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Visiting Cano Cristales: A Journey to Colombia's Most Colorful River

About the Region:

Nestled in the heart of Colombia's Serrania de la Macarena National Park, Cano Cristales is a river like no other. Dubbed the "River of Five Colors" or "Liquid Rainbow," Cano Cristales is a natural wonder that draws visitors from all over the world. Its unique blend of vibrant hues and crystal-clear waters make for a truly breathtaking experience.

Located in the department of Meta, Cano Cristales is accessible only by foot, horseback or small aircraft. This remote location only adds to its allure and makes for a truly immersive adventure. The journey to Cano Cristales begins with a flight from Bogotá to La Macarena, followed by a multi-hour hike through the national park. The journey is well worth the effort as the stunning scenery, fresh air and peaceful surroundings make for a truly rejuvenating experience.

The River of Five Colors is at its most vibrant between the months of July and November, when a species of aquatic plant called Macarenia clavigera is in bloom. The plant produces a vibrant red pigment that covers the river bed and creates a spectacular display of color. The contrast of the red with the green vegetation, blue sky and crystal-clear waters creates a breathtaking sight that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Visitors are encouraged to take a guided tour to fully appreciate the beauty of Cano Cristales. The local guides are knowledgeable about the area and its history, and they can provide valuable insights and recommendations for making the most of your visit. During the tour, visitors will have the opportunity to swim in the refreshing waters, relax on the river banks, and observe the abundant wildlife that inhabits the area.

In addition to its natural beauty, Cano Cristales is also rich in cultural significance. The area is home to several indigenous communities who have lived in harmony with the environment for centuries. Visitors can learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life, making for a truly enriching experience.

While Cano Cristales is a popular tourist destination, it remains unspoiled and well-protected. The Colombian government has implemented strict regulations to preserve the delicate ecosystem and ensure that visitors have a positive impact on the environment. This includes a limit on the number of daily visitors, and the mandatory use of certified tour guides.

When to Visit Caño Cristales?

The best time to visit Caño Cristales, also known as the "River of Five Colors" or the "Liquid Rainbow," is during the dry season, which typically spans from June to November. However, the prime time to witness the vibrant colors of the river is usually from July to October.

During the dry season, the water level in the river decreases, revealing the underwater vegetation known as Macarenia clavigera. This aquatic plant gives the river its distinctive colors, including shades of red, blue, green, yellow, and black. The colors are most intense when the water level is lower and the sunlight is at the right angle to illuminate the riverbed.

It's worth noting that Caño Cristales is located in the Serrania de la Macarena National Natural Park in Colombia, and access to the park is regulated to preserve its natural beauty. Therefore, it's advisable to check with local authorities or tour operators for the latest information on park accessibility and regulations before planning your visit.


In La Macarena, Colombia, are limited and can range from simple guesthouses to eco-friendly lodges. Given the remote location of La Macarena and its status as a protected national park, visitors should expect limited amenities and a more rustic experience.

Guesthouses in La Macarena offer basic accommodations and typically include private rooms with shared bathrooms. Eco-friendly lodges in La Macarena offer a more comfortable experience and are designed with the environment in mind. These lodges offer private rooms with en suite bathrooms, and some feature solar power, composting toilets, and other sustainable technologies.

It is important to note that La Macarena is a remote destination, and visitors should come prepared with necessary supplies and be ready for a more rugged and basic experience. However, for those seeking a unique and authentic adventure in one of Colombia's most beautiful and protected national parks, La Macarena is well worth the visit.


We offer full package tours that include a Spanish speaking local guide (English can be arranged at an additional cost). The packages include your domestic flight from Bogota (flights from other Colombian cities can also be arranged on request), private rooms in a Eco Lodge, all meals, transportation, park tickets and boat rides.

Is it safe to visit Caño Cristales Colombia?

Caño Cristales and the Serrania de la Macarena National Natural Park are considered safe for tourists to visit. However, it's important to stay informed about the current situation as circumstances can change over time.

Colombia has made significant progress in improving its security situation in recent years, and many areas that were previously considered unsafe for tourists have become more accessible. The Colombian government has taken measures to ensure the safety of visitors to popular tourist destinations, including Caño Cristales.

That said, it's always a good idea to exercise caution and take necessary precautions when traveling to any destination, especially in unfamiliar areas. It's recommended to stay informed about the latest travel advisories from your own country's government and to follow the guidance of local authorities and tour operators.

Additionally, when visiting Caño Cristales or any other natural areas, it's important to respect the environment, follow designated paths, and adhere to any rules or regulations set by the park authorities. This helps ensure the preservation of the unique ecosystem and maintain the beauty of the area for future visitors.

Other things to do in La Macarena (The gateway to Caño Cristales & the National Park)

In addition to visiting Cano Cristales, there are several other activities and attractions to enjoy in Serrania de la Macarena National Park:

  1. Wildlife watching: The national park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including exotic bird species, monkeys, jaguars, and other mammals.
  2. Trekking: With its lush forests, rolling hills, and breathtaking waterfalls, the national park offers plenty of opportunities for trekking and hiking.
  3. Cave exploring: The park is home to several fascinating caves that offer a unique glimpse into the geological history of the area.
  4. Birdwatching: With over 500 species of birds, the national park is a birder's paradise. Visitors can spot species such as the blue-winged macaw, the golden-headed quetzal, and many others.
  5. Cultural encounters: The park is home to several indigenous communities who have lived in the area for centuries. Visitors can learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life through guided tours.
  6. Fishing: The park's rivers and lakes offer excellent fishing opportunities for those who enjoy this activity.
  7. Photography: With its breathtaking scenery, diverse wildlife, and vibrant colors, the national park is a photographer's dream.
  8. Waterfalls: In the remote jungle you can find many beautiful waterfalls such as Caño Canoas, its stunning beauty makes it one of the most unique waterfalls in the world.
Caño Canoas Waterfall in Colombia

Visiting Cano Cristales is a journey that combines adventure, beauty and cultural richness. It is a must-see destination for nature lovers, adventurers, and anyone looking for a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life or simply seeking a new adventure, Cano Cristales is the perfect destination.

Cano Cristales River
Charter Flight to the town of La Macarena (base for exploring Cano Cristales River)

How to get to Caño Cristales:

To get to Caño Cristales, you will typically need to travel to the town of La Macarena, which serves as the gateway to the Serrania de la Macarena National Natural Park where Caño Cristales is located. Here are the general steps to reach Caño Cristales:

  1. Fly to Villavicencio: Start by flying to Villavicencio, a city in Colombia. Villavicencio has an airport called Vanguardia Airport (VVC), which receives domestic flights from major cities like Bogotá.
  2. Travel to La Macarena: From Villavicencio, you will need to take a chartered flight to La Macarena. This flight is usually organized by tour operators or through pre-arranged packages. The flight duration is approximately one hour.
  3. Enter Serrania de la Macarena National Natural Park: Upon reaching La Macarena, you will need to pay an entrance fee and register with the park authorities. It's important to note that visiting Caño Cristales requires hiring a licensed tour guide, as independent access is not allowed.
  4. Travel by Boat: From La Macarena, you will continue your journey to Caño Cristales by taking a boat ride on the Guayabero River. The boat ride usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Explore Caño Cristales: Once you arrive at the designated area for Caño Cristales, you will be able to explore the river and witness its breathtaking natural beauty. Follow the guidance of your tour guide and stay on designated paths to protect the ecosystem.

It's worth mentioning that access to Caño Cristales is regulated, and it's recommended to book your trip through authorized tour operators who have the necessary permits to visit the area. They can help arrange transportation, accommodation, and guide services, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience while adhering to park regulations.

Swimming at Cano Cristales
Typical Food on our Tours
Cano Cristales River

Check out trip packages to Cano Cristales, guided tours can be booked here.

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