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Visiting Caño Cristales, the Rainbow River

For much of the year, the Caño Cristales just looks like any other normal river that you could see anywhere in the world. Nestled in Colombia, even getting to this river is a difficult adventure in itself.

Accessible only through the community of La Macarena, you can take a DC3 cargo plane from Villavicennco or a weekend flight from Bogota that requires a stayover.

Between June and November, however, the Caño Cristales transforms from a basic river to the “River of Five Colors,” filled with endemic flora and fauna that will give you a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience.

If you like the idea of adventure, then seeing this river when it is in full bloom should be on your bucket list.

What is Caño Cristales?

Cano Cristales River

Caño Cristales is a river that runs through the Serranía de la Macarena national park in Meta, Colombia. The River of Five Colors gets its name from the different endemic plant species that line the river and provide vibrant colors of green, yellow, blue, black, and red.

The most notable plant is the Macarenia clavigera, also known as “La Mesita” (the little table), which covers the riverbed and rocks with a thin layer of green moss.

When the sun hits at just the right angle, this moss reflects all the colors of the rainbow onto the clear water surface – hence why it’s called the Rainbow River.

How to Get to Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales Hike

This beautiful river is located in the national park called Serranía de la Macarena on the border of the Amazon rainforest and is truly a sight to behold.

The colors of the river range from yellow to green to blue, and it’s full of plant and animal life that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Visitors to the national park can take boat rides down the river, hike through the jungle, and camp under the stars. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!

The only way to get to Caño Cristales is through the town of La Macarena.

You can take a direct flight from Bogota that will have you in Villavicencio in about an hour. From there, it is a quick 20-minute flight on a small plane to La Macarena.

Or, you can take a longer but cheaper route and fly into Villavicencio on a Friday evening, stay the night, and then take the early Saturday morning flight to La Macarena.

Once you are in La Macarena, you will need to arrange for transportation to Caño Cristales. You can do this through your hotel or a tour agency in town.

What to Expect When You Visit

A trip to Caño Cristales tour is not your typical river tour.

This is an all-day adventure that will have you hiking through the jungle, wading in the water, and swimming in some of the most beautiful waters you have ever seen.

You will be up close and personal with nature, so expect to get dirty and sweaty.

Wear comfortable clothes that can get wet and shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. Most importantly, remember to pack your sense of adventure.

While the Caño Cristales may only be a river, it is truly a natural wonder of the world. The colors, the wildlife, and the scenery come together to create an unforgettable experience.

If you have the chance to visit this amazing river, don’t hesitate – it is an experience you will never forget.

The Easiest Way To Get There Is To Purchase a Caño Cristales Tour

River of Five Colors

You can make the effort to arrange everything on your own for this trip to save a few bucks, but purchasing a full package that includes your flights, lodging, and guide to the river is going to save you a major headache.

The liquid rainbow river is becoming ever more popular and tour groups are routinely booking up all the lodging available in La Macarena. Unless you want to go camping at a moment’s notice, booking your full trip in advance will help you get the accommodations you want.

A typical tour includes three days and two nights in La Macarena. Two-day hikes, consisting of a short canoe trip, a Jeep ride, and a short hike of less than an hour are what is typically booked.

In return, you get to see the incredible plants and corals that call the Caño Cristales their home. Most trips can be booked for around 1 million pesos, or about $500.

Best Tours of Caño Cristales – Colombia’s Rainbow River

The best way to explore Caño Cristales is by joining a tour. There are many reputable companies that offer tours, so you can be sure to find one that fits your budget and travel style.

Most tours depart from the town of La Macarena, which is located about an hour’s drive from the river. You’ll need to arrange transportation to La Macarena in advance, as it’s not accessible by public transport.

Once you arrive in La Macarena, your tour guide will take you on a short hike to the river. The hike is relatively easy and should only take about half an hour.

Once you reach the Caño Cristales river, you’ll be able to see why it’s called the Rainbow River. The water is crystal clear and has a unique turquoise color. You’ll also see a plethora of fish swimming in the river.

After you’ve had a chance to explore the river, your tour guide will take you back to La Macarena. From there, you can arrange transportation back to your hotel or the airport.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, be sure to add a tour of Caño Cristales to your Colombia itinerary.

What to see at Caño Cristales River

Cano Cristales Scenery

Yes, rainbows exist. Okay. That appears to be a very natural thing. Despite the fact that the Caño Cristales river is long, the trees and their lovely colors never reach their entire length.

There are several trails that run through the park that lead not just into the different portions of the river but to different waterfalls, pools, and other sights.

Caño Cristales is a river in Colombia that is well-known for its vibrant colors. The water is stained by different minerals, giving it a rainbow appearance. The Córdobo Cristales river itself is actually quite long, though the trees and their pretty colors never grow throughout the entire length.

There are several trails that run through the park that lead not just into the different portions of the river but to different waterfalls, pools, and other sights.

Caño Cristales is a popular destination for tourists, and many people come to see the unique colors of the water that are derived from aquatic plants. If you’re planning on visiting Caño Cristales, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, as the trails can be fairly challenging.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen them yet, but we’ve witnessed the park’s major attractions over the course of our two days there. Here’s a rundown of the sights and experiences I saw while I was arguing how to arrange it so that we could visit different places on a trip.

Cao Piedra

It’s what I’ve done in the past. The motorcycle cab driver arrived early to witness the sunrise on the grassland outside La Macarena, as he had previously. There are tiny sections of the creek where people can swim. Locals like the openness of this location.

Sure, but it doesn’t compare to what our buddies saw on their last day at Caño Cristales.

Similarly, if our flight had left early we might try Laguna instead. Nonetheless, there is a nice way to spend some time outside of La Macarena and see a small bit of the surrounding landscape, particularly when you are tired of hiking.

Los Ochos

Los Ochos, Cano Cristales

Los Ochos is a waterfall series in Colombia that is known for its unique shape. The waterfalls are circular or conical in shape, and they are a fascinating sight to see. If you’re visiting Los Ochos, be sure to bring your camera, as you’ll want to capture the beauty of these falls.

It’s a maze with several Macarenia clavigeras that flow through it, before cascading into the formation. The falls may be easily visited, but you should not even swim or touch them.

Laguna del Silencio

Laguna del Silencio Scenery

The park is located in the Serrana Macara region to the east of Cao Cristales. The opportunity to observe animals and a variety of birds, as well as the reflecting water on the lake and surrounding trees, is one of the main draws. It was not the first tourism attraction established as a result of the Peace Agreement.

This is a great place to come for a picnic lunch or just to relax and take in the scenery. If you’re interested in birdwatching, be sure to bring your binoculars, as there are over 100 species of birds that have been spotted in the park.

While we didn’t get to see any of the animals or birds, the scenery was still beautiful and it was a nice place to relax after our hike.

Pozas Azules

Pozas Azules is a series of blue pools that are located in the Cañon de la Cola de Caballo. The water in these pools is crystal clear, and the views are absolutely breathtaking. If you’re visiting Pozas Azules, be sure to bring your camera, as you’ll want to capture the beauty of these pools.

We, unfortunately, didn’t get to see the Pozas Azules, as they are located in a different part of the park and we didn’t have time to hike there.

However, from what I’ve seen in the pictures, they are definitely worth a visit.

See Related: Cheapest Places to Visit in the World

Why is the Caño Cristales So Colorful?

Caño Cristales

One of the biggest reasons why the Caño Cristales can stay in bloom throughout the entire season is because it is completely devoid of fish life.

This beautiful river contains no drag or sediment, making it impossible for fish to survive. But, there are aquatic plants in the river that make this into a liquid rainbow and one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world.

Though the experience is a little less impressive outside the regular season, the different channels of the Caño Cristales also contain red flora throughout the Winter season as well.

Another part of reason for the tremendous display of color is the mineral content of the water. There are many circular “pits” throughout the river basin that have been formed by the flowing water and high mineral content.

As the minerals are deposited on the rocks, they begin to build up, providing life for the flora and fauna of the river.

With yellow, green, black, blue, and the ever-present red during the season, nature really does put on a colorful show in the Caño Cristales!

There’s a reason why it’s the most beautiful river in Colombia (and maybe in the world).

Can You Swim in Caño Cristales?

Despite its name, swimming in the Rainbow River is not advised. The currents can be quite strong, and there are many hidden rocks and boulders that can make for a dangerous swim.

In addition, the water temperature can vary drastically depending on the time of year; during the rainy season (usually between May and November), the water is much colder than it is during the dry season.

There are designated swimming areas but keep in mind you should only go in if you are a good swimmer.

Also, the designated swimming areas are not prohibited if you apply sun cream or bug spray on your body as these products can destroy the precious river plants and algae which would make this beautiful river into a normal river.

Let’s keep Caño Cristales natural and keep it the most beautiful river in Colombia.

Best Places to Stay Near Caño Cristales River

Cano Cristales Nature Scenery

When you visit Caño Cristales River, the best place to stay is in the town of La Macarena. La Macarena is located about an hour away from the river and has many hotels that cater to tourists.

Another option for visitors is to stay in the nearby town of Villavicencio, which is about two hours away from the river. There are also many hotels and resorts in Villavicencio that offer visitors a wide array of amenities.

The Caño Cristales River is located in the Colombian department of Meta. Meta is a large department that is home to many different attractions, including the city of Villavicencio, which is the capital.

The Caño Cristales River is located in the Sierra de la Macarena mountain range. This mountain range is home to many different species of plants and animals, including the famous red-and-green macaw.

The Caño Cristales River is a tributary of the Guayabero River. The Orinoco River is one of the longest rivers in South America and is home to many different species of fish.

The Caño Cristales River is also home to many different species of plants and animals, including the red-and-green macaw and the Aquilas, Colombia’s national bird.

When is the Best Time to Visit Caño Cristales

The best time to visit the Caño Cristales River is between the months of June and November. This is the dry season in Colombia, and the water level of the river is at its lowest. This is also the time when the red-and-green macaw is most active.

See Related: Best Black Sand Beaches Around the World

Travel Tips for a Trip to Caño Cristales

If you are interested in visiting the Caño Cristales River, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. First, it is important to remember that the river is located in a remote area of Colombia. This means that it is important to be prepared for a long journey.

Second, it is important to remember that the river is located in a jungle. This means that there are many different insects and animals that you may encounter.

Finally, it is important to remember that the river is located in an area that is known for its crime. This means that you should be sure to take all of the necessary precautions when traveling to this area.

Are You Thinking About Going to the Caño Cristales?

Tours to see the Caño Cristales can be purchased directly from the La Macarena community website, as well as through several other reputable travel agencies.

Considering the relatively low price that brings about the reward of seeing the River of Five Colors, it is difficult to find a better deal for such an incredible experience. The Caño Cristales is calling for you to visit this year… are you ready to go see it for yourself?


How much does it cost to visit Caño Cristales?

Typical Caño Cristales tours cost between $150 and $200 per person.

What is the best time of year to visit Caño Cristales?

The best time of year to visit Caño Cristales is between June and November when the water levels are at their highest and the colors are at their most vibrant.

What should I bring with me on a Caño Cristales tour?

It is recommended that you bring sunscreen, hats, insect repellents, comfortable walking shoes, and plenty of water.

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Tuesday 2nd of August 2016


Would it be possible to get in touch with someone who can arrange a tour to Cano Cristales from Bogota? We would like to leave in Bogota on 19th of August and get back in Bogota or Villavicencio on 22th of August in the morning.

Our budget is around 1.200.000 COP !

Thank you in advance, Kind regards,