Why You Must Visit the Magdalena River in Colombia

The immensity of the Magdalena River in Colombia
The immensity of the Magdalena River in Colombia | © Alexander Schimmeck / Flickr

The majestic Magdalena River is one of Colombia’s treasures, with its gorgeously lush nature, useful functionality as a connector of cities, and rich stories from the past.

The importance of the Magdalena River dates back to way before colonial times, due to its advantageous location, flowing from the heart of Colombia to the Caribbean Sea. It later became a key strategic route for the Spanish conquistadors when they first set foot in this land in the early 16th century. Since then, the grandness of the river has inspired artists and writers, like Gabriel García Marquez, and with a mere glimpse, visitors will be able to appreciate its significance and charm.

The Magdalena River is full of rich, biodiverse life | © sergejf / Flickr

Why the Magdalena is the most important river in Colombia

In the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors used the river as a highway to transport goods from Europe to inland Colombia and back; and on its course, they founded several towns and built dozens of ports that later became the scene of the country’s fight for independence. The Magdalena River flows for 949 miles (1,528 kilometers), and it’s rich in biodiversity and a natural connector to the western side of the country. Natural resources from the river are invaluable and have helped boost development in many communities throughout history. With improved navigability, it will create newer opportunities for riverbank towns, especially those closer to the Caribbean Sea.

The Magdalena River is expansive and combines the past with the present | © Edgar Jiménez / Flickr

Best towns to visit the Magdalena River

Many of the towns surrounding the Magdalena River are hot local tourist spots, mainly those located in areas close to Bogotà. After a number of conservation and restoration efforts, towns such as Honda, San Agustín, and Mompox are now among travelers’ top choices. All three offer different experiences on the river for appreciating the flora and fauna of each area. To visit Mompox, adventurers must take a canoe or chalupa, a small boat which connects people to major cities and routes. In the case of San Agustín and Honda, both are reachable by car.

Colonial architecture in Mompox, Colombia | © Luis Alveart / Flickr

A representative of Magic Realism

The Magdalena River is the stage of some of the most important Colombian literature. Gabriel García Marquez, the prominent Colombian writer, has always marveled at the surrounding jungle, the ominously dark waters, and the sporadic colonial towns lost in the riverbanks. All of these sights became a source of inspiration and the founding stones of Magic Realism, a genre that has become a symbol of Colombia’s uniqueness.

Fishermen in a typical wooden canoe in the Magdalena River | © Luis Alveart / Flickr

Seeing the Magdalena River firsthand is understanding the past and present of Colombia, and is an ideal opportunity to discover towns and sights that have been hidden for decades. The river has a magic of its own that will undoubtedly enchant visitors who embark on this journey, and the views seen from the meandering river will make it impossible for visitors not to be amazed by Colombia.

Aerial view of the Magdalena River, Colombia | © David Cabrera Ortíz / Flickr

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