How Many States Are In Colombia?
Colombia is divided in regions, and departments. Here are some clues to place you on the political map of the country.
Where is Colombia located?
Colombia is a relatively large country with 1,142 million km² of territory. You provably wonder where is Colombia located and, as you do your research, you’ll find out it is right on the north edge of South America. Colombia’s neighboring countries are Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, and Peru. It has a privileged geography, with two oceans (Atlantic and Pacific Ocean), robust jungles, mesmerizing mountains, large paramos, and vibrant cities. So, how is it divided?
Six regions, thirty-two departments
Before asking yourself how to get to Colombia, you first have to understand that it is divided in five very different regions. Every region is a different weather, landscape, and experience. Instead of having states, Colombia is dived in departments, 32 in total.
The Caribbean Region
We have the Caribbean Region right on the north side of Colombia. It has a desert, the largest mountain by the sea that is topped with snow ––The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta––, it has the Caribbean ocean, and also green savannahs. The Caribbean region is divided in eight departments:
- La Guajira: It has a beautiful desert by the Atlantic Ocean. One of the largest indigenous communities in the country live in La Guajira, the Wayuus.
- Atlantico: The capital of Atlantico is Barranquilla, the main city of the Caribbean region. It is the city where Shakira was born, and home of the Barranquilla Carnival.
- Magdalena: With some of the most beautiful beaches of the Colombian Caribbean, it is the land of la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
- Bolivar: It has long rural territories, and its capital is Cartagena, the first touristic destination in the country for its historical backgrounds, colonial infrastructure, and Caribbean Islands.
- Cordoba: It has a tradition of cattle raising and art craft. It has large savannahs with lots of crops of cotton. During harvest season, it looks like it was snowing with 30ºC. Cordoba is fertile land because it is pierced by the Sinu river.
- Sucre: It shares part of the insular beauty of the region with Cartagena and San Andes.
- Cesar: Luscious green, Cesar is the place where Vallenato, the traditional music genre from Colombia, was born.
The Andina Region
The Andina Region is the largest region of Colombia. It is traversed by the three Andean mountain rage that go through the country. It is composed by thirteen departments:
- Antioquia: This department has a very particular idiosyncrasy, partially because of its isolation during the year of the Spanish colonization. Antioquia’s capital, Medellin, is considered one of the most innovative cities in the world.
- Boyaca: It is the historical department where Simon Bolivar fought the final battle to gain the Gran Colombia’s independence. It is highland, with some part of desert. It has architectural beauties, like Villa de Leyva; and natural beauties like the Pisba Paramo, and the Cocuy Sierra Nevada.
- Caldas, Quindio, and Risaralda: These three departments are an important treasure because they host the Colombian coffee belt. Some of the best coffee in the world is produced in these beautiful lands. You can also find the Ruiz Nevado, and wax palm forests.
- Caquetá: During the pre-columbine period, this department was inhabited by a numerous of indigenous communities. Some of them still exists. It part of the northern side of the Amazonas jungle.
- Cundinamarca: It is the third most populated departments in the country. It has the Sumapaz paramo, and historical landscapes like the Guatavita lagoon and the Salto de Tequendama, where Spanish colonizers found many pieces of gold. Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is located in the middle of Cundinamarca.
- Bogota DC: It is the capital city of Colombia. It is located on top of a mountain and it has an autumn weather all year long.
- Huila: This department is also one of the coffee capitals of the country. Huila has many archeological treasures that preserve some of the oldest indigenous communities from 1600 BC, like the San Agustin desert.
- Santander and Norte de Santander: These two departments are the closest urban areas to Venezuela. Because of Colombian shared geography with Venezuela, Santander and Norte de Santander preserve many spots that narrate their history. They also have natural beauties like the Chicamocha Canyon; colonial architecture towns, like Barichara; and the perfect place for extreme sports, San Gil.
- Tolima: This department has different thermal floors, and it is also the land of one of the bravest indigenous peoples, the pijaos. One of Tolima’s beauties is the Prado Dam.
The Oriniquia Region
It is also known as the Eastern Plains, because this region’s land is conformed mostly by grasslands, it has plenty of river basins, and a lush vegetation. The Orinoquia Region is divided in four departments:
- Meta: It right in the middle of Colombia, Meta is only three hours away from Bogota by car. It hosts part of the paramo ecosystem of the country.
- Arauca: Within this small territory live the Cocuy Sierra Nevada, the foothills of the plains, and the alluvial plains of the Orinoco river.
- Casanare: Part of the Eastern mountain range of the Andes go through this department.
- Vichada: It is a lively green department with extensive plains. You can find the National Park El Tuparro in Vichada.
The Pacific Region
Choco: It is one of the richest departments in diversity and beauty. It has the Darien Jungle, and the Pacific coast, where you can see whales during their mating season from July to November. Towns like Nuqui and Coqui are wonderful places to get in touch with the Afro Colombian culture so present in Choco.
Valle del Cauca: One of the three most powerful departments, Valle del Cauca is filled with sugar cane plantations. It’s capital, Cali, is also the capital of salsa in Colombia. Malpelo Island is part of Valle del Cauca.
Cauca: It is one of the department with more water sources, and potential for the generation of hydraulic energy.
Nariño: It is the closest department to Ecuador, and has one of the most famous religious destinations: Las Lajas Sanctuary. Pasto (its capital) has a popular carnival that takes place in January. The Blancos y Negros Carnival.
The Amazonia Region
Amazonas: It is right on the bottom of the country. Amazonas in completely composed by the Amazonia Jungle, and it also has the triple border between Peru, Brazil, and Colombia.
Caqueta: With the exception of a few people living on the feet of the Andes, and some indigenous people, Caqueta is an unoccupied humid tropical forest.
Guainia: Some of the most beautiful and unexplored landscapes of Colombia are in Guainia. The Mavecure hills, and Puinawai National Park, among others are part of its appealing.
Guaviare: Right between Caqueta and Guaviare rises one of the best kept secrets of Colombia, hidden by the long-armed conflict that took place in the country for more than 50 years. The Chiribiquete Natural Park. It is known that uncontacted indigenous peoples live within this protected area.
Putumayo: This department has been a great destination for ecotourism during the past few years because of its biodiversity.
Vaupes: The transition from the grasslands of the Eastern Plains to the Amazonia Jungle occurs in Vaupes.
The Insular Region
San Andrés y Providencia: This archipelago is the oceanic border Colombia shares with Nicaragua, and because of its proximity to the insular Caribbean it also shares cultural features with nearby islands. The ocean, the reef, the people, and the beautiful islander architecture are some San Andres and Providencia attractions.