Ibagué, Colombia, has a population of about 507,000, while the metropolitan area increases to about 629,000. The city sits in a valley in the Andes Mountains Central Range on the eastern side. The Combeima River passes through the western part of the city. The valley does not have a flat bottom, and the city is, therefore, quite hilly. They call Ibagué the "city of music." That expression dates back to 1886. A French count was impressed by the musical atmosphere of the city and the fact that it had a music conservatory. At the time, there were many buildings painted with music-related murals. I saw none during my visit.
The city dates back to October 1550, making it one of the oldest in the Americas. But before it was founded, the Spaniards had to conquer the very resistant native tribes. The war that ensued lasted 60 years and cost the lives of some forty thousand indigenous people and one thousand Spanish soldiers. In the 1600s and 1700s, gold was exploited from the Combeima River until that was exhausted. For many years, the city has continued to grow and prosper as the capital of the province and a major trade center.
The economy of Ibagué is based on mining, industry, livestock, agriculture (primarily cotton, coffee, and rice), and textiles. The city has numerous concert/music/arts venues, both outside and indoors. There are five museums, as well. Tourism is almost non-existent. Ibagué is also a city of pollution - from mines, industry, and traffic. The streams that pass through are littered with garbage, and the city only recently built its first sewage treatment plant. Previously, all sewage and wastewater were dumped directly into the river, causing even more problems. One report I read says it is one of the most polluted cities in Colombia.
Ibagué has a tropical climate. The average daytime high of 27° C (81° F), and the nightly average low of 18° C (64° F). The city's elevation is about 1285 meters (4216 feet). The average yearly rainfall amounts to 2859 mm (113 inches) of rain. The humidity is moderate, typically between 66% - 84%. Ibagué gets rain all year round. Its least rainy month is January, and then they average 12 - 14 days of rain.
So, my impressions: This is a small city, very congested, noisy, smelly air pollution, and few parks (all of which need maintenance). There is no interesting architecture other than the cathedral and a few very old buildings left in the city. The mountains around the town are beautiful, though. I won't be bothering to return here.
My goal is to find a new place to live. So to reach that goal, I am traveling most of South America, visiting the countries of Ecuador, Perú, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay, passing through a bit of Brazil, and finally visiting Uruguay. I have a list of towns, about 70 that meet these qualifications: Cities with average day temperatures of 22-28° C (72-83° F) and night temps of 14° C (57° F) and higher; and a population between 28,000-300,000. I analyzed climate and population data of around 700 towns in the countries mentioned above and then pulled out the ones that meet the previously mentioned criteria, which leaves about 70. My preference leans towards towns of less than 100,000 people. And, now that I have visited more than 130 towns/cities (not including more than 70 in Colombia), I've decided I will want an inland town. I love the beach and walking in the warm water, but getting sunburned is just too easy, even on a cloudy day. At least here in Ecuador. I've also decided that any town with more than 100,000 population will be too big. I've decided that any small town/city (less than around 80,000 population) that meets the temp specifications and has a supermarket and ATM is one worth considering to live in.
So, to reach my goal I will visit those towns and discover which one calls out to me - "Chip, Chip, make your new home here, this is your new home town". That hasn't happened yet, but the towns listed below are very close to giving me that feeling. At any rate, I have visited very few tourist attractions and archeological sites, etc., those will have to wait for another trip through South America.
My Top 10 list has these towns on it:
- Puyo, Ecuador
- Moyobamba, Peru
- Encarnación, Paraguay
- Formosa, Argentina
- Roldanillo, Colombia
During my travels in Ecuador I visited 36 towns/cities. In Perú, I visited 38; in Chile, only five; and in Argentina, I visited 16. In Uruguay, I visited five, and in Brazil, three. And in Paraguay, I have visited 26. In Colombia, I've visited 82. That's 211 towns/cities in South America.
Next up: Armenia, Colombia.