the lesser-known facts about Colombia is that the country’s national sport is Tejo. Tejo is a game played with a clay rectangle board with a wood border and an iron puck-shaped object. The clay-filled rectangle has a small pipe circle that is filled with gunpowder.
The object of the game is to get the most points by throwing a metal disc or puck (called tejo) at a small, triangular explosive target (called mecha) located about 18.5 m (60 ft) away on a wooden box (called post). The more targets you hit, the more points you get. Mechas are filled with gunpowder, so when you hit them, they burst into smoke making a loud bang.
Today, Tejo has become a national pastime in Colombia and is second in popularity only to football. Tejo is accompanied by drinking beer and socializing with friends.
21. The tallest palm tree in the world is native to Colombia.
The Quindío wax palm tree, which mainly grows in Colombia’s Cocora Valley is the tallest palm tree in the world and can grow to a height of 60 m (200 ft). Not only is this the tallest species of palm in the world, but it is also, by extension, the tallest monocot as well. It is also the national tree of Colombia.
21. Colombia has produced two Nobel Prize winners.
Colombia’s first Nobel Prize came courtesy of the famous Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez who won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. The second Colombian to win a Nobel Prize was politician Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, who won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.
22. The national flag of Colombia has three colors.
The Colombian national flag consists of three horizontal stripes of yellow, blue, and red. The yellow band at the top of the flag takes up half of the flag’s area, while the rest of the flag is evenly divided between the bands of blue and red. The national flag was adopted in 1861.
The yellow half of the flag represents the copious amounts of gold that can be found inside the nation, while the red band represents the blood that the people of Colombia shed during their fight for independence from the Spanish Empire The blue band symbolizes the sky and the oceans that border Colombia.
23. It is enshrined in Colombian law for radio and public television in Colombia to play the national anthem every day at 6 am and 6 pm.
Colombians are patriotic people and it shows with such a decree.
24. More than 60% of the world’s emeralds are mined from Colombia.
Colombia produces up to two-thirds of the world’s emeralds, and Colombian emeralds are the standard by which all others are measured. Colombian emeralds are rumored to be among the purest in the world and are said to possess a warmer and more intense pure-green color.
25. Colombia is the world’s third-largest coffee producer.
Colombia is the third-largest coffee-producing country in the world, only behind Brazil and Vietnam. Colombian coffee is regarded as some of the best in the world is known for its rich and smooth flavor.
26. The national liquor of Colombia is aguardiente.
Colombian aguardiente, or “guaro”, is an anise-flavored liquor made from sugarcane. Aguardiente has a 29% alcohol content. Colombians usually drink it straight, in shots. Aguardiente is a portmanteau of the Spanish words agua, meaning water, and ardiente, meaning burning.
27. The national dish of Colombia is bandeja paisa.
The hearty and calorific bandeja paisa is a generous plate (or literally a tray) that includes red beans (frijoles), white rice (arroz), arepa (a thin, fried corn cake), ground beef (carne molida), chicharrón (fried pork belly), black pudding (morcilla), sausage (chorizo), avocado (aguacate), sweet plantain (maduro) and a fried egg on top.
28. Colombia has the Second-largest number of orchids in the world.
One of the interesting facts about Colombia is that there are nearly 3,000 orchid species in the country, and more than 1,500 of them can only be found here. The orchid is also Colombia’s national flower.
29. Colombia is home to the Cano Cristales – the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow”.
The Caño Cristales River in the Colombian National Park of La Macarena has often been called the most beautiful river in the world. The riverbed changes color between yellow, green, blue, black, and especially red, beginning the end of July and through November.
This unique phenomenon is brought about by the distinctive plants that grow across the riverbed making the waters appear to have vibrant colored streams.
30. Colombia is the world’s second-largest flower exporter.
Colombia has emerged as a big player in the floral industry and is the second-largest flower exporting country in the world after the Netherlands.
31. Colombia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Some of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Colombia include the Historic Center of Santa Cruz de Mompox; the National Archeological Park of Tierradentro; the Port, Fortresses, and Group of Monuments, Cartagena; and the Los Katíos National Park.
32. Colombia doesn’t observe daylight saving.
Clocks do not change in Colombia and daylight saving hasn’t been observed in the country since 1993.
33. Same-sex marriage is legal in Colombia.
Same-sex marriage in Colombia has been legal since April 2016.
34. Colombia is the world’s biggest producer of cocaine.
Despite anti-narcotics efforts backed by the US, cocaine production in Colombia has continued to soar and the country is easily the world’s biggest cocaine producer.