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The name “Colombia” is derived from the last name of Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo, Spanish: Cristóbal Colón). It was conceived by the Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco de Miranda as a reference to all the New World, but especially to those under the Spanish and Portuguese rule. The name was later adopted by the Republic of Colombia of 1819, formed out of the territories of the old Viceroyalty of New Granada (modern-day Colombia, Panamá, Venezuela, Ecuador, and northwest Brazil).
When Venezuela and Ecuador parted ways, the Cundinamarca region that remained became a new country – the Republic of New Granada. In 1858 New Granada officially changed its name to the Granadine Confederation, then in 1863 the United States of Colombia, before finally adopting its present name – the Republic of Colombia – in 1886.
To refer to this country, the Colombian government uses the terms Colombia and República de Colombia.
The geography of Colombia is characterized by its six main natural regions that present their own unique characteristics, from the Andes mountain range region shared with Ecuador and Venezuela; the Pacific coastal region shared with Panama and Ecuador; the Caribbean coastal region shared with Venezuela and Panamá; the Llanos (plains) shared with Venezuela; the Amazon Rainforest region shared with Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador; to the insular area, comprising islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Colombia is bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; it established its maritime boundaries with neighboring countries through seven agreements on the Caribbean Sea and three on the Pacific Ocean. It lies between latitudes 12°N and 4°S, and longitudes 67° and 79°W.
Part of the Ring of Fire, a region of the world subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Colombia is dominated by the Andes (which contain the majority of the country’s urban centres). Beyond the Colombian Massif (in the south-western departments of Cauca and Nariño) these are divided into three branches known as cordilleras (mountain ranges): 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, Pereira and Armenia; and the Cordillera Oriental, extending north east to the Guajira Peninsula and including Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Cúcuta.
Peaks in the Cordillera Occidental exceed 4,700 m (15,420 ft), and in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental they reach 5,000 m (16,404 ft). At 2,600 m (8,530 ft), 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 Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar), and the La Guajira Desert. By contrast the narrow and discontinuous Pacific coastal lowlands, backed by the Serranía de Baudó mountains, are sparsely populated and covered in dense vegetation. The principal Pacific port is Buenaventura.
The main rivers of Colombia are Magdalena, Cauca, Guaviare, Atrato, Meta, Putumayo and Caquetá. Colombia has four main drainage systems: the Pacific drain, the Caribbean drain, the Orinoco Basin and the Amazon Basin. The Orinoco and Amazon Rivers mark limits with Colombia to Venezuela and Peru respectively.
Protected areas and the “National Park System” cover an area of about 14,268,224 hectares (142,682.24 km2) and account for 12.77% of the Colombian territory. Compared to neighboring countries, rates of deforestation in Colombia are still relatively low. Colombia is the sixth country in the world by magnitude of total renewable freshwater supply, and still has large reserves of freshwater.
Colombians customarily describe their country in terms of the climatic zones. Below 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) in elevation is the tierra caliente (hot land), where temperatures are above 24 °C (75.2 °F). About 82.5% of the country’s total area lies in the tierra caliente.
The majority of the population can be found in the tierra templada (temperate land, between 1,001 and 2,000 meters (3,284 and 6,562 ft)), where temperatures vary between 17 and 24 °C (62.6 and 75.2 °F) and the tierra fría (cold land, 2,001 and 3,000 meters (6,565 and 9,843 ft).
In the tierra fría mean temperatures range between 12 and 17 °C (53.6 and 62.6 °F). Beyond the tierra fría lie the alpine conditions of the forested zone and then the treeless grasslands of the páramos. Above 4,000 meters (13,123 ft), where temperatures are below freezing, is the tierra helada, a zone of permanent snow and ice.
Colombia is one of the megadiverse countries in biodiversity, ranking first in bird species ( over1900 bird species). As for plants, the country has between 40,000 and 45,000 plant species, equivalent to 10 or 20% of total global species, this is even more remarkable given that Colombia is considered a country of intermediate size. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, lagging only after Brazil which is approximately 7 times bigger.
Colombia is the country in the planet more characterized by a high biodiversity, with the highest rate of species by area unit worldwide and it has the largest number of endemisms (species that are not found naturally anywhere else) of any country. About 10% of the species of the Earth live in Colombia, including over 1,900 species of bird, more than in Europe and North America combined, Colombia has 10% of the world’s mammals species, 14% of the amphibian species and 18% of the bird species of the world.
Colombia has about 2,000 species of marine fish and is the second most diverse country in freshwater fish. Colombia is the country with more endemic species of butterflies, number 1 in terms of orchid species and approximately 7,000 species of beetles. Colombia is second in the number of amphibian species and is the third most diverse country in reptiles and palms. There are about 2,900 species of mollusks and according to estimates there are about 300,000 species of invertebrates in the country. In Colombia there are 32 terrestrial biomes and 314 types of ecosystems.
Info collected by Wikipedia