Colombia’s Liquid Rainbow: Cano Cristales the “River of Five Colors”
El río de los cinco colores, or the river of the five colors in Spanish, is the most colorful river in Colombia and the world!
National Geographic describes it as el río que escapó del Paraíso (the river that escaped Paradise), and is an understandable description, especially if you are able to visit at the right time of the year.
The river of five colors is a place that is full of natural beauty thanks to its ecosystem and the great work the community has made for its conservation.
Let’s learn today what makes the most colorful river in Colombia so colorful, where it is located, how to get there, and how to enjoy your visit to this place the most.
How To Get To the River of the Five Colors
Where is the river of five colors located? Caño Cristales (Crystal Channel)—the actual name of this river— is located in Sierra de la Macarena (mountain range of la Macarena), municipality of La Macarena, in the department of Meta, Colombia.
The trip from Bogotá—the capital city of Colombia—to Meta is about 8 to 14 hours, depending if you travel by bus, or rent a car. How expensive it is to travel there also depends on what type of transportation you use.
You can fly from Bogotá to La Macarena, but flights to that destination work only during the second half of the year—when access to the river of five colors is allowed—. The flight has a duration of 50 minutes and you can take limited luggage with you.
You can even get to La Macarena through a waterway, where you take a boat in San José del Guaviare to navigate Rio Guayabero. This option has an 8 hour duration and you can only access it on Saturdays.
Facts About the River of Five Colors
There are so many things to talk about the most colorful river in Colombia, but today we are going to center on the most important facts for you to know when you visit this breathtaking place.
1. It Was Recently Discovered
Andrés Hurtado García—a Colombian photographer, ecologist, and journalist—decided in 1989 to travel through all the municipalities of La Macarena, where he found the path to a beautiful river he lately named as Caño Cristales.
A few months later, he published his photos and wrote about it in El Tiempo newspaper and Iberia magazine, where his content reached a lot of people worldwide and everyone became curious about this magical river. But it was not until 2012—when a picture of the river was used for the cover page of the book Caminando Colombia (walking Colombia)—that the place became a popular ecotourism spot.
2. Although It Is Called a River, It Is Actually a Sprout
Although it is called the river of the five colors, the most colorful river in Colombia is actually a caño, or a spout, which is a term used to describe smaller rivers. It has a length of 62 miles (100 km), and a 65 ft (20mt) width. Its depth is less than 65 ft (20 m).
Caño Cristales is made up of a series of fast currents, waterfalls, and pools. The riversource is located in the southern part of La Macarena mountain range, where the place is so unexplored that there are still sites with rock art that is still uncovered. Thanks to its source and how pure it is, the water is so cristalina (cristalline) you can see to the bottom of the river with great detail.
3. The River Is Closed to the Public for Half of the Year
Yep, the river is closed to the public for the first 6 months of the year for a really important reason: Is during those months that the little plants that give color to the river reproduce, specially the macarenia clavigera, an algae that thrives in tropical and subtropical weather. This aquatic plant adapts really well to hard soils and is really resistant to the water flow.
The macarenia clavigera is the algae that is responsible for coloring the water red.
4. The Best Time to Visit Is?
Colombia’s weather is divided into two main seasons: la época seca (dry season) and la época húmeda. Both extremes of this season are not the best time to visit, so if you are planning to get to see the most colorful river in Colombia at its most beautiful point, the best you can do is plan your trip to get there between the months of July and October, when the weather is mild and enjoyable and the river bed grows.
5. Caño Cristales Is Inside a National Park
Caño Cristales is just one of the many natural attractions that you can find in El Parque Nacional Natural Sierra de la Macarena (Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park).
Here you can experience ecotourism to its max. The park’s biodiversity is one of the most attractive aspects of it. It is home to more than 400 bird species, 10 species of amphibians, at least 43 reptile species, and 8 different types of primates.
It is highly encouraged that you bring a pair of binoculars so you can observe the animals at a safe distance, a good camera to capture the beauty of this place, and comfy clothes and shoes so you can explore the place.
You can learn more about Sierra de la Macarena National Park in the Colombian official tourist portal.
6. Don’t Apply Sunscreen and Insect Repellent if You Want To Swim
Skin protection is really important for us as humans, but it can be lethal for the organisms that live in Caño Cristales water.
For that reason, if you applied sunscreen or bug spray you won’t be able to swim in the river of five colors pools, waterfalls, and mainstream in order to conserve the algae that make this river so special.
If you want to protect your skin you can bring a long-sleeved t-shirt to swim in.
For more important information to take into consideration before traveling to Caño Cristales, check out this post.
7. You Need a Yellow Fever Vaccine
According to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) while you don’t need a yellow fever vaccine to enter Colombia, you might need it if you plan on visiting any natural parks and nature and wildlife sanctuaries.
So, if you plan on visiting La Macarena National Park remember to carry your yellow fever proof of vaccination at all times!
According to Colombia’s official travel site the restrictions to enter the country right now due to COVID-19 are very low.
While you don’t have to present a negative test to enter the country or any of its states, there might be some mobility restrictions to some places. So try to always plan ahead, consider using a tourist agency for your safety and enjoy your vacations!
Let’s Prepare for Your Trip!
When planning your next trip, it is important to make fast decisions and be attentive to your surroundings and options. Learning Spanish helps your cognition and decision-making abilities, something that is perfect when you like to travel!
Colombia is a beautiful place full of history, and amazing people with stories to tell. You can travel to Bogotá, Medellín, La Macarena, or any other city and you will find yourself with the need to understand and talk with the people. Being able to speak and understand Spanish will make life so much easier and more fun during your visit! You’ll be able to talk with the locals and have a more fulfilling and authentic experience.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up today for a free 1-to-1 class with a certified native Spanish-speaking teacher at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Check out our programs and take a peek at our affordable prices and begin this new adventure with us!
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