35 Interesting Facts About Colombia (You Probably Didn’t Know)
Some Fun and Interesting Facts About Colombia
Curious about Colombia?
You binge-watched Narcos on Netflix and saw a few jaw-dropping travel photos on Instagram and now you want to know what this country is all about.
Well, look no further.
The country that exists today is far removed from the dramatized version of the 80’s era Colombia portrayed in Narcos.
There are a million reasons to put Colombia on the top of your travel wish-list. It’s the perfect combination of modern city life and the serenity of raw untouched nature. The food is out of this world and the country is one of the most biodiverse in the entire world. Colombia can give you a taste of whatever it is you’re looking for. But there are also some lesser-known wonders of Colombia. Like it’s bustling emerald trade or it’s rainbow-colored rivers.
So let’s get travel-inspired and take a look at some fun and interesting facts.
Here are 35 interesting facts about Colombia.
1. Colombia is the Second Most Biodiverse Country in the World
Only second to its massive neighbor Brazil. Colombia is also one of only 17 countries in the world classified as “megadiverse”. One out of every 10 species can be found in Colombia. 1/10th of all species on EARTH!The key is its varied eco-systems. Colombia has deserts, rainforests, Andean cloud forests, and wide-open savannahs allowing almost every kind of organism to thrive.
2. Colombia is the #1 Most Biodiverse Country in Birdlife
#2 in plants, fish, and amphibians, #3 in palm trees and reptiles, and #4 in mammals. If you love nature this is the place to experience it.
3. Colombia is #1 in Emerald Exportation
70-90% of the world’s emeralds come from Colombia! The Colombian emerald is highly esteemed in the gemstone world because of its deep bright green hue. It’s the standard for quality gemstones. The rival emeralds mined in Zambia offer a more blue-ish green hue- a less traditional coloration.
4. Coffee Lover’s Rejoice!! Colombian Coffee Comes in at #3 in the World
Brazil and Vietnam’s beans may still be more common but I prefer the rich bold flavor of Colombian coffee. With over 500,000 farming families it’s no surprise they top this list. Unfortunately, because of the high demand most of the beans leave the country! Just look for café’s boasting single-origin coffee or drink your fill in the coffee regions of Colombia such as the Cocora Valley and Santa Marta. But the big secret is….coffee isn’t actually native to Colombia. Although perfectly suited for growing the energizing elixir, it wasn’t naturally occurring. It was imported in the 1700s and then production exploded from there.
5. Colombia is Often Voted One of the World’s Happiest Countries
In fact, in 2013 and 2014 Colombia claimed the “#1 Happiest Country in the World” title according to the surveying of the Barometer of Happiness and Hope Foundation. And Colombia is always near the top of the list.
(Read Also: 8 Best Places to Visit in Colombia)
6. Colombia is #2 in Flower Exportation
The United States alone orders 4 billion roses every year from Colombia (many for Valentine’s Day). Its position on the equator allows for some of the straightest stemmed roses in the world. Colombia is also home to more than 4,000 species of orchids. Fun Fact: Roses grow directly up to the sun. This means that to have the perfectly straight stemmed roses iconic for romantic gifts, they have to come from an equatorial country such as Colombia.
7. Colombia has a Naturally Occurring Rainbow River
Caño Cristales, also known as the river of 5 colors, is a brightly hued freshwater river whose aquatic plants and algae have created a red, blue, orange, yellow, and green flowing stream. The vibrant water is unique and colors like this are found in no other streams on earth.
8. Looking for an English Breakfast? Colombia has a better version
Bandeja Paisa. The meaty masterpiece of Colombia’s Antioquia region. Most often served for breakfast this pile of ground beef, chicharrones, avocado, rice, beans, plantain, fried egg, arepa, and chorizo can be a gut buster. But it’s Colombia on a plate.
9. Colombia has the 2nd Largest Carnival Celebration in all of South America
Everyone has heard of Carnaval in Rio, but few travelers know that the second largest celebration occurs in Colombia’s Caribbean city of Barranquilla. And boy, is it a party. Festival-goers take to the streets for parades, dancing, and celebrating all it means to be Colombian. It’s a cultural explosion of music and colors. Not to be missed if visiting in February.
10. Colombia has 30+ different kinds of Exotic Fruits
Whether blended into a fruit smoothie or plucked straight off the tree, Colombia is a fruit-lovers paradise. Here are just a few of the unique tropical fruits you’ll find at the local markets.
- Araza. An Amazonian sour fruit.
- Carambolo. Otherwise known as Starfruit.
- Cherimoya. The sugar apple.
- Curuba. A variety of passionfruit.
- Granadilla. Tasty orange fruit similar to passionfruit.
- Guama. Also known as the Ice Cream Bean.
- Guanabana. The slimy white pulp that’s best eaten in a smoothie.
11. Colombia is a Country of Celebration. They have 18 Public Holidays Each Year
With only 2-3 weeks of vacation per year for the average Colombian worker, they were in need of some public holidays! And with 18 government sanctioned holidays (most falling on Monday) the only country with more public holidays is India.
12. Colombia Contains a Portion of the Amazon Rainforest
10% of the Amazon rainforest in fact. And they have taken great precautions to protect it and the indigenous peoples that reside there. The rainforest covers about 1/3 of the entire country.
13. “Tejo” is the National Sport of Colombia
A popular pastime with Colombian men, you’ll throw heavy metal disks into clay pits covered in gunpowder landmines all the while downing copious amounts of local beer. It’s a little like a game of exploding horseshoes made infinitely more fun with a little alcohol.
14. Colombia has 102 Different Indigenous Groups. Some Were Living in Colombia 14,000 Years Ago
The original locals. People were residing in Colombia long before Christopher Colombus (the namesake of Colombia) came ashore. 102 of these groups are still present in rural Colombia today.
15. The National Drink of Colombia is a Licorice Fire-Water known as Aguardiente
A locally made liquor made from sugar cane it’s sweet, cheap, and best served straight up.
16. Shakira is Colombian & She isn’t the Only Colombian Musician to Rise to Fame
Shakira is indisputably the most popular Colombian musician but Grammy Award Winner Carlos Vives and Juanes also top the list. Music is the soul of Colombia. There’s Salsa, Reggaeton, Cumbia, Vallenato, Bachata, the list goes on and on. Most Colombians seem to come out of the womb with rhythm.
17. Colombia is Home to the Pink River Dolphins
Yes, you read that right. Deep in the Amazon rainforest in the dark water rivers, you’ll find the pale pink faces of the Pink River Dolphins. Just another of Colombia’s unique animal species. Fun Fact: You may notice the abnormal body shape of the dolphins, which is due to their ability to rotate their neck. This is a function typical dolphins lack.
18. Colombia has Coastline on Both the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean
Start daydreaming about the beaches now! Colombia has two coastlines and many small coastal islands to the North and the West. The rivalling coastlines offer two very different Colombian experiences with vibrant Cartagena in the Caribbean and laid-back Cali in the Pacific.
19. At 8,360 ft Above Sea Level Bogota is one of the Highest Major Cities in the World
Prepare to take your time acclimating to the cooler thinner mountainous air of Colombia’s capital city. Bogota is a city in the sky, a rare sight for a city with such a large population.
20. Colombia has 60 National Parks that cover over 10% of the Country
Only 1 less protected area than the United States and just as infinitely varied! Tayrona National Park is far and away the most touristed by locals and foreigners alike. Stunning white-sand beaches paired with the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range create a landscape like nowhere else on earth. The huge areas of land in these parks are marked by jungles, rainbow rivers (La Macarena), glaciers (Los Nevados), high-altitude lakes (Sierra Nevada del Cocuy), and some of the oldest rock paintings on the planet (Chiribiquete).
21. Ever Wanted to Vacation on the Moon? La Guajira May be the Closest You Can Get
Another noteworthy Colombian region is its North Eastern deserts. The red rock formations and rolling empty terrain resemble what it would look like to have yourself a lunar landing. Although the region is very isolated and inhabited by several indigenous groups there are several tours that give you access to the unique landscapes.
22. Children Regularly Drink Coffee con Leche While Adults Drink Tinto- Strong Black Coffee
What can we say? It’s a coffee country. While most European or American parents would rather die than increase the energy level of their youngsters it’s a norm in Colombia.
23. Colombia has the Most Endemic Species of Anywhere in the World
#1. Colombia isn’t just diverse in its animal and plant life. It’s unique. Over 9,100 species can ONLY be found in Colombia. From the Cotton-Top Tamarin to the Amazonian River dolphins there are many interesting animals that don’t exist outside the countries borders.
24. The National Anthem Plays on the Radio and Television Twice Per Day as Required by Law
A quirky little display of patriotism. The anthem can be heard at both 6 AM and 6 PM.
25. Colombia Also has South America’s Longest Bicycle Route
“Altro de Letras”. At over 300 km this route is perfect for cycling enthusiasts. But it’s no beginner path. It’s also known for being one of the toughest climbs on earth for cyclists. The road contains an 80km climb that slowly inches you from 468 meters above sea level in Mariquita to 3,663 meters above sea level in Paramo de Letras Pass.
26. Bogota is One of the Top Cities in the World for Graffiti Art
Artists from all over the world come to paint Bogota’s streets. Colorful murals depicting complex social issues, protest art, tributes to Colombian heritage, and whimsical cartoons cover the city. You’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for the art form.
27. Colombia is 4th in Cosmetic Enhancements in the World
Breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and liposuction. Over 75,000 tourists flocked to Colombia last year to take advantage of their cheaper prices and readily available cosmetic procedures. And with Colombia’s love of the curvy female figure plastic surgery has become a major industry and widely accepted part of life.
(Read Also: Is Colombia Safe to Travel?)
28. The Town of Loro in Chaco Experiences the Most Annual Rainfall in the World
Yes, more than Seattle, London, and Scotland. On average the rural town drowns in about 43 FEET of rainfall every year.
29. Colombia is the 25th Largest Country on Earth
Colombia is more than twice the size of France or Spain and has the same length of coastline as the U.S. pacific coast. Basically it’s a massive country. Luckily with its many public bus systems and chartered transport it’s relatively easy to get around. It just takes some time. Get used to those long beautiful bus rides.
30. Colombia is Home to the World’s Tallest Palm Trees
“Wax palms”. Native to the Cocora Valley’s humid Andean forests these Dr. Suess’s like trees stretch up to 200 feet tall. Not only are they an impressive sight shrouded in misty damp fog but they make a perfect home for some of Colombia’s endangered bird species.
31. El Dorado- The mythical city of gold & riches was based on a group of indigenous peoples in Colombia
The city of gold and infinite riches. Yes, it is a myth but it was actually based on a man and not a hidden city. Legend has it he covered himself in gold every day and washed it off in the nearby lake every afternoon. The legend stems from an archeologically confirmed ceremony in which the Muisca society in Colombia choose their new leader. They covered the applicant in gold dust and took him to the middle of a sacred lake where he would present offerings of gold and emeralds to the gods by heaving them into the waters.
32. Colombia has a Functional Church Made of Salt Underground
200 meters underground in an abandoned salt mine lies the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá. Both a functional catholic church and tourist attraction, religious enthusiasts often make a pilgrimage to the impressive cavern.
(Read Also: Best Cities to Visit in Colombia)
33. The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range of Santa Marta is the 2nd Highest Coastal Mountain Range in the World
So what exactly does that mean to you? It means that you get stunning beaches like Parque de Tayrona framed by lush green mountain ranges. Mountains that meet the sea! This particular mountain range is also on the move. It has migrated 1,000 miles over the course of history.
34. The Lost City of Colombia Contains Ruins Older than Those of Machu Picchu
Deep in the Sierra Nevada mountain range lies an ancient city that was slowly swallowed by the jungle. In the 1970s the city was rediscovered by the developed world and was determined to be 650 years older than the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. The Lost City requires a 3-5 day trek to reach that can be organized with several tourism agencies in the area (check out our Guide on Hiking in Colombia for our tips on how to organize your trek to the Lost City).
35. Colombia has the World’s Largest Flower Festival AND the World’s Largest Salsa Festival
Dancing is no joke in Colombia. With salsa clubs on every corner, music is a huge part of everyday life in the country. So it’s no surprise the largest organized annual salsa event happens here. The World Salsa Festival in Cali, Colombia draws over 44,000 people to the 4-day event. The Flower Festival in Medellin gets global praise every August when floral parades and pageantry take to the streets for a truly beautiful (and massive) cultural spectacle.
Fancy Visiting Colombia With Other Travellers Aged 25-45?
We’re Other Way Round and we bring together groups of adventurous travellers aged 25-45 for an immersive & authentic experience of travelling Colombia. Here’s some of our most popular Colombia trips.
MOUNTAINS & PUEBLOS
8 Days in and around Colombia’s Andes mountain region covering Medellin, Guatape & Jardin. See Itinerary
BEACHES & JUNGLES
8 Days exploring the most exotic places in Colombia including Cartagena, Bogota & Parque Tayrona. See Itinerary
15 Days covering the very best that Colombia has to offer. See Itinerary