Colombia is considered a land of extremes. Its geographic landscape varies from the snow-covered Andes mountains to the tropical beaches of the Caribbean Sea. Due to its variety of ecosystems, Colombia is among the top three countries on the planet in terms of biodiversity.
The Natural and Geographic Landscape of Colombia
Due to its variety of ecosystems, Colombia is among the top three countries on the planet in terms of biodiversity.
Colombia usually classifies its geographic landscape into five, or sometimes six, natural regions.
Pacific/Chocó Natural Region
The Pacific/Chocó Natural Region, also known as the "Colombian Chocó," comprises an area of approximately 75,000 sq km (29,000 sq mi) on the west coast of Colombia. The terrain is mostly flat and covered by dense rainforests, rivers, swamps and mangroves. Some areas experience rainfall rates that are among the highest in the world.
The region is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Cordillera Occidental of the Colombian Andes to the east. To the south is the border with Peru. To the north is the Darién Gap and the border with Panama.
Ecologically, the region belongs entirely to the Chocó Biogeographic Region. Due to a combination of evolutionary, ecological, climatic and geologic factors, this region presents the highest biodiversity concentration per area in the world.
Between 7,000 and 8,000 out of the 45,000 species registered in Colombia are found in the Chocó. Endemic plant species are more than 2,000 while endemic birds comprise more than 100 species, which represent the highest endemism levels on the Planet.
Andean Natural Region
The Andean Natural Region is the most populated natural region of Colombia. Along with its many mountains, it contains most of the country's urban centers. These urban centers were also the location of the most significant pre-Columbian indigenous settlements.
North of the Colombian Massif in the extreme southwest, the Colombian Andes divide into three parallel mountain chains:
Cordillera Occidental: the western range runs adjacent to the Pacific coast and is home to the city of Cali
Cordillera Oriental: the eastern range extends northeast towards the Guajira Peninsula and includes the cities of Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta
Orinoco Natural Region
The sparsely populated region is rich in oil and suitable for extensive ranching. The ecosystems of the region are tropical savanna with gallery forests and wetlands along the rivers.
Amazon Natural Region
The Amazon Natural Region is located in southern Colombia and is situated in the Amazon Basin. Mostly covered by tropical rainforest, it covers approximately 35% of Colombia's total territory.
The region is bounded to the west by the Cordillera Oriental of the Colombian Andes and extends to the Venezuelan and Brazilian borders in the east.
Caribbean Natural Region
The Caribbean Natural Region stretches from the Gulf of Uraga in the west to the Guajira Peninsula in the east. The region also hosts the historic port cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta, the first areas settled by the Europeans.
Ecosystems include humid forests, dry forests, savannas and wetlands as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range and the Guajira Desert.
The Insular Region is considered by some not as a natural region but as a geopolitical region of Colombia. It comprises the areas outside the continental territories of the country, some of which are sometimes classified with the Caribbean Natural Region instead.
The Insular Region includes the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina in the Caribbean Sea as well as Malpelo Island and Gorgona Island in the Pacific Ocean.
Its subregions include other groups of islands:
Archipiélago de San Bernardo (in the Morrosquillo Gulf, Caribbean).
Islas del Rosario (Caribbean)
Isla Fuerte (Caribbean)
Isla Barú (Caribbean)
Isla Tortuguilla (Caribbean)
Isla Tierra Bomba (Caribbean)
Map depicting the natural regions of Colombia
Colombia's complex pattern of climate, soil and topography has produced an extraordinary range of plants and plant communities.
They range from the mangrove swamps of the coasts, the desert scrub of La Guajira, the savanna grasslands and gallery ecosystems of the Atlantic lowlands and the Llanos, the rainforests of the Amazon and Chocó natural regions to the widely diverse and complex montane ecosystems of the Andean slopes.
Moist Forest: tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Dry Forest: tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests
Grasslands: tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands
Montane Grasslands: montane grasslands and shrublands
Desert: deserts and xeric shrublands
Upper Montane Forest
Lower Montane Forest
Dry Forest of the inter-Andean Valleys
Savanna of the Llanos Oriental
Amazonian Rainforest and other lowlands
Colombia ecoregions and biomes map