Although there is a certain amount of violence in remote areas, the current government has increased its presence in the countryside and in all major tourist areas, so whereas in the past travel might have been too risky, travel is possible if you are careful, except in the areas of known guerrilla presence.
Traveling in Colombia is definitely worthwhile. From Bogota, with a temperate climate 2,600 m (8530 ft) above sea level and at a constant temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, a drive of one or two hours North, South, East or West can take you to landscapes which are as diverse as they are beautiful. To the East are the oriental plains which stretch out far beyond the horizon with little modulation. To the North are the more rugged contours of the higher Andean region. To the South the weather is sub-tropical and has flora and fauna concomitant with this, and to the West you can find the Magdalena River valley and its hot weather. Colombia is one of the equatorial countries of the world, but unique in its extreme topography and abundance of water.
The climate is tropical along coast and eastern plains; cold in the highlands; periodic droughts. Colombia is an equatorial country, so there are no seasons in the common sense of the word. Temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. What Colombians normally refer to as the winter is the rainy season. Cities such as Bogotá, Tunja, and Pasto have been known to reach temperatures under 0 degrees Celsius, so if you are sensitive to cold weather be prepared.
Flat coastal lowlands, central highlands, high Andes Mountains, eastern lowland plains.
Natural hazards: highlands subject to volcanic eruptions; occasional earthquakes. Recent volcanic disaster occurred in Armero, 1985. 25,000 people were buried by lahars that the Nevado del Ruiz produced.
Highest point: Pico Cristobal Colon 5,775 m (18950 ft) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The mountain is the world's highest costal range. note: nearby Pico Simon Bolivar has the same elevation
Colombia became independent from Spain in 1819. It was one of the five countries liberated by Simon Bolivar (the others being Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia). Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama then formed the first Republic of Colombia. Ecuador and Venezuela declared their independence from Colombia in 1830. Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903 with the support of the United States of America. A 40-year communist insurgent campaign to overthrow the Colombian Government escalated during the 1990s, under girded in part by funds from the drug trade. Although the violence is deadly and large swaths of the rural countryside are under guerrilla influence, the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. Illegal anti-insurgent paramilitary groups have grown to be several thocolombiand strong in recent years, challenging the insurgents for control of territory and illicit industries such as the drug trade and also the government's ability to exert its dominion over rural areas. While Bogotá continues to try to negotiate a settlement, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders.
If you've recently learned Spanish, its a relief to know that the Colombian variety is clear and easy to understand. The Spanish does vary, however, from Cartagena to Bogota to Cali. Generally the Spanish on the coasts is spoken more rapidly, and Spanish from Medellin has its own idiosyncrasies. Note that in cities like Cali, the dialect of Spanish is the voseo form. Meaning that instead of the first person familiar pronoun tú, vos is used instead. Though tú is also understood by the people of Cali.
English is taught in school, and Colombians are often exposed to subtitled Hollywood films, so while shy many Colombians know at least a few basic phrases in English. Expect to meet teenage Colombians who will want to practice their English skills with you.
Colombians from more affluent backgrounds will have lived and worked in the U.S., Canada, England and possibly Australia in order to learn English. Many university text books are in English, and the majority of high ranking professionals, executives and government workers in Colombia speak some English.
French and German are also spoken, but to a much lesser extent.
Colombian Spanish is considered by many around the world as the purest in Latin America and there are many universities and language schools that have language programs.
Colombia education is generally strict and is kept to high standards. Most Colombian degrees can be legalized in foreign countries. You can find several programs in different universities around the country. You can also find programs with language institutes that could offer a variety of courses.
Drink only bottled water outside the major cities. The water in major cities is safe. Anywhere else, never get drinks with ice cubes in them, and always make sure that the water you are served in restaurants comes from a bottle (they should open it in front of you). Doing anything else may result in health problems.
If you're staying with relatives or friends especially you could ask for boiled water since families are used to having it around.
In cities like Bogotá, Pereira, Manizales or Medellin, the quality of the water is good. In Pereira or Manizales the water comes from pristine natural sources near a nevado. In Bogotá, the water comes from the high mountains, 3,330 meters above sea level.