The total land area of Colombia is 1,141,748 sq km (440,831 sq mi). The Andes mountains dominate the central and western parts of the country, extending north-south almost the entire length of Colombia. The western two-fifths of the country lies in the highlands of the Andes. Here, towering mountain ranges are separated by high plateaus and fertile valleys that are traversed by the principal rivers of the country. Almost all of Colombia’s population lives in the narrow valleys and basins nestled among the mountains. East of the Andes, three-fifths of the country consists of portions of the llanos, or grasslands, and selva, or rain forest.
The llanos lie on the plain that drains northeast into the Orinoco River, and the selva drains southeast into the Amazon River basin. Along the shore of the Caribbean Sea lies a strip of lowland.
The Andes comprise three principal and parallel ranges: the Cordillera Occidental in the west, the Cordillera Central, and the Cordillera Oriental in the east. An isolated mountain mass known as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta rises on the Caribbean coast; this mass includes Colombia’s highest point at Pico Cristóbal Colón (5,776 m/18,950 ft).
The westernmost of the three high Andean cordilleras, the Cordillera Occidental, rises upward through successive vegetation zones, culminating in barren volcanic peaks some 3,700 m (12,000 ft) above sea level.
This range extends as an almost unbroken wall throughout its length; generally it is not high enough to reach into the zone of permanent snow.
The Cordillera Central contains the volcanic peaks of Huila (5,750 m/18,865 ft) and Tolima (5,616 m/18,425 ft). About 240 km (about 150 mi) south of the Caribbean Sea, the Cordillera Central descends to marshy jungle. The cordillera peaks are perpetually covered with snow; the timberline in these mountains lies at about 3,000 m (about 10,000 ft).
To the east, the Cordillera Oriental rises to a height of 5,500 m (18,000 ft). Unlike the other two ranges, the Cordillera Oriental is densely populated. Most of its inhabitants live in a series of basins in the mountains at an elevation of 2,400 m to 2,700 m (8,000 ft to 9,000 ft). The three largest cities in this region, each occupying a different basin, are Bogotá, Chiquinquirá, and Sogamoso. East of the Cordillera Oriental are vast reaches of torrid lowlands, thinly populated and only partly explored. The southern portion of this region, composed of selvas, is thickly forested and drained by the Caquetá River and other tributaries of the Amazon. The northern and greater part of the region comprises vast plains, or llanos, and is traversed by the Meta River and other tributaries of the Orinoco River. "Colombia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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