There are an incredible number of interesting and amazing facts about Colombia that I am sure you are unaware of, because even after living in Colombia for almost 2 years, I come across surprising new information about Colombia all the time. For this reason, I am going to start a series of posts that will introduce you to some unique and surprising facts about Colombia.
Today’s post, the first post in this series, will focus on two facts related to the unbelievable natural resources and characteristics of Colombia. Are you ready? Here we go!
1. Colombia is the leading producer of Emeralds around the world.
You may know that the national colors of Colombia are red, yellow, and blue. However, Colombia is full of green as well. Before I studied abroad in Colombia in 2008, I had no idea that Colombia was the world’s leading producer of emeralds—in fact, I didn’t even know Colombia was an emerald producing country.
According to ProExport (2013), Colombia contains and produces 55% of the world’s emeralds. Other emerald producing countries contain around only 15% or less of the world’s emerald reserves, putting Colombia far ahead of other emerald producing countries. However, not only is Colombia the leading producer of emeralds around the world, it is also the leader in emerald quality. Colombian emeralds are famous for their bright colors and quality—in fact, the most valuable type of emerald, with a dark deep green color, is only found in Colombia (ProExport, 2013).
If that’s not impressive enough, in 1969, the largest emerald ever found was discovered by emerald mogul, Victor Carranza in Coscuez, Colombia. Although the so-called “Guinness Emerald” was later surpassed in size by other natural emerald crystals, this gem is still extremely impressive and stands as a symbol of the remarkable emeralds produced in Colombia. The gem is now in the hands of the Banco de la República (the national bank of Colombia) who continues to preserve the gem and make sure it forever remains in Colombia.
While Colombian emeralds are mined in the Colombian departments of Cundinamarca and Boyaca, you can see a pretty impressive collection of Colombian emeralds in Bogota at the Emerald Museum, located on the 23rd floor of the Avianca building on Calle 16 and Carrera 6.
For more information about the Emerald Museum visit: http://www.museodelaesmeralda.com.co/el-primer-museo-de-la-esmeralda-esta-en-bogota/?lang=en
For those of you visiting the Caribbean Coast, there is also the Emerald Museum in Cartagena. This museum is located in the historic center of Cartagena on calle Don Sancho No. 36-75.
*A Colombian emerald would be a great souvenir; however, always make sure you buy them through an official or certified seller and not from street vendors, as some people may try to sell you fake or illegal emeralds.
2. Colombia has the highest coastal mountain in the world.
Colombia is a country full of mountains. However, perhaps the most impressive one is the Sierra Nevada in Santa Marta. The Sierra Nevada is the highest coastal mountain in the world, reaching a peak of 5,775 metres above sea level! And, no, the Sierra Nevada is not part of the Andes Mountain chain; it is a separate chain all together.
The Sierra Nevada spans three Colombian departments (Magdalena, Cesar, and la Guajira) and runs through many cities including Santa Marta, Aracataca, and Palomino to name a few. There are many ways you can get up close this impressive and awe-inspiring mountain. One way you can observe and explore this marvelous mountain is by heading to one of the most beautiful national parks in Colombia—Parque Tayrona, located about an hour outside of Santa Marta. Here, you can observe the mountain beach side, as you swim in the crystalline waters of the park, or you can embark on a guided hike through Kogi (an indigenous group inhabiting the Sierra Nevada) villages up to the ruins of la Ciudad Perdida, “the Lost City” (sometime called “the Machu Picchu of Colombia”). Another way to explore and observe the Sierra Nevada is from the town of Palomino, where you can book guided hikes into the mountain or visit local indigenous villages, also with a local guide.
Because of the incredible biodiversity located in the Sierra Nevada, the indigenous groups that continue to live there (e.g. Kogui, Arhuaco, Kankuamo, and Wiwa communities), and the amazing historical significance of the Sierra Nevada, it was named a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site in 1979.
*If you are interested in hiking or exploring the Sierra Nevada up close, please make sure you contact local guides as it is not advisable to trek alone!
I hope these two facts have gotten you interested in learning more about the fascinating country of Colombia. If not, I’ll do my best to rope you in with the next post in this series!
Until next time,
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
- Colombia’s Diversity Goes Beyond Flora and Fauna (uncovercolombia.wordpress.com)
- The Tayrona National Natural Park: A must see on the Caribbean Coast (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Suggestions for a two-week holiday in Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)