Colombia’s history is as diverse as its landscape. As the gateway to South America from the North American continent, and owing to its strategic location at the confluence the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, the country has naturally attracted travelers and settlers for centuries.
The country is popularly believed to have been part of route the first native humans traversed while migrating South from North and Central America. While most such migrant populations traveled further southwards, such as the Incas, many smaller groups settled in isolated areas across the Andean region. Some of these civilizations also left behind interesting pottery and intricate goldwork, now displayed in museums that you can visit on your Colombia tour with us.
In 1499, the Spanish arrived at Santa Marta, led by Alonso de Ojeda, a companion to Christopher Columbus who Colombia is named after. The Spanish were astounded by the prolific amount of gold owned by the local people, which ultimately spawned the legend of El Dorado, leading to aggressive Spanish colonization of the country. Nearly 30 years later, the Spanish founded Cartagena to become a doorway to the country, eventually evolving into a prolific center for trade and commerce. On your Enchanting Travels tour, discover the towering fortifications constructed by the Spanish to protect Cartagena.
Driven by their desire for gold, Spanish Conquistadors journeyed further into the interiors of Columbia towards the territory of the Muiscas – an advanced indigenous civilization who were settled in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes. The Spanish city of Santa Fe de Bogota was established within Muisca territory and today, it serves as the national capital. Around the same time, the cities of Popayan and Cali were established by rival Conquistadors, who then battled for supremacy until King Carlos V of Spain brought the city under the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1550. Today, the many carefully preserved colonial buildings and religious traditions of Popayan lay testament to Spanish influence.
The Spanish ruled Colombia for nearly 250 years, transporting thousands of African slaves into the country and stamping out the indigenous people in their wake. Cartagena became the largest slave trading port in all of Latin America. Just south of Cartagena, let our experts leads you to San Basilio de Palenque – a unique and charming village founded by escaped African slaves. While power remained exclusively in the hands of the Spanish, the existing racial groups began to mingle among each other, creating a unique mix of African, European and native Indian races. In the late 18th century, frustrated with the taxes levied by the Crown, native Colombians openly rose in revolt against the Spanish colonial powers for first time.
Famed Venezuelan general Simon Bolivar defeated the Spanish in the early 1800s and won independence for Colombia. Built in tribute to the great liberator, discover Bolivar Square in Bogota.
Independent Colombia was initially a part of a larger nation called New Granada, only to separate in 1835. A time of political turmoil followed, with the rise of regional factions and widespread civil wars in the 19th century. Following the War of a Thousand Days, the USA swept in to build and control the famous Panama Canal leading to a dispute resulting in the liberation of Panama as an autonomous nation.
An era of violence tore Colombia apart in the mid-20th century, as Conservatives and Liberals battled each other. Encouraged by wealthy landowners looking for power, guerilla factions became active across the country. Several guerrilla groups, including a paramilitary group called the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), battled the government for nearly 20 years. Fuelled by the burgeoning drug trade that included the infamous empire of Pablo Escobar, guerrilla sympathizers took over the countryside.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Colombia has successfully set up a democratically elected Presidential regime.
The controversial politician Alvaro Uribe has done much to stabilize the nation, pushing back military groups, approving Hollywood-esque rescues of high-profile kidnap victims and leading the country toward much needed peace and progress.
Today, with a steady rise in trade and commerce, safety measures, better infrastructure, and tourism, Colombia is steadily rising from the ashes of turmoil much like the proverbial phoenix.