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Colombia History

  • Stunning Cathedral in Cartagena
  • Cartagena

Before Europeans arrived in what is now Colombia, the area was inhabited by various Amerindian tribes who lived throughout the continent. While these tribes embarked on trade with other groups, they developed small civilizations relatively independent of each other. The two main tribes that developed in Colombia were the Taironas who were based in the Caribbean and the Muiscas who inhabited the highlands around Bogotá. Descendants from these tribes still exist in Colombia today.

While Colombia is named for Christopher Colombus, the Italian explorer never actually visited the area. Instead, the first European to step foot in present-day Colombia was Alonso de Ojeda who arrived in 1499. The early Europeans were amazed by the wealth of the local populations which spurred the myth of El Dorado, a kingdom that held an abundance of gold. It was this search for El Dorado that brought the Spaniards to Colombia which resulted in quick colonization. The earliest surviving town, Santa Maria, was established in 1525 followed by Cartagena on the coast in 1533.  After years of quarelling between the local populations and the settlers, King Charles V of Spain brought the area under the control of the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1550.

Later in the 16th century, slaves were brought to Colombia from Africa and during the 16th and 17th centuries, the number of slaves who arrived began to outnumber the indigenous populations. As Spanish dominance grew not only in Colombia but throughout the continent, protests also began to grow. Discontent amongst the indigenous people, mixed-raced Creoles and lower-class Spanish immigrants was rampant. This discontent culminated in a series of rebellions led by Simon Bolívar in 1819. The success of these rebellions resulted in the independence of South American countries including Colombia on 7 August 1819.

In 1849, two political parties were formed in Colombia, the Conservatives and the Liberals. The rivalry between these two parties had a great impact on the country due to frequent insurrections and civil wars. The most violent of these civil wars happened almost one hundred years after the two parties were formed. La Violencia began in 1948 and with a death toll of nearly 300,000 people, it was one of the bloodiest conflicts the western hemisphere had seen.

The 1980s marked the beginning of the cocaine boom in Colombia. The money from the drugs played a role in many parts of Colombian society and economy and gradually made its way into politics. The war on drugs was a hard one with many casualties and the nation desperately needed help. They turned to Álvaro Uribe during the 2002 presidential elections and he remained president until 2010. With aid from the US, Uribe achieved significant results in the fight against illegal armed groups, and violence, as well as the production of cocaine, decreased.

Recent decades have witnessed a vast improvement in Colombia and the economy is growing.  The future is optimistic as the country is emerging as a hotspot for South American tourism.  Once famous only for drug dealers and civil unrest, Colombia is now becoming known as a beautiful country with friendly people who enjoy welcoming international visitors. A nation is truly a remarkable place that is just waiting to be discovered.



Colombia Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Colombia.

Learn about the history and culture of Colombia, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Colombia's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Colombia for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Colombia tours today!


Extend Your Trip

After your Colombia tours, why not consider another of Goway's Latin America tours. These include a large selection of other exciting countries in Central and South America. We offer Chile vacation packages and Easter Island tours, Ecuador vacation packages which include Galapagos cruisesPeru vacation packages which include Machu Picchu tours and Brazil tours including Iguassu Falls tours among many others.



Book your Colombia tour with Goway! 

LATIN AMERICA by Goway is an exclusive division that specializes in planning and organizing Colombia tours, vacations and experiences. Choose from a simple city stopover, enjoy a small group tour, an independent travel module and much more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Colombia.

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