ColombiaOne.comTravelExploring the Beauty and Culture of Colombia's Islands

Exploring the Beauty and Culture of Colombia’s Islands


Colombia's insular region
Colombia’s insular region is a treasure that combines natural beauty, cultural diversity, and delicious cuisine. Credits: Mario Carvajal/CC BY 4.0

In the heart of the oceans, the two majestic bodies of water that bathe the Colombian nation, lies the enigmatic and captivating insular region. This region of Colombia encompasses both the islands of the Caribbean Sea and those of the Pacific Ocean, offering a kaleidoscope of natural beauty and cultural diversity. Let’s discover the secrets held by Colombia’s insular region.

Despite its modest size, covering around 300 square kilometers of land area, the insular region is home to a population of 74,620 inhabitants. The tropical climate of the two archipelagos differs, with predominantly dry and wet variants, providing ideal conditions for unique flora and fauna to thrive. Furthermore, the ecosystems are protected by four national parks.

Departments of the Insular Region

The insular region is composed of four departments:

San Andres and Providencia.

Bolivar (San Bernardo Islands and Rosario Islands).

Cauca (Gorgona Island).

Valle del Cauca (Malpelo Island).

Colombia's insular region
Pacific Naval Force on Malpelo Island. Credit: National Navy of Colombia/CC BY-SA 2.0

Natural Subregions

These natural areas stand out in the insular region:

Old Providence McBean Lagoon National Natural Park.

Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park. Gorgona National Natural Park.

Malpelo National Natural Park.

Subregions of the Insular Region

The Colombian insular region is subdivided into several areas of interest, each with its own charm:

San Andres and Providencia Archipelago: This is one of Colombia’s most coveted tourist destinations. Located in the Caribbean Sea, it consists of three main islands: San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina. Together, they have an area of 52.2 square kilometers, with San Andres covering 26 square kilometers, Providencia 17 square kilometers, and Santa Catalina 1 square kilometer.

Colombia's insular region
Providencia Island Colombia. Credit: Luis Barreto/CC BY 2.0

Gorgona Island: This small island system, including Gorgona, Gorgonilla, and other islets, is located in the Pacific Ocean and covers 26 square kilometers of land area.

Malpelo: A volcanic islet in the Pacific Ocean.

San Bernardo Archipelago: Comprising ten islands in the Caribbean Sea, located in the Gulf of Morrosquillo.

Other island groups

Rosario Islands.

Isla Fuerte.

Tortuguilla Island.

Tierra Bomba Island.

Typical Dishes of the Insular Region

The flavors of the sea are the soul of the insular region’s cuisine. Dishes are prepared with fish, crabs, lobsters, and snails, and are accompanied by fresh vegetables, fruits, and tropical plants such as cassava, plantains, squash, coconut, and bananas. Spices like basil, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger are used to season these delicacies, giving them a unique taste:

Rondon or Run Down: A stew or soup made with coconut milk, fish, snails, yam, cassava, green plantains, pigtail, and flour tortillas.

Crab Soup: Black and red crabs cooked with pigtail, potatoes, yam, flour tortillas, and spices.

Crab or Fish Meatballs: Balls of fish, crab, or lobster meat seasoned with eggs, breadcrumbs, vegetables, and spices, fried in hot oil.

Cocadas or Coconut Sweets: Cookies made with coconut pulp, coconut milk, sugar, butter, and flour.

Conch Balls: Conch cooked and fried in coconut oil.

Stewed Chicken with Dumplings: Chicken seared in coconut oil, stewed with garlic, peppers, onions, salt, celery, and dumplings (pieces of wheat flour dough, coconut milk, salt, and fat steamed or boiled).

Journey Cake: Baked rolls made with wheat flour, coconut milk, salt, and sugar.

Crab Empanadas: Wheat flour dough filled with crab meat seasoned with onions, garlic, and bell peppers.

Pig Tail with Beans: Beans with pigtail and a sofrito of onions, garlic, bell pepper seasoned with sugar and salt.

Bammy: Grated and squeezed cassava that is fried until golden brown; a common accompaniment to many dishes in the region.

Music of the Insular Region

Despite its modest size, the Colombian insular region is a cultural melting pot. Bathed by two oceans, it incorporates elements of Caribbean and Pacific culture and has been influenced by international genres like Trinidad and Tobago’s calypso and Jamaica’s reggae. Additionally, Colombian rhythms like salsa, merengue, vallenato, and mazurka also have their place.

To bring these rhythms to life, islanders use instruments such as the carraca or jawbone, mandolin, tináfono or tinajo, guitar, violin, and accordion. The music of the insular region is a celebration of cultural diversity and a testament to the richness of this fascinating Colombian region.

Colombia’s insular region is a treasure that combines natural beauty, cultural diversity, and delicious cuisine. Whether you’re a nature lover or a culture enthusiast, these islands of Colombia offers a unique experience that is well worth exploring.

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