From Narcos to Blow, you may have heard many facts about Colombia that ranged from the interesting to the downright terrifying. But this beautiful country is a far cry from the drug-torn Hollywood mock-up of the 1970s and 80s. In fact, many facts about Colombia will both interest and surprise you – here are some of the best!
Why is Colombia So Special?
When planning a trip to South America, many people leave Colombia off their list in favor of better-known destinations like Brazil, Chile, and Peru. However, there is so much to discover about this nation that you could spend months or even years there and still learn something new every day!
One of many Colombia facts is just how it got its name. Invaded by Spanish explorers in 1499, Colombia was named for the famous Christopher Colombus – however, despite the name, he never set foot in the country!
The Colombian flag is even a nod to Spanish colonization. The colors – a thick horizontal yellow stripe above a thinner blue line and red bar – symbolize Colombia’s separation from Spanish rule.
Following the incredible revolution in 1810, Colombian patriots reclaimed the country for themselves, and July 20 is still celebrated every year as Colombia’s independence day.
Nowadays, one of the facts about Colombians is that they are amongst some of the most patriotic people on the planet. With love for life, food, and all things good, the country has stepped away from some of its darker past and now embraces its identity with incredible cuisine, festivals, and celebrations of life.
26 Fun Facts About Colombia
Colombia is a rich and diverse country with incredible natural scenery, environment, and culture. Here are 26 fun facts about Colombia that you may not know (but will never forget!)
Facts About Colombia – Diversity
Colombia Is The Second Most Biodiverse Country In The World
Second only to its neighbor Brazil, Colombia is one of 17 countries classed as ‘megadiverse.’ Around 10 percent of every species on Earth can be found in Colombia, with every animal and flora thriving in the rich and varied environments scattered around this vast country.
From thick jungles and forests to expansive open deserts and savannahs, Colombia has the environment to support any kind of wildlife. So if you’re a David Attenborough fan, make sure to add Colombia to the top of your travel list!
Colombia Has The Most Diverse Birdlife On The Planet
For keen birdwatchers, this fun fact about Colombia is for you! 1958 known bird species live in Colombia, with 80 of them endemic to the country. This comprises around one-fifth of all bird species worldwide, making this beautiful place a paradise for ornithologists.
Colombia has over 100 indigenous groups
The original residents of Colombia, many of these indigenous groups called the Amazon home. Due to Colombia’s vast and varied climate, these groups developed cultures independently, with some adapting to enormous open savannahs and others flourishing in swamps and jungles.
Before Christopher Colombus came to the country, there were believed to be over 250 indigenous groups living and thriving independently of each other across Colombia. Many of the local customs, like tejo, are thought to have developed from the games and traditions of these groups.
The Greatest Number Of Endemic Species Of Anywhere In The World
The biodiversity facts about Colombia strike again! Colombia is not only incredibly diverse in flora and fauna, but it is also home to many species that ONLY call this magical country home.
There are over 9000 species that are only found in Colombia – due to the perfect natural conditions and diverse climates, bird and wildlife species like the Pink Amazonian River Dolphins, the Santa Marta parakeet, and the Orinoco crocodile can only be found inside the country’s borders.
So whether you’re trekking through the Amazon, or exploring the fantastic, rambling deserts, you are bound to come across some form of unique animal or plant life that you will, quite literally, never find anywhere else.
Facts About Colombia Industries
Colombia Is The #3 Exporter Of Coffee Beans Worldwide
While Brazil and Vietnam take out the #1 and #2 spot, Colombia’s rich, bold beans are still a favorite the world over. There are over half a million coffee farming families in Colombia, but most of these beans are never used in their homeland! Instead, the high demand for coffee sees them sent overseas, with countries like Japan and the US amongst the biggest buyers.
If you want to try some local brews, look for restaurants and cafés selling ‘single-origin coffee, most prevalent in regions like Santa Marta.
Another interesting fact about Colombia? Coffee beans aren’t actually native to the country! While the diverse environment is ideal for growing the plant, coffee was imported from Spain in the 18th century, where it became a trademark of the nation.
Colombia Is #2 In Flower Exportation
This interesting fact about Colombia may not be one that you were expecting, but it’s true! Due to their ideal growing climate, Colombia is able to produce billions of popular flowers like roses, tulips, and orchids, which overseas buyers quickly snap up. In fact, Colombia’s position on the equator means that they are the largest distributor of roses globally, with the United States alone purchasing over 4 billion of the classic love-blooms each year.
Part of the reason for Colombia’s success in the floral production business is its location. To fetch a premium price as romantic gestures, roses must have perfect, straight stems. As roses grow up to the direction of the sun, this means that the most perfect roses will come from an equatorial country like – you guessed it – Colombia!
Colombia Has Over 30 Kinds Of Exotic Fruit
This fact about Colombia is not only interesting, but also delicious! Once again, Colombia’s diverse climate and prime equatorial location make it perfect for growing wide varieties of delicious tropical fruit!
From everyday, well-known species like pineapple and mango, all the way through to araza (a sour fruit grown in the Amazon) and cherimoya (also known as the ‘sugar apple’), there are no limits to the incredibly tasty combinations that can be made into smoothies, fruit salads or desserts.
Facts About Colombian Culture
Colombia Is Home To The Second-Largest Carnival Celebration In South America
This lesser-known Colombia fact could just make your Carnaval unforgettable! Thousands of tourists flock to Rio de Janeiro each year for Carnaval, but the next-largest celebration on the continent often goes unnoticed by major tour companies.
In Barranquilla, this great party takes flight to become an explosion of dancing, singing, and celebration on the Caribbean coast.
This spectacular festival happens every February, so if you’re visiting around this time, adjust your itinerary and make sure to stop by and see the parades of color and light as they dance through the streets.
The Myth Of El Dorado Comes From Colombia
You may not have heard the myth, but you’ve definitely seen the Dreamworks movie! While the city of gold is a myth, it was actually based on a single person, not an entire society.
One of the tribes indigenous to Colombia, the Muisca people, chose their new leader in a similar ceremony. The hopeful would cover himself in gold powder, then travel to the center of a sacred lake where he would give the old gods offerings of gold, emeralds, and other precious objects by throwing them into the water.
Archaeologists have found some of these ancient artifacts, and many reside in the National Museum of Colombia for those interested in learning more about Colombian history.
Colombia Is Often Voted One Of The World’s Happiest Countries
One of the sweetest Colombian fun facts: it is often voted one of the world’s happiest countries! Based on factors like food availability, healthcare, welfare, and overall vitality, Colombia claimed the title of World’s Happiest Nation in 2013 and 2014, and regularly features near the top of the list.
Colombia has the fourth-most public holidays every year
One of the most well-known facts about Colombians is that they love to relax! On average, each Colombian worker is only entitled to around 2-3 weeks of vacation time per year.
However, with 18 official public holidays per year, many can take closer to six weeks off to enjoy themselves with their friends and family. The only countries in the world with more holidays are Iran (27), Sri Lanka (25), and Cambodia (21)
Colombia Has The Most Filling Breakfast Food In The World
If you’re looking for a hangover cure with a twist, look no further than this Columbian fact. Bandeja Paisa, also known as a Colombian Breakfast, is a monstrous offering popular in the Antioquia region.
This colossal breakfast consists of rice, beans, avocado, ground beef, fried egg, plantain, chorizo, and an arepa, and is not for the faint of heart! It is more popular as a lunch or dinner dish today, but the origins of the dish was a filling breakfast for farmers who need a heavy meal before working in the fields.
If there’s one fact about Colombians you need to know, it’s that meals are the centerpiece of every day – so eat up
The National Sport of Colombia is Tejo – not soccer!
While you may have been led to believe that soccer was king in all South American countries, there is one sport that takes precedence over the world’s favorite sport.
Tejo, a popular pastime that signals the transition from boyhood to manhood, involves throwing heavy disks made of metal or clay onto gunpowder landmines buried in the soil. While this might not sound like much, the explosions are made far more amusing by the local beer that is downed between each round.
This Colombian fun fact is not for the weak of heart, so see if you can witness a tejo game during your visit – or maybe even participate!
The National Drink of Colombia is Aguardiente
Known to foreigners as straight-up fire water, aguardiente is a sweet, sickly liquor made from cheap sugar cane that is on the verge of going bad. When fermented and treated, the plant develops a rich, almost licorice-like taste that is both fiery and refreshing.
You’ll find aguardiente sold in most markets around Colombia, though it’s best to avoid the ‘moonshine’ version made in people’s homes! Drink it neat, or over ice for the best effect.
Facts About Colombian Geography and Nature
Colombia is Home to the Pink River Dolphins
You may have read this fun fact about Colombia in a National Geographic magazine, but did you know that the dolphins were initially found here?? With uniquely pink skin and a strange body shape, the Amazonian pink dolphins inhabit the deeper, darker waters of the Amazon river away from human settlements. Their skin is believed to have developed as a kind of distraction for potential predators, but no one knows for sure just what has inspired this unique and unusual hue.
Colombia Contains a Portion of the Amazon Rainforest
In fact, around one-third of the entire country is covered by the world’s largest rainforest. With its incredible biodiversity and indigenous people, the Colombian government has placed strict laws to ensure the safety and protection of anything residing within. And, since around 10% of the Amazon is on Colombian land, that’s no small feat!
Colombia has Coastline on Both the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean
Colombia is not all rainforest and parties – they have some of the most amazing beaches in the world! The country is bordered by both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, and each coastline provides a very different vibe depending on what you’re looking for.
Tourists wanting rich, vibrant party life tend to head towards the Caribbean coast. In contrast, anyone wanting a more laidback Colombian experience goes towards the Pacific side. Whichever side you choose, both coasts are absolutely beautiful!
Bogota is one of the Highest Major Cities in the World
This interesting fact about Colombians may make you lightheaded! Acclimatized to the thinner air, the locals managed to build one of the world’s highest major cities at approximately 8,660 feet above sea level. Located in the Andes Mountains, the dazzling views of Colombia’s capital city come with a nasty side effect if you’re not prepared: visitors often become victims to altitude sickness, so make sure that you don’t stay for too long!
Colombia Is Perfect For Long-Range Cyclists
If you’ve ever thought about tackling an ultra-marathon-worthy cycling route, pay attention to this Colombian fact! Altro de Letras is the perfect route for those who wish to tackle a unique and scenic epic journey. However, it’s not for beginners – at well over 187 miles long, this path has a 50-mile incline that will lead you through Colombia’s wilderness to 2.3 miles above sea level. Beginning in Mariquita and finishing at the Paramo de Letras Pass, this route is famous for its difficulty, popularity, and incredible views.
The Deserts of Colombia are Similar to being on the Moon
Anyone who’s ever wanted to travel to space will love this fun Colombian fact! The north Eastern deserts of Colombia are as close to being on the moon as possible without actually leaving the ground. With the barren landscape, rock formations, and life-devoid terrain, future astronauts often use the region to train for space exploration missions.
Be aware: this beautiful desert is home to many indigenous groups, and sacred sites are scattered around the region. However, there are also tour groups that give you the chance to experience ‘life on the moon’!
Colombia Is The 25th Largest Country On Earth
This fact about Colombia may surprise you, but it’s true! With a coastline as long as the U.S. Pacific, and square mile area greater than France and Spain combined, Colombia is one of the largest countries in the world.
This might seem intimidating, but Colombia is also home to one of Earth’s best long-distance bus and public transport systems. So long as you pack enough snacks, sit back, and enjoy the long-scenic bus trips to your next destination.
There Is A Completely Functional Underground Church Made Of Salt
Poland is famous for having the oldest functioning salt mines in the world, but have you heard of the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá? Located 656 feet below ground, this Catholic church was built in 1932 and still functions today as both a consecrated church and tourist attraction. Every year, thousands of tourists and religious enthusiasts visit the sacred site to pay their respects to what may be the most unique church in South America!
Machu Picchu Are Not The Oldest Ruins In South America
Every year, thousands of tourists and adventurers make the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu to gaze upon the incredible Inca citadel ruins located in southern Peru. However, there are even older ruins hidden in Colombia! Lovers of history – this interesting fact about Colombia is for you!
In the Sierra Nevada mountains, a group of local looters stumbled across the ruins of an ancient city that the jungle had reclaimed. Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for ‘Lost City) was declared to be around 650 years older than the famous ruins at Machu Pichu. Soon, treasures from these remains began appearing on the black market around Colombia.
In 1976, four years after its discovery, the Colombian Institute of Anthropology sought it out and began reconstructing it, finishing in 1982. Today, avid tourists can take a four-day hike through the thick jungle to explore the ruins, though this can only be done through reputable tour agencies to preserve the ancient site for future studies.
Fun Facts About Colombians
Colombia Is Incredibly Patriotic
And we mean incredibly. By law, Colombia must play the national anthem twice daily – once at 6 AM and again at 6 PM. So don’t be surprised if you’re out eating dinner and the music suddenly switches off for a couple of minutes. Colombians love their country, and this is one way they show it!
Children Regularly Drink Coffee
If you haven’t already guessed, Colombia is a huge coffee country. Children are often introduced to the beverage very young, though most favor it with milk or heavy cream and sugar. On the other hand, adults will usually imbibe robust and black coffee without any cream or sugar, and believe that the high-quality beans have enough natural sweetness!
Colombia Loves Cosmetic Enhancements!
In fact, this nation is 4th in the world for the procedures performed to reach aesthetic perfection. With breast augmentation and liposuction amongst the most popular offerings, over 75,000 plastic surgery tourists travel to Colombia every year to take part in cheaper cosmetic enhancement. They can then relax for weeks as they recover on scenic beaches – perfect!
Colombian beauty standards prize curves, with procedures such as the ‘Brazilian Bum Lift’ coming to the fore as more and more people request to put some extra bounce in their steps.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Colombia
So there you have it – 26 fun facts about Colombia! While this list barely scratches the surface, there are many other things to do and explore in this beautiful and incredibly diverse country. So when planning your trip to South America, make sure to add this nation to your list – you won’t regret it. Uncover more interesting facts about Colombia firsthand!