Printable travel guide for Colombia
Travel Guide

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Basic Facts

Official Country Name: República de Colombia Capital: Bogotá D.C. Population: 43.834.115 habitants Telephone Code: 057 Time Zone: Area: 1.141.748 km Language(s): Spanish (official), 64 indigenous languages, 2 "criollas" lenguages and English (San Andrés) and Portugues (Amazonas) Ethnic Groups: 84 inhdigenous groups Highest Mountain: Pico Colón in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Magdalena President/Head of State: Alvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2006) Government: Democracy Currency: Exchange Rate: US$1= 2.200 Pesos colombianos Health Risks: Electricity: Weights & Measures: International Country Name in other languages:

Attractions and Things to See and Do

Top Things To See • Bogotá, the capital, founded in 1538, is the largest city and situated almost in the centre of the country at an altitude of 2600m (8600ft). Bogotá reflects a blend of Colombian tradition and Spanish colonial influences. Many historical landmarks have been preserved, such as the Capitol Municipal Palace and the cathedral, the Capilla del Sangrario, on the main square, the Plaza Bolivar. Bogotá also contains the Gold Museum, with its unique collection of over 100,000 pre-Colombian artworks. • Travel to Zipaquirá, an area well-known for its many salt mines, and see the famous Salt Cathedral (capable of accommodating 8400 people), an underground church built within a salt mine, in the body of a mountain. Stalactites and specks of salt jostle with crosses and chapels, all bathed in subdued lighting. • Guatavita is best known for its Laguna de Guatavita, the ritual centre and sacred lake of the Muisca Indians. Flanked by undulating hills, it is a calm and beautiful lake that is definitely worth a visit. • Amble around the colourful market on the side channel of the Magdalena in Barranquilla. • Enjoy the peaceful vista of Colombia's many beaches. The main tourist resorts on Colombia’s 1600km- (1000 mile-) long Caribbean coast lie near Santa Marta, one of the first major cities founded by the Spanish in South America. Its modern hotels, white beaches and proximity to fashionable beach resorts now make it a popular base for visitors wishing to explore the coast. • Go to the Tayrona National Park, some 35km (22 miles) south of Santa Marta, to see one of the country’s most popular parks. Its major attraction is its deep bays, shaded with coconut trees, beautiful beaches and several coral reefs. • Cartagena, an ancient walled fortress city on the north coast, is also worth a visit, particularly for its fascinating Old Town. Tourist facilities have been considerably developed in recent years, particularly at El Laguita, an L-shaped pensinsula, now packed with hotels and expensive restaurants. Some 35km (22 miles) west lie the Islas del Rosario, an archipelago of about 25 small coral islands now declared a national park. Cruises and tours are widely available and can be booked in Cartagena. Easily reached from Cartagena, by plane or boat, are the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, nearly 500km (300 miles) north of the Colombian coast. San Andrés was once the headquarters of the English pirate Captain Henry Morgan, the scourge of the Caribbean. The islands are duty free, and consequently often crowded, but there are still several less spoilt parts. Popular excursions include visits by boat to Johnny Cay and the Aquarium. Top Things To Do • Water-skiing, boating, sailing and skindiving can all be practised on the coast (check with authorities before diving, as sharks and barracudas have caused fatalities). Providencia with its paradisal waters, is ideal for scuba diving. • Mountain climbing begins 48km (30 miles) east of Santa Marta, with peaks of up to nearly 6000m (19,000ft). • Watch the major cycle race, the Tour of Colombia, which takes place every March and April. • Good skiing can be found on the slopes of Nevado del Ruiz (5400m/ 17,700ft), 48km (30 miles) from Manizales. • Try swinging your hips at the world's capital of salsa: Cali. and if you just want flight and flight Medellin-Colombia is the only and right place for this activity in South America. • Take a jungle tour into the Amazon basin, which covers almost one-third of Colombia’s territory, an area of thick tropical forest in the southeast, with no roads and inhabited mostly by Indians. The most popular base for tourists wishing to explore the area is Leticia, a small town with well-developed tourist facilities, located on the banks of the Amazon River and close to the border with Brazil and Peru. The jungle trips to the nearby Amacayu National Park are widely available and highly recommended, often including visits to Indian tribes. • For those interested in archaeology, why not dig for or examine the great number of relics and massive stone statues in San Augustín Archaeological Park? For architectural history, the traditional city of Popayan is the birthplace of many of Colombia’s most illustrious statesmen, and contains many fine colonial houses and churches, as well as hosting a fantastic Holy Week procession. Tierradentro, in the southwest of the country, has beautiful manmade burial caves painted with pre-Colombian geometric patterns.

Maps

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Off the Beaten Path and Insider Tips

Suggested Itineraries

1 Day, 1 Week, 2 Weeks, 1 Month ...

Transport

Getting there and away, Getting around by Air, Train, Bus, Car, Motorcycle, Boat, Hitchhiking, Bicycle ...Getting There by Air The national airline is Avianca (AV) (website: www.avianca.com.co). Avianca and British Airways each operate flights daily to Bogotá. Other airlines flying to Colombia include Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Iberia and Spanair, but, as with Avianca, some may not fly directly there but with other airlines as part of a Code Share agreement. Main Airports Bogotá (El Dorado) (BOG) is situated 12km (8 miles) east of the city. To/from the airport: Buses to the city depart every 20 minutes from 0600-2200 (travel time – 30 minutes). Taxis are also available. Facilities: Bank, duty free shop, bar, restaurant, tourist information, post office, chemist/pharmacist and car hire. Barranquilla (Ernesto Cortissoz) (BAQ) is 10km (6 miles) from the city. Facilities: Car hire is available. Cali (Palmaseca) (CLO) is 19km (12 miles) from the city. Cartagena (Crespo) (CTG) is 2km (1 mile) from the city. Approximate Flight Times Approximate flight times From London to Bogotá is 11 hours 45 minutes, from Los Angeles is 10 hours 30 minutes, from New York is six hours 30 minutes, and from Sydney is 29 hours. Departure tax Either collected upon ticket issuance or levied upon embarkation. Transit passengers continuing their journey on the same day are exempt. The price will be £28 or possibly more - payable by cash only. The Visit South America Pass This must be bought outside South America in country of residence and allows unlimited travel to 34 cities in the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile (except Easter Island), Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Participating airlines include Aer Lingus (EI), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Finnair (AY), Iberia (IB), LAN-Chile (LA) and Qantas (QF). A minimum of three flights must be booked, with no maximum; the maximum stay is 60 days, with no minimum, and prices depend on the amount of flight zones covered. Children under 12 years of age are entitled to a 33 per cent discount and infants (under two years old) only pay 10 per cent of the adult fare. For further details, contact one of the participating airlines. For more information visit www.oneworld.com. Note All air tickets purchased in Colombia for destinations outside the country are liable to a total tax of 15 per cent on one-way tickets and 7.5 per cent on return tickets. Getting There by Water Major ports on the Caribbean coast include Cartagena, Baranquilla, Santa Marta and Turnaco. Buenaventura is the main port on the Pacific coast. Many ships and cruise lines visit these ports from the USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Leticia is the upper Amazonian port. Getting There by Rail There are no international rail connections. Getting There by Road Colombia can be reached from Panama via the Darien Gap, but the route is not advised as it can be long, arduous and dangerous. Vehicles can also be freighted from Panama to one of Colombia’s Caribbean or Pacific ports. There are also road links with Ecuador and Venezuela, although travellers should check with the local embassy about safety of roads before crossing the border to Venezuela. Coach/bus: TEPSA buses connect with Venezuela. Coaches are comfortable and services good. There are second-class buses from Maracaibo to Santa Marta and Cartagena, but this method of travelling can be uncomfortable. Getting Around by Air There is an excellent internal air network connecting major cities, including those in the Caribbean coastal area. There are also local helicopter flights. There are flights between the mainland and the islands of San Andrés and Providencia operating from most major Colombian cities. Services are offered by Avianca, SAM and Aires. San Andrés is a regular stop for Avianca, Lacsa and Sahsa airlines. Getting Around by Water There is a ferry service between the mainland and the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, leaving from the Muelle de los Pegasos. The journey is long (72 hours) but cheap. Information about other sailings to San Andrés can be obtained from the Maritima San Andrés office. The Magdalena River is the main artery of Colombia. Some cargo boats take passengers, though this is a slow way to travel. It is possible to hire boats for particular trips. Paddle steamers no longer run services up and down the river and hiring can be expensive. From Leticia, on the Peruvian border, a number of operators run sightseeing tours and jungle expeditions up the Amazon. It is necessary to make enquiries locally, and wise to shop around before booking on any one trip. Getting Around by Rail Although trains still carry freight, inter-city passenger services are virtually non-existent. Services have been frequently suspended during recent years owing to operators’ financial difficulties. The main route is between Bogotá and Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, east of Barranquilla. Because of the distances, it is easier to take a plane if speed is important. Getting Around by Road A good highway links Santa Marta in the east with Cartagena, and passes Barranquilla en route. The Trans-Caribbean Highway has placed Barranquilla only five hours away from Venezuela. Northeast of Santa Marta, in the Guajira Peninsula, roads are usually passable except during rainy periods. There is highway transportation between the coastal cities and the capital and other cities of the interior, but much of the highway is rutted. Travellers are advised against driving in rural areas as guerilla and paramilitary groups have a strong presence. Bus: The long distances make air travel advisable. However, the best bus lines are said to be the Flota Magdalena, Expreso Bolivariano and, especially, the Expreso Palmira. Approximately 40 companies with modern buses and minibuses provide transportation between coastal towns and cities. There are also collectivos (taxi-buses) for shorter distances which can often be a cheaper alternative. Car hire: The major international companies have offices, but driving in cities is not recommended. Traffic drives on the right. Seat belts in the front two seats are mandatory; however, car seats for children are not compulsory. Children under ten years of age cannot sit in the front seat. The urban speed limit is 45-60kph (28-37mph), and the rural speed limit is 80kph (50mph). Documentation: An International Driving Permit is required. Urban Bogotá has extensive trolleybus, bus and minibus services, and a funicular railway; flat fares are charged. There are also shared taxis (buseta) which are not expensive and stop on demand. Drivers are authorised to add a supplement for out-of-town trips and to airports. At hotels, the green-and-cream coloured taxis are available for tourists. They are more expensive than the others, but some of the drivers may have a working knowledge of English. Passengers should insist that meters are used. For those without a meter the fare should be agreed before starting a journey. Journey Times Avianca-Colombia Airpass This must be bought with an international air ticket and includes travel to all Colombian domestic points served by Avianca, SAM and Aires. It excludes travel to Leticia and San Andrés Pass. Air passes are valid for a maximum of 30 days if longhaul flight is with Avianca and 21 days if longhaul flight with any other carrier. Travel Company in Colombia: www.travelcolombiadirect.com Departure tax COP6800-8500, usually included in the ticket price. The following chart gives approximate travel times from Bogotá (in hours and minutes) to other major towns/cities in Colombia. Air Barranquilla 1.15 Medellín 1.15 Manizales 1.00 Cali 1.00 Leticia 2.00 Communication: Images Telephone IDD service to most areas; calls to smaller centres must be made through the international operator. Country code: 57. Outgoing international code: 90. Many public telephones now work only with phone cards produced by Empresa de Teléfonos de Bogotá (ETB), which can be bought in many shops and kiosks. Mobile Telephone Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies. Coverage is variable. Internet Internet cafes exist in the main cities. Media Colombia is a very dangerous place for journalists who face intimidation by drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitary groups. More than 120 Colombian journalists were killed in the 1990s, many for reporting on drug trafficking and corruption. Press: Spanish dailies include El Tiempo, El Espacio, El Nuevo Siglo and Vanguardia Liberal. TV: Senal Colombia is state-run; Caracol TV is a private commercial network. Other channels include Cadena Uno, Telecaribe and RCN TV. Radio: There are hundreds of stations. The main networks are state run Radio Nacional de Colombia, Cadena Super including Radio Super and Super Stereo FM, Caracol, which runs flagship station Caracol Colombia and Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN Radio) which is a mediumwave (AM) network with many affiliates. Post Post offices are marked Correos. Post office opening hours: Mon-Sat 0800-1200. There are two types of service: urban post (green letter boxes) and inter-urban and international (yellow boxes). Letters and packets sent by airmail normally take five to seven days to reach their destination.

Accommodation

If you do not want to stay with other HC members, or noone is available, here is what other members suggest. Hostels Hotels Camping Other Options

Food and Drinks and Local Specialties

Restaurants, Supermarkets, http://www.recipezaar.com/recipes/colombian>Street and don´t forget La Bandeja Paisa a traditional Colombian dish from Antioquia Region ************************************************************ Bandeja Paisa Ingredients: 4 cups red beans, or kidney beans 1 tablespoon salt 1 ripe plantain 1 small carrot, grated or shredded 1 pork trotter 2 tablespoons oil 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 avocado Directions: Rinse the beans before cooking then place them in a pressure cooker half filled with water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the beans for approximately 30 minutes. Then open the pressure cooker and place the rest of the ingredients in with the beans. Cook under pressure for another 20 minutes and serve with or without the trotter. Badeja Paisa may be accompanied with 8 ounces of grilled beefsteak, steamed white rice, fried sweet plantains cut in slices, deep fried pork crackling,half portion of avocado,1 fried egg a top the rice, and 1 corn tortilla or arepa. The rice should be in the middle of the plate, then the beans on the left side. The remainder of the ingredients can be arranged on the plate to your liking.

Money and Costs

Currency: Colombian Peso (COP) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of COP50,000, 20,000, 10,000 and 5000. Coins are in denominations of COP1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Currency Exchange The exchange rate tends to be lower on the Caribbean coast than in Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. The US Dollar is the easiest currency to exchange at hotels, banks, shops and travel agencies, but all establishments charge an exchange fee. Travellers are advised to only use reputable exchange houses. Credit / Debit Cards and ATM's All major cards are accepted. Travellers Cheque Advice These are not always easy to change in the smaller towns, except at branches of the Banco de la República. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars which can be exchanged at banks, foreign exchange and large hotels. Currency Restrictions The import and export of local currency is unlimited. The import of foreign currency is unlimited subject to declaration on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to US$25,000. Banking Hours Bogota: Mon-Fri 0900-1500. In other cities: Mon-Fri, 0800-1130 and 1400-1630. On the last business day of every month, banks close at 1200. Duty free:The following goods may be taken into Colombia by people up to 18 years of age without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars and up to 500g of tobacco; two bottles of alcoholic beverage; a reasonable quantity of perfume; one ordinary camera and one video camera. Note: Emeralds and items made from gold or platinum need a receipt from the place of purchase that must be presented to customs on departure. Ammunition and firearms, unless prior authorisation has been obtained, and item(s) are declared on arrival. Vegetables, plants or plant material; meat and food products of animal origin. Business:Statistics • GDP: US$81.3 billion. • Main imports: Industrial equipment, transportation eqipment, consumer goods, chemicals, paper products, fuels and electricity. • Main exports: Oil, coal, coffee, textiles, software, sugar, bananas, cut flowers, cotton products, emeralds and gold. • Main trade partners: USA, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Mexico and China. Economy Agriculture is extensive and varied; it accounts for 75 per cent of export earnings. Coffee has traditionally been the principal crop (Colombia is the world’s second-largest producer) but as production has declined and prices fallen. Illegal farming of cocoa is also widespread in the more remote parts of the country. The country is self-sufficient in consumer goods and exports of manufactured goods – textiles, leather goods, metal products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cement – have been steadily increasing. Colombia has sizeable oil reserves, which are now on stream. Coal deposits are the largest in Latin America, although development of these has been slow. Recent economic performance has been moderate, with annual growth of just over 1 per cent during 2002. In the same year, inflation was 7 per cent, although official unemployment is still close to 20 per cent (the true figure is probably rather higher). The ongoing internal conflict, which shows little sign of resolution at present, is a huge millstone around the country’s neck, as far as prospects for economic development go. Colombia is a member of the Andean Pact and of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Integración (ALADI), which is seeking to regularise tariffs throughout South America. In addition, Colombia is establishing a three-country free trade zone with Venezuela and Mexico. Business Etiquette Businesspeople are expected to dress smartly. English is widely understood in many business circles; the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an official translation service, and there are a number of commercial interpreter services. A command of Spanish is always appreciated. Business visitors will sometimes be invited out to dinner, which may be preceded by a long cocktail party, with a meal starting around 2300. The best months for business visits are March to November. The business community generally takes holidays from September to February, the driest months. It is advisable to avoid Barranquilla in June and July. Office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1800. Commercial Information Confederación Colombiana de Cámaras de Comercio (CONFECAMARAS) (National Chamber of Commerce) Apdo Aéreo 29750, Carrera 13, 27-47, Oficina 502, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia Tel: (1) 346 7055. Website: www.confecamaras.org.co Proexport Colombia Edificio Bancafe, Calle 28, 13A-15, Piso 37, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia Tel: (1) 341 2066. Website: www.proexport.com.co Colombian Government Trade Bureau in the USA 1901 L Street, Suite 700, NW, Washington DC, 20036, USA Tel: (202) 887 9000. Website: www.coltrade.org CORFERIAS (National Centre of Trade Fairs) Carrera 40, 22C-67, Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia Tel: (1) 381 0000. Website: www.corferias.com

Visa and Documents and Embassies

Who needs a visa? How to get it? Embassies & Consulates, of the country abroad and in the country Visa Information The Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Colombia as a tourist for up 180 days: ANDORRA ANTIGUA Y BARBUDA ARGENTINA AUSTRIA AUSTRALIA BAHAMAS BARBADOS BELGIUM BELICE BOLIVIA BRAZIL CANADA CHILE CHIPRE COREA COSTA RICA DENMARK DOMINICA ECUADOR EL SALVADOR FINLAND FRANCE GERMANY GRANADA GRECE GUATEMALA GUYANA HONDURAS ICELAND INDONESIA ISRAEL ITALY JAMAICA JAPAN LICHTENSTEIN LITUANIA LUXEMBURG MALASIA MALTA MEXICO MONACO NEW ZELAND NORWAY PAIS BAS PANAMA PARAGUAY PERU PHILIPINES PORTUGAL ROMANIA SAN MARINO SANTA LUCIA SINGAPUR SLOVAC REPUBLIC SN VICENTE GRANADINAS SPAIN ST. KITTS Y NEVIS SWEDEN SWITZERLAND TRINIDAD & TOBAGO UNITED KINGDOM URUGUAY USA VENEZUELA TOURIST VISA This visa is issued to individuals who travel for pleasure to Colombia without the purpose of establishing permanent domicile in it. The tourist or visitor is not allowed to earn any salary or payment in Colombia and can not apply for any other visa once in the country. All visitors to Colombia must have in their possesion a valid passport, return tickets, as well as proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay whilst in the country. Currently, Australian and New Zeland passport holders do not require a visa as tourist or visitor, as a permit to remain in the country is issued upon entry into Colombia Requirements: Complete the Visa Application Form (Two copies) Three (3) recent colour photos (3x3 cm) Valid passport for at least two years Letter of invitation from a Colombian national, staying the telephone number and address in Colombia of the sponsor in Colombia. Or the confirmation of the hotel in Colombia, Proof of economic solvency. Photocopy of the return ticket - once the visa is approved - Cover the cost of the visa. Please check with the Consulate of Colombia prior to forwarding Bank check or Money Order, as the fee is fixed according with the exchange rate. BUSINESS VISA This visa is issued to those persons undertaking business activities in Colombia in the following categories: Entrepreneurs, Traders, Industrials and Business Executives. It allows multiple entries to Colombia up to six months each time. The holder of this type of visa will not be allowed to establish residence in Colombia, and the activities to be undertaken can not generate any salary or payment in Colombia. Requirements: Complete the Visa Application Form Three (3) recent colour photos (3x3 cm) Valid passport for at least one year, or depend of the length A letter in original form on company letter-head from apllicant's employer requesting the issuing of a "Business Visa" and stating the following: The reason of the activity to be undertaken, applicant's position in the company, assurances of the company to pay all costs incurred whilst applicant is in colombia, including the return ticket in cas the visa would be canceled, and the duration of stay in Colombia. Certificate of incorporation of the company, updated. (no more than three months of issued) Letter from the natural person explaining the reasons of his visa, supported by banking certifications or economic solvency to develop business in Colombia. *Visa Fee. STUDENT VISA A Temporary Student Visa may be issued for a maximum period of one year. Requirements: Complete the Visa Application Form Three (3) recent colour photos (3x3 cm). If the applicant is not in Sydney and can not present him/herself in person, the photos must be verified by a Justice of Peace Valid passport for at least one year. Certificate of the enrolment in Colombia indicating the term of your studies. Certificate of the Institution in Colombia proving that is a legal institution. In case it is an Exchange Program between two Institutions, you must present Authenticated copy of the Agreement between the two Universities or Colleges (if applicable). Proof of funds: if the student has been awarded a grant, he must produce the original document entitling him to the grant. If he will be supporting himself, he must produce recent bank statements or proof of income. Parents' written authorization for under age applicants, and statement of guardianship of the student while living in Colombia. Visa Fee

Borders and Customs

Post and Communications and Internet

Post, Telephone, Fax, Internet Access ...

Questions and Answers or Forum

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Hospitality Club Meetings


PRIMER ENCUENTRO HC COLOMBIA MARZO 25/06

Travelogues

The culture of Colombia is diverse and rich and is mostly derived from a sharp sense of familial and regional tradition. Geography Colombia is the only country in South America to have both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. More than half of the country is flat, however most people live in the mountainous Andes region, with tall peaks and high plateaux. The capital, Bogotá, is located in the middle of the country. The country is divided into five major regions: Los Llanos (Spanish: the plains), El Caribe (Spanish: the northern Caribbean coast), the eastern Pacific Ocean coast, the southern Amazon rainforest, and the central Andes. Each region has its distinct culture with variations in dialect and mannerisms. Religion About 90% of Colombians are Roman Catholics. The family is, as it is with nearly all of Latin America, a highly important institution to Colombians. Members of the extended family are close and children rarely ever move far away from their parents. There is a deep sense of familial responsibility that stretches through many generations. This may be reflected in the fact that Colombia has the lowest divorce rate in the world.Traditionally, men were usually the head of the household, in charge of earning most of the family's income while women were responsible for cooking, housework and raising children. However, as in most cultures around the world, the dawn of the 20th Century brought forth a great empowerment for women, and today the majority of families (regardless of economic class) have two working parents. At a child's baptism, the parents of the child will choose godparents, padrinos. A child's padrinos will play an important role in his life, giving advice, and when needed, financial support. Society: Due to economic instability and high unemployment over the last century or so, Colombia has developed a huge rift between two economic classes (Low and High) with an almost nonexistent middle class. The Amerindian peoples of Colombia's southern regions, near the Brazilian border, live in huts of thatched palm. Bogotá is home to about 7.7 million people. Other important cities are Medellín, Barranquilla, Cali, and Cartagena. Manners and Communication: Colombian communication is diverse. There are different ways of communicating in different regions of the country. There can be differences of accent or idiom. Colombians are known for being lively and witty communicators. Figures of speech abound in Colombian Spanish. Entertainment: The country's most popular sport is football (soccer). The traditional sport of bullfighting, brought to South America by the Spanish, remains popular in Colombia; bullfighting is normally seen in national festivals or during the bullfighting season. Baseball has become popular in recent years; it is especially popular along the coast and is strongly promoted all around the country. Edgar Rentería is an example of a famous Colombian baseball player. An ancient game called tejo, inherited from the Chibcha, is also played. The object of tejo is to throw a small metal disk at a gunpowder detonator in a small circular area. The winner is calculated by the number of explosions compared to number of throws. Dancing is very popular in Colombia, with dozens of popular vibrant styles. Dancing to reggeaton is very popular in Colombia as well as in the rest of Latin America. Popular dance styles are salsa, Merengue, and Bambuco. The latter is a very complicated dance with many differently named steps. Cumbia, which originated on the Caribbean Coast, is the national dance. It should not be confused with other kinds of Cumbia that have become popular throughout Latin America. The main meal of a Colombian's day is lunch, usually eaten at about 1 or 2pm. This meal consists of three courses: a soup followed by a main course followed by either a drink or dessert. In some cases a snack is eaten after breakfast, also known as Medias Nueves, and after lunch, called Onces. Many varieties of fruit virtually unknown elsewhere are enjoyed in Colombia. There are a large variety of dishes due to the differences in regional climates. Art and literature: Colombians have been producing art for thousands of years. Ornate golden figures and jewelry from millennia ago have been discovered by both ruthless conquistadors and careful archaeological digs. Some Colombian artists, such as Enrique Grau and Fernando Botero, have received international fame, awards and wide public acclaim. The Colombian author, Gabriel García Márquez, won the Nobel Prize for his book Cien Años de Soledad (Spanish: One Hundred Years Of Solitude). It is the history of a Colombian family, The Buendias, and their small town, Macondo, through the 20th century.

Photos

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Activities and Sports

Nightlife and Entertainment

Bars, Cafes, Discos, Cinemas...

Population and People

Culture and Conduct or Local Customs

Colombia has a complicated topography and climatic variety due to the Andes mountains, which is divided into three mountain chains on entering Colombian territory. Inhospitable paramos alternate with high, cold climate plateaus and hot valleys with exuberant vegetation. The continental position with coasts on two oceans gives rise to extensive areas of jungle and tropical plains in the eastern part of the country. Different societies, governed by chieftains, inhabited the diverse ecological areas, these societies were specialists in goldwork.They used gold as the main material to create pieces of jewelry. One of the reasons they used it was its abundance; however, not less was the importance these cultures gave to the myth, the ritual, the legend, and even, the superstition. This can be demonstrated by detail and care with which the pieces are made, jewels which were buried with their owners, accompanying them and protecting them in their journey to eternity. Among the most outstanding Pre-Columbian cultures were: Chibchas, one of the biggest and highly developed includes Taironas and Muiscas; Sinu, Quimbaya, Tolima, Cauca, Calima, Nariño, San Agustin, Tierraentro, Malagana. They produced accomplished goldwork and pottery. The wealth of the local Indians promulgated the myth of El Dorado, Spanish for "the gilded one", a name applied, first, to the king or chief priest of the Muiscas - a South American tribe - who was said to cover himself with gold dust at a religious festival held in Lake Guatavita, near present-day Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia. El Dorado (Spanish for "the gilded one"), a name applied, first, to the king or chief priest of the Muiscas - a South American tribe - who was said to cover himself with gold dust at a religious festival held in Lake Guatavita, near present-day Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia. The ceremony took place on the appointment of a new ruler. Before taking office, he spent some time secluded in a cave, without women, forbidden to eat salt and chili pepper, or to go out during daylight. The first journey he had to make was to go to the great lagoon of Guatavita, to make offerings and sacrifices to the demon which they worshipped as their god and lord. During the ceremony, which took place at the lagoon, they made a raft of rushes, embellishing and decorating it with the most attractive things they had. They put on it four lighted bowls in which they burned much moque, which was the incense of these people, and also resin and many other perfumes. The lagoon was large and deep, so that a ship with high sides could sail on it, all loaded with men and women dressed in fine plumes, golden plaques and crowns. As soon as those on the raft began to burn incense, they also lit bowls on the shore, so that the smoke hid the light of day. At this time they stripped the heir to his skin, and anointed him with a sticky earth on which they placed gold dust so that he was completely covered with this metal. They placed him on the raft and at his feet they placed a great heap of gold and emeralds for him to offer to his god. In the raft with him went four principal subject chiefs, decked in plumes, crowns, bracelets, pendants and earrings, all of gold. They, too, were naked, and each one carried his offering. When the raft reached the centre of the lagoon, they raised a banner as a signal for silence. The gilded Indian then would throw out the pile of gold into the middle of the lake, and the chiefs who had accompanied him did the same on their own accounts. After this, they lowered the flag, which had remained up during the whole time of offering. As the raft moved towards the shore, the shouting began again, with pipes, flutes, and large teams of singers and dancers. With this ceremony, the new ruler was received, and was recognized as lord and king. The Muisca towns and their treasures quickly fell to the conquistadores. Taking stock of their newly won territory, the Spaniards realized that - in spite of the quantity of gold in the hands of the Indians - there were no golden cities, nor even rich mines, since the Muiscas obtained all their gold from outside. But at the same time, they began to hear stories of El Dorado from captured Indians, and of the rites which used to take place at the lagoon of Guatavita. There were Indians still alive who had witnessed the last Guatavita ceremony, and the stories these Indians told were consistent. El Dorado became a myth and a dream; a city, personage or kingdom, it always lay beyond the next range of mountains, or deep in the unexplored forests. The search for this other, non-existent, El Dorado, in various parts of South America, was to occupy men's efforts for another two centuries.

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