Bordering the Caribbean Sea for over 1,600km, this region is the most northern continental area of Colombia. It's comprised mainly of seven departments: Guajira, Magdalena, Cesar, Atlantico, Bolívar, Sucre and Cordoba. Their capital cities are, respectively: Riohacha, Santa Marta, Valledupar, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Sincelejo and Montería.
The Caribbean region is one of great landscape diversity, where you can find deserts in La Guajira; mountains, rainforests and snow in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; swamps and plains in Magdalena, Cesar and Sucre; gulfs with white beaches, and incredible views over the Caribbean Sea. The region also includes the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina – a group of islands north-west of Colombia.
Living in an area with a wonderful warm climate and stunning beaches, Colombians in the Caribbean region are known for their easygoing and relaxed approach to life. The three main cities – Santa Marta, Barranquilla and Cartagena – are famous for being very festive and fun, with Barranquilla considered the capital of the Colombian Caribbean. The local culture knows the importance of education and the cultivation of knowledge; it’s not uncommon to be lectured on philosophy or politics by your taxi driver!
Culture and life in this region of Colombia is partly influenced by the other countries bordering the Caribbean Sea. For example, although the most popular local rhythms are cumbia and vallenato, Afro-Caribbean beats such as reggaeton are also prominent, and spawned the crossover rhythm Champeta. Likewise, a rich tradition of myth and legend exists in the region, with many stories coming from across the sea as well as land.
Image credit: [Rafael Amado Deras]
Food and Celebrations
The biggest and most popular celebration in the region is the Carnival of Barranquilla, taking place every February. With traditions dating back to the 19th century, this World Heritage celebration is one of the world’s biggest carnivals, and includes four days of cultural and musical festivities. Further up the coast, Santa Marta hosts the Festival of the Sea, an annual celebration of the Caribbean and its food and culture.
Typical food in the Caribbean region of Colombia is similar to the rest of the country, with the addition of fish due to the proximity of the sea. An example of a popular meal in this area would be sancocho, made with cow’s tail and served with coconut rice. Fish is often accompanied in the same way, or made into a spicy soup.
Image credit: [Matt Wootton]
The largest city in the Caribbean region of the country, Barranquilla has a maritime history of trade, being located at the mouth of the Magdalena River. As well as annual carnival and New Year’s Eve celebrations, the waterside city has plenty of attractions - from cathedrals and cruise trips to museums and Barranquilla Zoo.
Image credit: [Conchi Trivino]