Bolívar, Colombia, has a population of no more than 5,000. The region also includes several small pueblos, and all told a total of no more than 17,000. Bolívar sits in the north part of the Valle del Cauca. This valley is located between the Western and Central Ranges of the Andes Mountains. In the center of the valley is the Cauca River. There are sugar cane and corn farms throughout the valley, and many types of fruit are grown as well.
Bolívar was founded in 1567 with the name Pueblo del Pescado (Town of Fish, literally). Due to the abundance of fish in the river. The town was well known throughout this part of Colombia as a center for fishing and provided fish to cities nearly 200 kilometers away. In 1884, the town name was changed to Bolívar. The town is built on a grid with the town plaza in the center with a church at one corner and small businesses around the park. This was common for towns built in the pre-colonial and colonial periods. In the town, one will find many colonial-era houses but little else for tourists. There are plenty of interesting places to visit in the mountains, though.
Bolívar's economy is supported by agriculture, livestock, and a very small amount of commerce. When the Pan-American Highway was built Bolívar lost a huge amount of visitors, as the highway was built on the opposite side of the valley. Now the town is just a very small, and very quiet, town on a back road.
Bolívar has a tropical climate, though very different from the areas closer to the equator. It's noticeably warmer and drier here in Bolívar. The average daytime high of 28° C (82° F), and the nightly average low of 19° C (66° F). The city at 978 meters (3209 feet). The average yearly rainfall amounts to 5089 mm (200 inches) of rain. The humidity is moderate, typically between 89% - 91%.
So, my impressions: Bolívar is tiny, it is clean, it is quiet, the people are friendly, it's a very pleasant town and would be a great place to live if you like such very small towns. They do have a hospital, two decent-sized grocery stores and a couple of minimarkets, two banks, and many other shops. For tourists, it's not a town you would go out of your way to visit, but to spend time in a quiet small town, this is a good place to visit.
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.