Tolima, Colombia, an 'all-terrain' region of diverse geography


Los Nevados National Natural Park, located in the department of Tolima.

Credit: iFerol //

The department of Tolima enjoys all the thermal floors and variety of reliefs that make it an "all-terrain" region with great diversity of flora and fauna. In addition, it has cultural, musical and gastronomic representations in which the rootedness and joyful identity of its inhabitants are manifested.

Tolima is a deposit of natural wealth, crossed by the Magdalena River, which is located in the center of the country. It is a department that enjoys a tourist offer that links nature with the legacy of its ancestors and offers visitors the best of its rural roots, gastronomy and musical compositions, to provide unforgettable experiences.

A corner of Colombia that invites you to celebrate and exalt the musical traditions that strengthen and liberate the essence of its inhabitants.

Extreme geography
Being a department that enjoys all the thermal floors and variety of reliefs, Tolima is constituted as an "all-terrain" region made up of snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, palm forests, rivers, a variety of birds and biodiversity in its ecosystem.

It is a region of extremes, with altitudes of drastic contrasts: from the Nevado at 5,000 meters above sea level to valleys up to 400 meters above sea level, and temperatures ranging from below zero to 40ºc. In this geography stand out the Nevado del Ruiz, the Magdalena River and tributaries of great flow as the Saldaña River, which in turn is the longest in the department.

Thanks to its climate, soil and natural wealth, Tolima has a wide variety of crops and production of key foods for the region's economy, such as rice, bananas, cotton, fruits, avocado, coffee, among others. It is also considered the navel of Colombia, since its location makes it a must for trade and economic development from one end of the country to the other.

Highlight: Download the magazine about the department of Tolima in which you will find the most wonderful landscapes of this region of the country.  

Culinary Tradition
The typical food of Tolima has a tradition known beyond the limits of the department, which is a source of pride for its inhabitants. Some of the favorite places to find the best gastronomic offer are the 'Galerías' or market places of some municipalities of the department, whose dishes keep the culinary identity of the region, which is closely linked to the river.

Some of the typical preparations are lechona (suckling pig), tamal tolimense, viudo de bocachico and viudo de capaz.

Cultural Epicenter
Tolima has stood out nationally for providing cultural events based on music, which manifest and represent the identity and roots of its people.

Through music and dance, the department has managed to preserve its pre-Columbian folklore. Not in vain, Ibagué is catalogued since 1886 as the Musical Capital of Colombia, enjoying this insignia worldwide.

Although they share rhythms and dances such as Pasillo, Bambuco and San Juanero with the department of Huila, La Caña is the autochthonous musical genre of Tolima, which evokes feelings of love for work in the fields.  

Some of the festivals that commemorate the traditions and folklore of the region are the Colombian Folk Music Festival, the Fiestas de la Chamba, the Mangostino de Oro Festival, the Magdalena Fest, among others.  

Outstanding quote: In the capital of the department is the Conservatory of Music of Ibagué, declared a National Monument in 1994, which has been the training center of great and renowned masters.

The mythology of Tolima is also part of the cultural identity of the region and is linked to the Pijaos and Panches, indigenous communities that fought bravely against the Spaniards to exercise territorial power over the Magdalena River. Hence, their beliefs are associated with the spirits of the mountain, water and land and are still alive in some fishermen and peasants who inhabit the river.

Their indigenous legacy has also influenced the development of handicrafts, including pottery in the municipality of Guamo, royal palm hats in the municipalities of Purificación, Saldaña and Chaparral, and wickerwork, especially in San Antonio.

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Black ceramic pots made in the village of La Chamba, in the municipality of Guamo, Tolima.

Credit: GAT0 //

Caption: The village of La Chamba in Tolima is one of the most recognized ceramic centers in the country.

City of bridges
The municipality of Honda is a historical and cultural reference of the department of Tolima and Colombia. Its development was consolidated around trade during the 19th and 20th centuries thanks to the river ports of Caracolí and Arranca Plumas, located on the banks of the Magdalena River.

Its colonial and republican style streets and houses are part of the main tourist attraction of the municipality, which today is a National Historical Heritage and whose beauty has been captured through literature, music, carnivals and museums.

Some sites to admire in this municipality of Tolima are the Calle las Trampas, the Subienda Carnival, the market square, the Magdalena River Museum, the Navarro Bridge and the San José alley.

Highlight: Get to know the magazine about the department of Huila, a place full of archaeological vestiges in the region.

The municipality has also become a meeting point for cycling enthusiasts who seek to test their physical and mental strength in the ascent to Alto de Letras, considered one of the longest climbs in the world.

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Cobblestone streets in the municipality of Honda, Tolima.

Credit: JMPhotograph //

Caption: Honda is part of Colombia's network of heritage towns. Its historic center and the Magdalena River are its main tourist attractions.

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