Colombia Geography and Population

By | December 15, 2021

Colombia is a state of South America. It borders to the NW with Panama, to the SW with Ecuador, to the South with Peru, to the SE with Brazil, to the East and NE with Venezuela ; it has a total of 5240 km of land borders and 2900 km of coastline (1600 km on the Caribbean Sea, to the North, and 1300 km on the Pacific, to the W).


Colombia is mountainous in the W, for over a quarter of its surface, and low and flat in the E. The mountainous region corresponds to the northern section of the Andean system and is divided into three subparallel ranges: the Western Cordillera (alt. Max 3900 m), between the Atrato and San Juan valleys towards the Pacific Ocean (from which the more modest hills of the Chocó separate them) and the Cauca valley towards the hinterland; the Central Cordillera, between the Cauca and Magdalena valleys, including volcanoes over 5000 m, such as Nevado Huila (5365 m) and Nevado del Ruiz, the latter responsible for a disastrous eruption in November 1985; finally, the Eastern Cordillera, which reaches almost 5500 m in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy and includes vast plateaus at 2000-3000 m. AN of the Eastern Cordillera the Sierra de Perija (3750 m) still develops and further on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which involves the highest elevation of the country (5775 m) and reaches the Caribbean Sea, into which the Guajira peninsula extends. The coast is for the most part low and marshy, covered by savannahs (llanos) in the Caribbean section, by forests in the peaceful one. A series of vast lowlands (East) occupies more than half of the country’s surface, but is almost devoid of residents: the northern part falls within the llanos of the Orinoco, while the southern section, where rainforests prevail, falls into the Amazon basin. At the southern end, a territorial offshoot (Leticia corridor) theoretically allows the Colombia to access navigation on the Amazon River. The Colombia is subject to earthquakes, including violent ones, such as those of 1868 (30,000 victims) and 1983, and volcanic eruptions. For Colombia 2017, please check

The climate is equatorial along the Pacific coast and in the Amazonian stretch, subequatorial in the llanos; in the Andean region conditions vary according to altitude: as in other regions of Latin America, it is customary to distinguish tierras calientes (below 1000 m, with average annual temperatures even above 30 ° C), tierras templadas (1000-2000 m) and tierras frías (over 3000 m), where there is a climate with modest annual excursion and temperatures that drop with increasing altitude. Precipitation is relatively modest along the Caribbean Sea (average 1000 mm) and in the strictly mountainous bands of the cordillera; abundant in the rest of the country, they exceed 7000 mm (maximum rainfall in South America) in the Chocó.

The most imposing of the many watercourses that drain the Colombian territory is the Magdalena (1480 km long, about 250,000 km 2 of basin): a large number of tributaries converge there, first of all the Cauca (about 100 km plus short), so that its average flow at the mouth is around 6000 m 3 / s; the Atrato (560 km), whose flow (5000 m 3 / s) derives not from the vastness of the basin, but from the intense rainfall of the Chocó from which it comes, also discharges into the Caribbean Sea. The eastern Colombia drains to the Atlantic via various large tributaries of the Orinoco (such as Meta and Guaviare, which exceed 1000 km) and the Amazon River (Caquetá-Japurá, 2200 km; Putumayo, 1850). The rivers on the Pacific side are more modest.

The vegetation of the Caribbean coastal region and a large part of the hinterland (especially in the Orinoco basin) is typically that of the llanos; in the Amazon area the equatorial forest prevails, and so on part of the Pacific coast. The tropical forest dominates the Andean mountainous area up to 1500 m; between 1500 m and 3300 subtropical and temperate forests grow; beyond, up to the limit of permanent snow, the high mountain pastures (páramos) develop.


A salient feature of the population of Colombia, as in other Andean countries, is the lack of homogeneity: from the ethnic point of view, the main components are made up of mestizos (47%), mulattoes (23%), whites (20%), blacks (6%), while the Amerindians are reduced to 1%; from the distributive point of view, at least 3/4 of the residents live on the mountain ranges, in the tierras templadas and in the tierras frías, and on part of the Caribbean coast; for large extensions of the eastern lowlands, on the other hand, a density of 1 residents/km 2 is hardly reached. The population is constantly growing, albeit at a rate that has halved in less than 30 years (1.6% per year in the 1999-2004 period, compared to 3% in the 1970s), and tends to be concentrated in cities (75 % of the total population). By far the most populous city is the capital, Bogotá, at 2640 m above sea level on the edge of a vast plateau, which is now approaching 8 million residents (2007) in the urban agglomeration. It hosts a significant industrial sector, as well as public administration and high-level services even in the most advanced sectors, but which at the same time suffers from an unregulated and continuous growth, which has led to the formation of vast ‘informal’ areas (barrios) that surround. Medellín follows by residents, on the west side of the Central Cordillera (about 3.3 million), an important industrial and tertiary city; Cali, in the upper Cauca valley (2.5 million), another industrial center of great importance; Barranquilla, at the mouth of the Magdalena (1.7), the main port of the country, especially for oil exports. One of the reasons for the growth of the urban population, in addition to those that typically occur in all countries in the process of modernization, lies in the conditions of poor security in large regions of Colombia, the scene of armed clashes between the army and police forces, semi-clandestine paramilitary groups, revolutionary guerrilla organizations, drug traffickers. The stake is increasingly clearly the material control of the territory: from agricultural land (for the production of marijuana, opium poppy and coca or legal export crops) to mineral exploration, from forest exploitation to the provision of infrastructures, also in view of the possible construction of an interoceanic canal (or an intermodal infrastructure passing from the Atlantic to the Pacific) alternative to that of Panama, which should exploit the courses of the Atrato (on the Atlantic side) and of the Truandó (on the Pacific). In the first place, the rural civilian population, whose presence limits the freedom of maneuver of the actors involved, and which is therefore intimidated or forcibly expelled: according to estimates by international agencies, there are as many as 3 million. internal refugees (desplazados), mainly taking refuge in the cities. Social imbalances add to demographic ones and are only slowly diminishing,

The official language is Spanish, but Chibcha and Amazonian languages ​​are common. 92% of the population is Catholic; but, especially among the Amerindians, traditional cults survive.

Colombia Geography