A quarter of the population live in the four main cities of Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin and Cali, but to find the heart of Colombia you must look elsewhere. The country is strongly regionalised and this stems from the rugged terrain and its early history, when many different indigenous groups lived separately. All roads do not lead to Bogota; hence the importance today of the departamentos and their capitals. In the 19th century some were independent countries for a short time (for example Antioquia) and these were often Spanish settlements. The fierce pride of the later inhabitants ensured the preservation of their heritage and virtually all are worth a visit.
It is rumoured that no other country on the continent has a greater variety of music genres and most of these can be enjoyed at the numerous fiestas held even in the tiniest of villages throughout the year. The festivals are a legacy of the mixed heritage of Indigenous, European and African cultures, all of which have helped shape and create the modern Colombia of today. Cultural icons such as sculptor Fernando Botero and writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, even drug baron Pablo Escobar, capture the imagination. Prepare to be dazzled by the sheer diversity of this country.