The Llanos (eastern plains) and Selva (jungle) constitute over half of Colombiaâ€™s territory. Steeped in the history of the Spaniardsâ€™ lust-driven quest for El Dorado, the regionsâ€™ wilderness succeeded in keeping most out, except for the most hardy.
The Llanos, also known as the RegiÃ³n Orinoquia, encompasses the Colombian Departments of Meta (capital, Villavicencio), Casanare (Yopal), Arauca (Arauca), Vichada (Puerto CarreÃ±o) and GuainÃa (Puerto InÃrida). This area makes up part of the Orinoco River basin and borders Venezuela. The Selva, or the RegiÃ³n AmazonÃa, also is made up of five Departments: Putumayo (capital, Mocoa), CaquetÃ¡ (Florencia), Guaviare (San JosÃ© de Guaviare), VaupÃ©s (MitÃº) 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 BogotÃ¡ 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 RÃo 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 AsÃs 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 regionâ€”not only because the lush vegetation that blankets it, but also because it is the very center of Colombiaâ€™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 LÃ³pez 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 travelersâ€™ route. Keep informed and your ear to the ground to find out where we might next be able to explore of this region.
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...