Colombia was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others are Ecuador and Venezuela). A four-decade long conflict between government forces and anti-government insurgent groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) heavily funded by the drug trade, escalated during the 1990s. The insurgents lack the military or popular support necessary to overthrow the government and violence has been decreasing since about 2002, but insurgents continue attacks against civilians and large areas of the countryside are under guerrilla influence or are contested by security forces. More than 31,000 former paramilitaries had demobilized by the end of 2006 and the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) as a formal organization had ceased to function. In the wake of the paramilitary demobilization, emerging criminal groups arose, whose members include some former paramilitaries. The Colombian Government has stepped up efforts to reassert government control throughout the country, and now has a presence in every one of its administrative departments. However, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders. In January 2011, Colombia assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term.
WARNING: Travel in Colombia outside metropolitan areas, especially in the south, is considered dangerous. Guerrilla movements including FARC and ELN guerrillas are still operational in 30 out of the 32 departments of the country, and especially in rural areas of the south, southwest, southeast and northwest. Jungle regions near the Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Venezuelan borders are also base areas for guerrillas. These groups frequently target locals and occasionally foreign visitors, sometimes for attacks but especially for kidnapping. In November of 2010 The U.S. State Department, U.K. Foreign Office and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have renewed their annual travel advisory for Colombia, and continue to recommend against all non-essential travel to large swaths of the country. According to the U.S. state department there is also an increase in crime, kidnappings and "terrorist activity" in urban centers. See also the Stay safe section of this article and War zone safety.
Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Lying to the south of Panama, Colombia controls the land access between Central and South America. With Panama to the north, Colombia is surrounded by Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, and Ecuador and Peru to the south west. The country was named in honor of Christopher Columbus, following the Italian version of his name (Cristoforo Colombo). Although Columbus never actually set foot on the current Colombian territory, in his fourth voyage he visited Panama, which was part of Colombia until 1903.
Read more about Colombia in our Colombia travel guide »