Departments of Colombia

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International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on 1998-12-15. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For Colombia, the draft standard showed 32 departments and one capital district. The final standard shows the same 33 divisions, with the same codes, except for one department. The code for Vichada has been altered from CID to VID. I reported that change here in August, 1999; but in September, 2004, I added all the text of the Colombia article in the book "Administrative Subdivisions of Countries" to this page, and in doing so I neglected to incorporate the ISO code change. I've done it now.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-6 was published on 2004-03-08. It lists "Distrito Capital de Bogotá" as the new official name of the capital district, replacing "Distrito Capital de Santa Fe de Bogotá" in the original standard. As the impetus for this change, it cites "Colombia legislative Act No. 1 2000-08-17".

Country overview: 

Short nameCOLOMBIA
ISO codeCO
LanguageSpanish (es)
Time zone-5


Colombia has been an independent country during the entire 20th century, but its territory has undergone some adjustments. The first and most notorious was the loss of its department of Panama, in a revolution encouraged by the United States to ease the way for the leasing of the Panama Canal Zone.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Colombia
  2. Dutch: Colombia, Republiek Colombia (formal)
  3. English: Republic of Colombia (formal)
  4. Finnish: Kolumbia
  5. French: Colombie f
  6. German: Kolumbien n
  7. Icelandic: Kólumbía
  8. Italian: Colombia f
  9. Norwegian: Colombia, Republikken Colombia (formal)
  10. Portuguese: Colômbia, República f da Colômbia f (formal)
  11. Russian: Республика Колумбия (formal)
  12. Spanish: Colombia, República f de Colombia f (formal)
  13. Swedish: Colombia
  14. Turkish: Kolombiya Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Named in honor of Christopher Columbus (1451?-1506)

Primary subdivisions: 

Colombia is divided into 32 departamentos (departments) and one distrito capital (capital district).

Distrito CapitalCO.DCDCCO3420111e6,778,6911,732669Bogotá
GuainíaCO.GNGUACO1520494c18,79772,23827,891Puerto Inírida
GuaviareCO.GVGUVCO1420495c56,75842,32716,343San José del Guaviare
La GuajiraCO.LGLAGCO1720244d655,94320,8488,049Riohacha
MagdalenaCO.MAMAGCO3820247d1,136,81923,1888,953Santa Marta
Norte de SantanderCO.NSNSACO2120554d1,208,33621,6588,362Cúcuta
San Andrés y ProvidenciaCO.SASAPCO2520288i59,5734417San Andrés
Valle del CaucaCO.VCVACCO2920376d4,052,53522,1408,548Cali
VichadaCO.VDVIDCO3120799c44,592100,24238,704Puerto Carreño
33 divisions41,468,3841,141,748440,831
  • Department: except Distrito Capital, which is a capital district (see also Typ)
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • NUTE: Nomenclature of Statistical Territorial Units. First three digits indicate NUTE region (see table below).
  • Typ: Until 1991, the divisions of Colombia were of four types: departamentos (d: departments), comisarías
    (c: commissaries), intendencias (i: intendancies), and a distrito especial (e: special district).
  • Population: 2005-05-22 census.


The Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica (DANE, the national statistics department) has set up a system of eight-digit codes for territorial divisions of Colombia. The first two digits represent the department. The next three represent a municipio, and the last three represent a populated place. The DANE two-digit department code can be found by taking the last two digits of the NUTE code.

Postal codes: 

Colombia uses six-digit postal codes. The first two digits are the same as the DANE department code. The next two digits represent a postal routing zone, where 00 is always the department capital, and 9x is for post office boxes.

Further subdivisions:

See the Municipalities of Colombia page.

The departments are divided into municipios (municipalities), corregimientos departamentales (departmental wards), and four distritos (districts): Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cubará, and Santa Marta. In 1995, there were 1,034 municipalities. The NUTE standard divides Colombia into the following seven NUTE regions (only used for statistical purposes).

NUTE RegionCode
Andina Norte205
Andina Sur206

Territorial extent: 

  1. Cauca department includes Isla Gorgona.
  2. San Andrés y Providencia consists of a few small islands in the Caribbean Sea: Isla de San Andrés and its neighbors, Cayos del E.S.E. and Cayos de Albuquerque; Isla de Providencia; and some islets used jointly by the United States and Colombia, such as Roncador Cay, Quita Sueño Bank, and Serrana Bank. It also includes Malpelo Island, in the Pacific Ocean west of Valle del Cauca.

The UN LOCODE page  for Colombia lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Amazonas: From the Amazon River
  2. Arauca: From the Arauca River
  3. Atlántico: On the Caribbean Sea, considered part of the Atlantic Ocean
  4. Bolívar: For Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), Colombia's liberator from Spain
  5. Caquetá: From the Caquetá River
  6. Casanare: From the Casanare River
  7. Cauca: From the Cauca River
  8. Distrito Capital: = Capital District
  9. Guainía: From the Guainía River
  10. Guaviare: From the Guaviare River
  11. Huila: From Nevado de Huila, a mountain
  12. Magdalena: From the Magdalena River
  13. Meta: From the Meta River
  14. Nariño: For Antonio Nariño (1765-1823), revolutionary leader
  15. Norte de Santander: Formed from the north part of Santander
  16. Putumayo: From the Putumayo River
  17. Santander: For Francisco de Paula Santander (1792-1840), Simón Bolívar's co-revolutionist and vice-president.
  18. Sucre: For Antonio José de Sucre (1795-1830), Simón Bolívar's co-revolutionist.
  19. Tolima: From Nevado de Tolima, a mountain
  20. Valle del Cauca: Spanish for "Cauca Valley," which runs through the department.
  21. Vaupés: From the Vaupés River (called Uaupés in Brazil)
  22. Vichada: From the Vichada River

Change history: 

In 1900, Colombia had nine departments. Their approximate relation to the present divisions is shown here.

DepartmentPresent-day equivalent
AntioquiaAntioquia, Caldas
BolívarAtlántico, Bolívar, Córdoba, Sucre
BoyacáArauca, Boyacá, Casanare
CaucaCauca, Chocó, Nariño, Putumayo, Quindío, Risaralda, Valle del Cauca, and Territorio de Caquetá
(Amazonas, Caquetá, Guainía, Guaviare, Vaupés, and some territory ceded to Brazil in 1907)
CundinamarcaCundinamarca, Distrito Capital, and Territorio de San Martin (Meta, Vichada)
MagdalenaCesar, La Guajira, Magdalena
PanamáPanamá, now a different country
SantanderSantander, Norte de Santander
TolimaHuila, Tolima
  1. 1903-11-03: Panama declared its independence from Colombia.
  2. 1907: Colombia ceded a large area in southeastern Cauca department to Brazil.
  3. ~1935: Territory transferred from Cauca to Antioquia, giving it a corridor of access to the Caribbean Sea. Atlántico department split from Bolívar; Arauca commissary split from Boyacá; Caldas formed from parts of Antioquia and Cauca; Cauca split into the departments of Cauca, Chocó, Nariño, Valle del Cauca; the commissaries of Caquetá, Putumayo, and Vaupés; and part of Caldas; Huila split from Tolima; La Guajira commissary split from Magdalena; Meta intendancy split from Cundinamarca (approximately the area of San Martin territory); Norte de Santander split from Santander.
  4. ~1942: Vichada split from Meta; Amazonas commissary split from Caquetá; also, territory transferred from Caquetá to Putumayo.
  5. ~1950: Córdoba split from Bolívar.
  6. ~1955: Arauca, Caquetá, and La Guajira changed from commissaries to intendancies.
  7. 1955-01-01: Distrito Especial created. (Distrito Especial was a separate division for some purposes, and an integral part of Cundinamarca for others. Sources started listing it as a primary subdivision around 1970.)
  8. ~1964: Guainía split from Vaupés.
  9. 1965-07: Status of La Guajira changed from intendancy to department.
  10. 1966-08-07: Quindío department split from Caldas.
  11. 1967: Cesar department split from Magdalena; Risaralda department split from Caldas; Sucre department split from Bolívar.
  12. 1972: Putumayo changed from commissary to intendancy.
  13. 1974-05-15: Casanare intendency split from Boyacá.
  14. 1982: Guaviare commissary split from Vaupés.
  15. 1991-07-05: New constitution took effect. All commissaries and intendancies changed to departments. Some sources say that the new constitution changed the official name of the capital from Bogotá to Santafé de Bogotá, and of its district from Distrito Especial to Distrito Capital. The actual relevant text, translated to English, reads: "Article 322. Bogotá, capital of the Republic and of the Department of Cundinamarca, is organized as the Capital District.... Transitory Article 41. If, in the two years following the date of promulgation of this Constitution, Congress does not issue the law referred to by articles 322, 323 and 324 concerning a special regime for the Capital District of Santafé de Bogotá, the government, for just one time, will issue the appropriate regulations." (Source [3].)

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Cesar: El Cesar (variant)
  2. Distrito Capital: Distrito Capital de Santa Fe de Bogotá (variant)
  3. La Guajira: Goagira, Guajira, La Goajira (variant)
  4. Magdalena: La Magdalena (variant)
  5. Norte de Santander: Santander del Norte (variant)
  6. San Andrés y Providencia: Departamento Archipielago de San Andres, Providencia y Santa Catalina (formal); San Andres; San Andres, Providencia y Santa Catalina (variant)
  7. Valle del Cauca: Valle (variant)

Population history:

Amazonas 6,4147,61912,96216,50039,93737,76446,950
Arauca 11,15613,22124,14832,00089,972137,193153,028
Casanare     147,472158,149281,294
Cesar    321,850699,428729,634878,437
Córdoba  326,263585,714633,6751,013,4271,088,0871,462,909
Distrito Capital     4,227,7064,945,4486,778,691
Guainía   3,60248,00012,34513,49118,797
Guaviare     47,07357,88456,758
La Guajira53,01853,40952,346147,140127,775299,995387,773655,943
Norte de Santander204,381346,181387,450534,486675,850913,4911,046,5771,208,336
Putumayo 15,688 56,28476,000174,219204,309237,197
Quindío    300,075392,208435,018518,691
Risaralda    431,925652,872744,974859,666
San Andrés y Providencia 6,5285,67516,73122,71935,81850,09459,573
Sucre    355,925561,649624,463762,263
Valle del Cauca217,147613,2301,106,9271,733,0532,129,3503,027,2473,333,1504,052,535
Vaupés 7,7679,16913,40317,70026,17818,23519,943
Vichada 9,09412,33010,1309,20018,70236,33644,592


  1. [1] Nomenclatura de las Unidades Territoriales Estadísticas de la Comunidad Andina (NUTE ANDINA) , Comunidad Andina  (Andean Community). This document defines a set of codes for the subdivisions of the member countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, called Nomenclature of Statistical Territorial Units (dated 2002-10-02, retrieved 2004-11-15).
  2. [2] Censo General 2005: Nivel Nacional . Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (retrieved 2011-04-17).
  3. [3] Constitución Política de Colombia 1991 , pp. 82, 104 (retrieved 2003-11-26).
  4. [4] Longman's Gazetteer, 1920.
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