The River of Five Colors: Cano Cristales

The River of Five Colors: Cano Cristales

Cano Cristales is a river flowing in Colombia in the region of Serrania de la Macarena, Meta. The river is popularly known as “the Liquid River” and also “the River of Five Colors”. The nicknames are such because of the strikingly amazing colors of the river. This river is, thus, also called the most beautiful river on this earth. You can see multiple colors in the river like yellow, blue, green, black and red. Red is due to the presence of Macarenia clavigera which is a special kind of plant that grows all over the floor of the river. The explorer named Andres Hurtado was the one who told the world about this beautiful and unique nature of this river in the year 1980. There was some guerrilla activity going on in this region which led to the immediate closing of this tourist site and none of the visitors were allowed to enter the region for many years. One of the reasons of closing the site was the environmental impact due to the tourists. But then, in 2009, when the conditions improved, the site was opened back by the Colombia Tourist Agency. But the foreign visitors coming for a tour of the river and surroundings is very less and the tourists agency are hoping to improve the numbers and are expecting more tourists in the coming seasons.



The rocks in the city of Macarenia are about 1.2 billion years old and there are few of the oldest rocks in this world. Also, the place has a diverse ecosystem with rich flora and fauna which have a great impact on the global biology of the place. The forests of Macarenia have soil lacking nutrients which makes the trees fall more often and a large population of fungi breaks them down. In the riverbed, there are small pits (called Giant’s Kettle) in circular shapes which are due to the pebbles consisting of highly dense minerals. The pits keep growing in size because of the phenomenon where one of these chunks or pebbles falls into a cavity and rotates because of the water flow to carve the cavity further.

Flora and fauna:


There are a lot of aquatic corals and plants. The most popular one of those is the red colored endemic plant called Macarenia clavigera. There are no fishes in the river and that is because there are sedimentary materials present in the river in high concentrations.

Get there:


Cano Cristales is not accessible through roadways. This is because it is an isolated and remote locality. It is located in a national park by the name ‘Serrania de la Macarena’. However, the trip to Cano Cristales can be very adventurous. If you are planning to go to Cano Cristales, you will need to go the municipality of the town ‘La Macarena’ in Meta Department. Once you reach there, you have two choices. One choice is to go from Villavicencio which is a DC-3 cargo airplane which is scheduled every day. The second choice is to take a direct flight – Bogota, which is scheduled on Fridays and returns back on Sundays. The exact location where you can witness the amazing transformations of colors of the flora and algae in the river is very critical region. Therefore, after the flight, the way to the river of Cano Cristales is to be covered on either horseback or by foot. There are guided tours available and the tour guides can show you the way. The tourists must know that they are not allowed to perform cooking in the year and no overnight stays are permitted.

When to go?


There has to be a perfect balance in nature that makes the river goes alive with vibrant colors. Only if you reach the place at the perfect time, you can witness the beauty of this river that seems to be flowing from heaven. The recommended season of visiting this beautiful river is from the end of July to the start of December. This is because you can only see the colors in the river if the conditions are all right. The vibrant colors of the river can only be seen between the dry season and the wet season. During this time, the water level in the river is perfectly right and the brilliant red plant – Macarenia clavigera turns up on the river’s floor. The yellow and green colors appear because of the sand and there are many other shades visible from the top of the river. And for rest of the year, Cano Cristales is like a very usual river with blue water and green moss. But, for the above mentioned months, it turns out be an explosion of beautiful colors like a living rainbow because the water flows faster and deeper. The sun is the main ingredient that makes the plants red in color. This does not happen in the dry seasons because of the lack of sufficient water in the river that could support the life of the aquatic plants.

If you are, by any chance, heading towards Colombia during the seasons, then you must go and visit the river on the first chance you get.

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