Travel in Colombia outside metropolitan areas, especially in the south, is considered dangerous. Guerrilla movements including FARC and ELN guerrillas are still operational in 30 out of the 32 departments of the country, and especially in rural areas of the south, southwest, southeast and northwest. Jungle regions near the Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Venezuelan borders are also base areas for guerrillas. These groups frequently target locals and occasionally foreign visitors, sometimes for attacks but especially for kidnapping. In November of 2010 The U.S. State Department, U.K. Foreign Office and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have renewed their annual travel advisory for Colombia, and continue to recommend against all non-essential travel to large swaths of the country. According to the U.S. state department there is also an increase in crime, kidnappings and "terrorist activity" in urban centers. See also the Stay safe section of this article and War zone safety. Colombia is the only country in South America with coastlines on both the North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Lying to the south of Panama, Colombia controls the land access between Central and South America. With Panama to the north, Colombia is surrounded by Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, and Ecuador and Peru to the south west. The country was named in honor of Christopher Columbus, following the Italian version of his name (Cristoforo Colombo). Although Columbus never actually set foot on the current Colombian territory, in his fourth voyage he visited Panama, which was part of Colombia until 1903.
It is important to understand that Colombia is a country of civil conflict. Although the situation has improved in the years following 2002, there are still many areas of the country that are considered too dangerous for tourism. Heavy day-to-day fighting between guerrillas, narco-traffickers, paramilitaries and state forces takes place in most of southern, south-eastern and north-western Colombia as of 2010, including certain smaller urban centers. Rural areas bordering Venezuela are also to be be avoided. It is not considered appropriate to travel by bus across the country; instead domestic airlines like Avianca are to be preferred. Although many parts of the country are now considered relatively safe for tourism, it is also important to remember that millions of Colombians, predominantly from the poorer classes, suffer from the ongoing conflict every day.
Traveling in Colombia is definitely worthwhile. From Bogota, with a temperate climate 2,600 m (8530 ft) above sea level and at a constant temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, a drive of one or two hours North, South, East or West can take you to landscapes which are as diverse as they are beautiful. To the East are the oriental plains which stretch out far beyond the horizon with little modulation. To the North are the more rugged contours of the higher Andean region. To the South the weather is sub-tropical and has flora and fauna concomitant with this, and to the West you can find the Magdalena River valley and its hot weather. Colombia is one of the equatorial countries of the world, but unique in its extreme topography and abundance of water.