Visiting bustling cities is thrilling, but nothing compares to the excitement of being in the great outdoors. This doesn’t mean that you have to try hiking and scuba diving though! For those of you who want to enjoy nature without resorting to extreme sports, then visiting a river might be for you.
The great thing about visiting rivers is that you don’t have to be a good swimmer or a certified diver to enjoy. If you want to have a nice swim in a picture-perfect location, then the river of five colors in Colombia is the perfect destination for you!
Caño Cristales is also known as “the river of five colors”, “the liquid rainbow” and “the river that ran away from paradise”. It is easily the most popular river in Colombia. This river is located deep in the isolated mountain range of Serrania de la Macarena in the province of Meta.
The River of Five Colors runs to the east and flows into the Guayabero River. The river is around a hundred kilometers long and no more than 20 meters wide.
Going to the river can be quite challenging, but it’s worth the travel time. From Bogota, you can take a bus to Villavicencio. If you’re not staying too long in the country, you can take a plane to Villavicencio, too. From Villavicencio, take a plane to La Macarena. You can then hire a guide to lead you to the river.
From La Macarena, you can opt to go on horseback to access the river or to travel by foot as part of a guided tour.
Unfortunately, Caño Cristales is not colorful all year round. If you want to see it in its multicolor splendor, it is best to time your visit between July to November. It is during this brief period that the conditions are perfect for the growth of the red algae lining the river floor.
While nondescript for the rest of the year, the river remains a great destination. The river features waterfalls, pools, and caverns. That makes the river still worth visiting even without the colorful display. Moreover, there are no fishes in the river so visitors can enjoy uninterrupted bathing.
If you find yourself in the river beyond the period of July to November, you shouldn’t worry because the river is equally enjoyable! Being part of a national park, the river is well-preserved. Its clear currents and cool waters are definitely worth visiting. You may also opt to trek in the neighboring areas.
For nearly half a year, the famed River of Five Colors turns into a wonderful display of yellow, green, black, blue, and red. Most distinctive of these colors is the remarkable red hue caused by the growth of the algae Macarenia clavigera.
These algae grow on the riverbed and change shade depending on the time of the day. It can be anywhere from magenta to a bright red, to deep purple. This distinctive red hue is in sharp contrast with the river's blue waters, black rocks, green sands, and yellow algae.
Aside from the colorful, Instagram-worthy backdrop, there are a number of reasons to visit the River of Five Colors. For one, the river is pristine and well-kept. It is the perfect place to skinny dip and enjoy a nice swim with family and friends, especially during the warmer months.
There are also numerous waterfalls along the length of the waterway, which provide a breathtaking view for tourists all year round. Another unique feature of the river is the numerous deep pools in the riverbed. These pools were created when the rocks were eroded over the course of the millennia.
These deep, clear pools are in sharp contrast with plant-filled river floor. It’s the ideal place to soak in and just enjoy the beauty of the river. Some amphibian and reptile species surround the area, but there is a complete lack of wildlife in the river itself so you have the pools to yourself!
Even if you’re not into swimming, Caño Cristales remains to be a perfect travel destination. With its magnificent colors and wonderful terrain, you will never run out of things to photograph. No wonder photographers flock to this river!
Caño Cristales is perfect for travelers who want to revel in the beauty of nature without resorting to extreme sports. While the river is not readily accessible, its beauty is well worth the travel time. And let’s be honest here, a horseback ride to a colorful river is just dreamy!
Do you have a favorite picture-perfect destination? Share your favorites with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear your ideal destinations. Want to know more travel destinations in Colombia? Leave your questions below. We’d love to answer all your travel-related queries!