The Andes (Andina Region).
The Colombian landscape is rough and rugged. Caused primarily by the forces concentrated in the Andes cordillera because of the constant friction between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. The Andes lies in the middle of the country between the Carribean and Pacific coast. The northern Andes in Colombia consists of three mountain ranges separated by valleys and high plateaus : The western mountain range (cordillera occidental), the central mountain range ( cordillera central) , and the eastern mountain range (cordillera oriental). The three mountain ranges are part of the northern Andes system (Andean Region of Colombia), and divide the country in two deep valleys the valleys of Cauca and Magdalena River. The peaks of these mountain ranges are higher than 4000 meters above see level. While the central and eastern mountain ranges have peaks of more than 5000 meters covered with eternal snow. Between these peaks there are high plateau’s (altiplanos). Most important high plateau from an economical perspective is the one onwhich Bogota grew: The Cundiboyacan high plateau
The Cundiboyacan high plateau are in fact three high plateaus with a southwestern to northeastern orientation: the savana of Bogotá, the Tunja-Sogamoso-Tota Lake valley plateau and the high plateau of Samaca-Villa de Leyva. The Cundiboyacan high plateau has a length of 250 km and lies on a hight between the 2000 and 3000 meters above see level
The high plateau is situated in the tropics because of its proximity to the equator but because of its altitude and relief weather circumstances are much more moderate and unpredictable.
When the Spanish in march 1537 arrived on the Muisca territories on the altiplano of Cundi-boyaca, they had covered a great distance through forests along the Magdalena River and mountains that them almost a year. When they finally reached the plateau Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada saw “ a panorama full of numerous crops and smoke from many hearths, indicating the presence of people: a rich well provisioned region crossed by hills, forests, meadows and rivers” . Conquistador Juan de Castellano described as: Good land, Good Land ! Land that puts to an end our sorrows! Land of gold, land well provisioned. Land to build houses, land with abundant food, land of big towns, wide lands, land where you see people wear clothes, and sometimes the grilled meat doesn’t taste bad.
The Climate on the Cundiboyacan high plateau (Bogota & Savanna) is characterized by two rainy seasons: from April to May and from October to November with their peak periods in April and November (known as winter) and two dry seasons: in august and from December to February. Peak summer months are January and June. But the climate in and around Bogota is very unpredictable and there can also be torrential rains in the summer (dry period). Even in the city of Bogota the climate can very between neighborhoods as the eastern ridges effect winds and rains.
On the south of this high plateau the Savanna of Bogota is located: with the cities of Bogota and Zipaquira. This plateau of the Savanna of Bogota was a salt lake 12000 years ago. The salt lake gradually vanished uncovering the Savanna that we know today with it’s fertile lands and salt deposits.
The paramos are a unique ecosystem that only exist in a few places in the world on heights between 3.300-4.200 meters above see-level. In South America paramos can be found in the northern part of the Andes with concentrations inVenezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
In Colombia there are important Paramos on the cordillera oriental near Bogota; like for example the Chingazo Paramo Park that is an important source of Water for the Bogotan Water Company (El Acueducto de Bogota), and the Paramo of the Sumapaz which the Muiscas believed to be very sacred as the place of the origin of men, and a place to which people should not enter. Not strange considering the cloudy, misty, and cold and wet environment of this landscape. It is a source of water and it is the spring of rivers and lakes. Mosses, grasses, and low bushes and scrubs grow here. Other Paramos can be found in the Sierra Nevada near Santa Marta.
Lots of mysteries are still surrounding the almost 300 sculptures that represent human and animal forms in San Augustin. The San Augustin sculptures of humans look in way happy. Different groups of sculptures can be visited in a beautiful green landscape with hills and forests. Near San Augustin the biggest concentration of statues can be foundin the archeological park of San Augustin where the so called forest of statues, and the spring of Lavapatas can be visited .
The rock carvings in the spring show the importance this culture put on this place where water is born from the earth. It is believed that the culture that carved and erected The San Agustín sculptures and excavated tombs to bury their important persons abandoned the sites . The monuments did not attract attention from people outside of the local community living there until finally they were rediscovered during the 18th and 19th centuries. Which led to disturbance and looting of the monumental tombs. In the beginning of the 20th century a part of this stone family was shipped to Europe to end up in museums back in the days that these sculptures were valued differently. Now the sculptures are caressed by local community and tourist alike, and San Augustin was declared a world heritage site in 1995.
San Augustin can be reached from Neiva and it takes around 4 hours by car or bus.
Medellin is known as the city of eternal spring (La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera) because of the climate, flowers and vegatation. This attracts many tourists. In august the city celebrates the fair of flowers (Desfile de Silleteros).
The Medellin José María Córdova International Airport lies near the town of Rio Negro on the so called Rionegro-Santa Rosa Altiplano on an altitude of 2,142 meter above see-level. The city centre of Medellin lies in the Aburrá-valley that is carved out by the river that has the same name as the city: the Medellin-river. The valley is totally urbanized and also has high population on the ridges of the valley. The city sprawls on the slopes of the valley of this part of the Andes that descends from 1800 meters to 1500 meters along the Medellin-river. But in the urban area also heights of 2500 meters and above are reached such as : Alto Padre Amaya (3.100 m), Alto Patio Bonito (2.750 m), Alto Boquerón (2.600 m), Alto Venteadero (2.500 m) and Alto Las Cruces (2.400 m). A network of cablecars (metro-cable) connect the lower lying city centre with the more periferic higher lying low income neighborhoods. A cablecar even connects the city with the natural park Arvi on the eastern mountains. This park has ecological and indigenous trails, and even a camping . Regularly cultural and gastronomic events are held in this park . Medellin is the second most populated city of Colombia (After Bogota) and there is a strong sense of protecting the environment, like in other big Colombian cities.
Medellin above all is a success story in terms of urban and social renewal. The capital of the province of Antioquia, Medellin once was one of the most violent cities due to the narcotics-business, social problems and conflicts between para military and left wing guerrilla groups. Medellin got stigmatized by being open of the most violent cities in the world.
But the city transformed itself into a reborn save and vibrant city with that attracts more and more tourists, trade and innovation. Medellin is the only city with a rail system used for public transport and is known for its design and progressive architectural and urban projects focused on marginalized communities (also called social urbanism) Examples of this are the Tomás Carrasquilla Library that was built in a marginal low income neighborhood , the Botanical Park and the Metro Cable that connected this and other once marginalized neighborhoods.
A Paisa is considered everyone born in Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda y Quindio. Important in the definition of Paisa is the contradiction with coastal Costeños and Bogotan Rolos. In which Paisas are said to get up early, work hard, and to give importance to traditions. In many ways Paisa Culture has strong ties with folklore and coffee hacienda culture, and considered to be traditional. Traditional dishes are the Bandeja Paisa, Mazamorra & arepa.
Villa de Leyva
A two and a half hour drive from Bogota on the cordillera oriental of the Andes lies the beautiful town of Villa de Leyva. The road to Villa de Leyva leads us across the high peaks of the eastern cordillera that separate Bogota from the town. The landscape around the town is very varied; In the direct area of the town in the beautiful department of Boyacá there is an arid desert (Desert of the Candelaria) as well as the paramo and lake of Iguaqe lat lies on an altitude between 2400-2800. This area is very important for the flora and fauna as well as for the water-supply for the neighboring villages and rivers. This was considered sacred for the Muiscas that with its waters through its rivers gave life to earth and humanity in this part of the Andes. From this lake it was believed surged the goddess Bachué with a baby in her right hand who according to Muiscas is the mother of Humanity to enter the forest without knowing the name of the baby. The baby would become the father of Humanity and both bringers of all life on earth. The legend tells that after she accomplished the goal of giving birth to humanity, Bachué and her husband became snakes and returned to the sacred lagoon
In the Cretaceous period 145 million years ago( before that tectonic forces created the Andes) this area was a inland sea. This geologic period was relatively warm and the creatures that then lived (marine reptiles and ammonites) are now extinct. The period ended with an catastrophe thought to be caused by an impact of a asteroid in the bay of Mexico that caused the extinction of many species. But the area around Villa de Leyva is a treasure of fossils and many fossils are also used in streets and buildings of the town. The town that was founded in 1572 has is a beautiful example of mainly colonial architecture built around a large main square (120 by 120 meters) and is one of the largest main squares of the americas. Villa de Leyva is nowadays a popular town to visit for people from both people from Bogota and international visitors to pass the weekend.
The town and surroundings have a lot of cultural and recreational activities to offer. And there are a lot of hotels and restaurants in the area.