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Llanos and Selva

The Llanos (eastern plains) and Selva (jungle) constitute over half of Colombia’s territory. Steeped in the history of the Spaniards’ lust-driven quest for El Dorado, the regions’ wilderness succeeded in keeping most out, except for the most hardy.

The Llanos, also known as the Región Orinoquia, encompasses the Colombian Departments of Meta (capital, Villavicencio), Casanare (Yopal), Arauca (Arauca), Vichada (Puerto Carreño) and Guainía (Puerto Inírida). This area makes up part of the Orinoco River basin and borders Venezuela. The Selva, or the Región Amazonía, also is made up of five Departments: Putumayo (capital, Mocoa), Caquetá (Florencia), Guaviare (San José de Guaviare), Vaupés (Mitú) and Amazonas (Leticia). The most famous of these is Amazonas, where Leticia is the crossroads for the Amazon River, with connections to Peru and Brazil.

Roads weave through the Llanos, connecting it with Bogotá and other cities on the western side of the Cordillera Oriental. River travel also exists, and one ageless dream of travelers is to journey down the Río Orinoco into Venezuela. In the Selva where one goes is dictated by transportation. In most of the region there are no roads, save those radiating out from Leticia and one connecting Puerto Asís and other Putumayo towns with population centers in Southern Colombia. Otherwise travel is by boat on the many rivers lacing through the jungles.

The mystique of the llanos and selva remains today. It is yet an unfathomable region—not only because the lush vegetation that blankets it, but also because it is the very center of Colombia’s civil war. It was here Farclandia existed, a demilitarized zone under guerrilla FARC control at the turn of the millennium. It is also where the heaviest fighting continues to occur as the Colombia military recovers the territory bit by bit. Some places, though, are fine to visit now, such as Villavicencio and Puerto López in the llanos and Leticia with its neighboring villages and the Putumayo towns Sibundoy and Mocoa. Other areas are once more coming within scope of the travelers’ route. Keep informed and your ear to the ground to find out where we might next be able to explore of this region.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

17 Mar 2011

VIVA Colombia

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