This region extends for 1.600 km (994 miles) along the Caribbean coast. It comprises desert on the peninsula of La Guajira; mountains covered by rainforest and perennial snow that form the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain in the world (5.770 meters above sea level); cienagas (swamps) and plains in the departments of Magdalena, Cesar and Sucre; bays with white sandy beaches such as the Gulf of Morrosquillo; jungles in the Gulf of Uraba, and a dazzling view of the Caribbean.
Near Cartagena lie the archipelagos of Rosario and San Bernardo, coral paradises with islets of mangrove. Some 700 km (435 miles) from the coast, the archipelago of San Andres and Old Providence forms an oasis of life amid the sea, with islands, keys and reefs spread over 500 km (311 miles).
The longest mountain range in the world, the Andes enters Colombia in the Nudo de los Pastos in the south of the country, where it divides into two. In the Colombian Massif, the country’s main hydrographic star, it separates into three mountain chains that cross Colombia from south to north and create a rugged terrain, with peaks higher than 5.300 meters above sea level, expansive highland plains, deep canyons and broad valleys.
These three mountain chains, crowned by perennial snow, boggy paramos, Andean rainforests, deserts and marshes, produce terrain that varies with altitude and whose fertile soils support an immense variety of crops. They are also where the majority of the country’s population live.
The Pacific Coast
Stretching for 1.300 km (808 miles), the Pacific coast is one of the wettest regions on Earth, with a rainfall of over 10.000 mm3 per year. The northern part, where the hills of Baudó sink into the ocean forming bays and sounds, is a jungle region of great biodiversity. The flatter south is bordered by cliffs and beaches lined with mangrove and crossed by wide rivers.
Located 56 km. from the coast, the islands of Gorgona and Gorgonilla — one of the country’s national parks — are sanctuaries of flora and fauna. Their waters are visited by enormous humpbacked whales arriving from the South Pacific, while more than 300 km. from the coast, the island rock of Malpelo emerges from the depths of the ocean, surrounded by remarkable underwater life.
This vast region, which extends as far as the river Orinoco on the border with Venezuela, is a plain that spreads out eastwards, its savannas spotted with scrub and riverain forests. Crossed by broad rivers, the Orinoquia covers over 230.000 km2 (2 475 699 square feet), representing 20% of the country. The Serrania de La Macarena rises in the southwest, a formation independent of the Andes and endowed with an immense biodiversity, in which natural elements of the Andes, the Amazon and the Orinoquia merge.
Of the 6.8 million km2 (2 625 483 square miles) of jungle that make up the Amazon basin, 400.000 km2 (154 440 square miles) belong to Colombia. This immense region, considered the lung of the Earth and one of the largest genetic banks of animal and vegetable species, is inhabited by numerous Indian communities who continue to preserve their ancestral way of life.