Geography

mapColombia is the only country in South America to touch both Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

It is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the northwest by Panama; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. Colombia also shares maritime borders with Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region of the world subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Colombia is dominated by the Andes mountains.

Beyond the Colombian Massif, these mountains are divided into three branches known as cordilleras: the Cordillera Occidental, running adjacent to the Pacific coast and including the city of Cali; the Cordillera Central, running between the Cauca and Magdalena river valleys (to the west and east respectively) and including the cities of Medellín, Manizales and Pereira; and the Cordillera Oriental, extending north east to the Guajira Peninsula and including Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.

Peaks in the Cordillera Occidental exceed 13,000 feet (4,000 m), and in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental they reach 18,000 feet (5,500 m). At 8,500 ft (2,600 m), Bogotá is the highest city of its size in the world.

East of the Andes lies the savanna of the Llanos, part of the Orinoco River basin, and, in the far south east, the jungle of the Amazon rainforest. Together these lowlands comprise over half Colombia's territory, but they contain less than 3% of the population. To the north, the Caribbean coast, home to 20% of the population and the location of the major port cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena, generally consists of low-lying plains, but it also contains the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, which includes the country's tallest peaks (Pico Cristobal and Pico Simon Bolivar), and also the Guajira Desert.

By contrast, the narrow and discontinuous Pacific coastal lowlands, backed by the Serranía de Baudó mountains, are covered in dense vegetation and sparsely populated. The principal Pacific port is Buenaventura.