The Lower Magdalena River Valley

scribe the vast stretches of flood plain comprising the Lower Magdalena River Valley. This area, originally a strategic main route from the coast to the interior of Colombia, now prospers with some of the nation’s largest cattle ranches.

Spend any time here and you’ll see that cattle farming is the dominant industry. Enormous ranches extend out of the towns along the river, and any journey you make will undoubtedly be delayed by a passing cattle train ambling along a major byway.

As ranching is life to the people here, town festivals often resemble rodeos, with bull riding and drinking that evoke scenes reminiscent of a long disappeared American West. In the spirit of Colombian regionalism, most people in this area are referred to by other Colombians as costeños (from the coast) despite the fact that towns like Mompós, Puerto Berrío and Barrancabermeja are located several hundred kilometers from the nearest shore. However, this relative misnomer is justified when you learn that residents of these towns are defined by the freshwater of the Magdalena River.

From the smokestacks and nodding donkeys in Barrancabermeja to the silversmiths and Nazarenes on procession in the austere Semana Santa of Mompós, the Lower Magdalena River Valley is an area you will not want to miss. The García Márquez-like idiosyncrasies and welcoming inhabitants will leave a lasting impression on any traveler.