Efforts by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to end five decades of war in his country were recognised with the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The award came despite voters' shock rejection of the terms of a historic deal he reached last month with FARC chief Rodrigo Londono, alias Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez, after nearly four years of talks.

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end," said committee chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five. 

"There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again. This makes it even more important that the parties, headed by President Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono, continue to respect the ceasefire," she said.

Santos won in a competitive year, with a record 376 candidates vying for the award.

Of the candidates, 228 were individuals and 148 were organisations. The previous record was set in 2014, with 278 nominations.

Santos beat competition from individuals and groups including: Pope Francis; The Syrian White Helmets; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; doctor Denis Mukwege, Jean Nacatche Banyere, Jeannette Kahindo Bindu - a DRC group working with survivors of sexual violence; Russian activist Svetlana Gannushkina; the people who negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal; whistleblower Edward Snowden; and Greek islanders who work to help refugees when they arrive from perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.

Underlining the difficulty of predicting the winner, last year's prize  went to four Tunisian groups who were instrumental in the country's transition to democracy - none of whom had been mentioned in any of the pre-announcement speculation.

Santos joins a list of 129 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates including US President Theodore Roosevelt; three-time recipient International Committee of the Red Cross; US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr; South African President Nelson Mandela and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman.

The prize was first awarded in 1901.