Get to know the River of Five Colours in Colombia

Caño Cristales, also famously known as the “River of Five Colours”, the “Liquid Rainbow, and the “river that ran away from paradise”, is undeniably one of the most awe-inspiring and amazing rivers in the world. Its translation in English is Crystal Sprout. Caño Cristales is 100 kilometers long and is located east of Andes, in the Serrania de la Macarena, a province of Meta in Colombia. The River of Five Colours is world renowned for its striking colors and the quartzite rocks which can be found along the river, which are said to be about 1.2 billion years old. There are also over twenty species of fauna and flora which lives in Caño Cristales exclusively and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.


Things To Know Before Traveling To The River of Five Colours

Most people want to travel to the River of Five Colours to witness its amazing transformation. Before you plan the trip though, there are a couple of things you need to know and you need to be prepared for to make sure that your trip is going to be worth it.


  1. There are no ATMs in La Macarena.

The River of Five Colours is a very isolated and secluded place. It used to be inaccessible to the public due to guerrilla activities around the area which only went under control in the year 2000. Today, about 30 kilometers of the area in La Macarena is controlled by guerillas and is still considered as a red zone by the government of Colombia (read: Your safety is not a guarantee). For this reason, there are no ATMs around the area, no stores, no nothing; just you and nature.


  1. You cannot stay overnight.

There isn’t any hotel or inn in Caño Cristales. There isn’t any place where you can go to relax and rest during your visit to the River of Five Colours except maybe if the tour guides will allow you to sleep on the boat. For this reason, make sure that you had enough hours of sleep and that you are well-rested before traveling to Caño Cristales. Before it gets dark, you have to go back to La Macarena.


  1. There is no electrical connection.

Before you go for your most awaited trip to the River of Five Colours, make sure that your phones and cameras are fully charged. The signal in the area is also poor so if you need to make important phone calls, make the calls before traveling. The internet signal isn’t reliable so expect to be able to post your pictures from the trip once you get back to your hotel room.

Some other surrounding areas in the River of Five Colours with no mobile phone coverage are Movistar and Tigo. You can find computer rooms in the village of Claro but the internet signal in this area can be very poor as well.




  1. “Cash is king” in La Macarena.

While some other tourist destinations have plenty of banks where you can withdraw cash and a number of stores and merchants that accept credit cards, La Macarena have Bancolombia Bank and Banco Agrario only. Thus, it is highly recommended to bring cash with you and leave your credit cards behind as you travel to the River of Five Colours.


  1. The hike to Caño Cristales is way challenging.

There are people who can travel despite physical disabilities. It is admirable if they wanted to try to travel to the River of Five Colours. However, whether you have physical disabilities or not, know that the hike is Caño Cristales is very narrow, rocky, and slippery. It is also highly recommended to wear waterproof shoes with a good grip or any shoes you’d feel comfortable in because of the long hike to the river and because you’d mostly walk in water. Bring a hat or a cap and extra shirts to protect your skin from the sun. Exercise caution at all times.


  1. You can only travel provided that you purchase a package from a tour company.

While you can venture alone in other rivers of the world, you can only see the beauty of the River of Five Colours by purchasing a guide package from a tour company. The package usually includes your flights to and from Caño Cristales and your lodging. The tour company will provide you a tour guide to be with you and to ensure your safety all throughout the trip. A typical tour is usually for three days and two nights.

A permit is needed to travel to the River of Five Colours so it’s a must that you listen to the tour guide’s instructions for your own convenience and safety. Eco Tourismo Macarena is one locally owned tour company and is said to be the most trusted and seasoned tour company among others in the area.


  1. The tour is expensive.

Traveling to the River of Five Colours is very costly. A typical tour package of three days and two nights, which includes a two-day hike, short canoe trip, a Jeep ride, and a short hike cost about $500. It does not include the airfare, your food, and other expenses. Along the trip, you’ll get the chance to see the rich flora and incredible coral reefs. If you think it’s worth it for the price you’ll be paying, then go ahead and book a trip to Caño Cristales.


  1. Expect itineraries to change due to many factors.

Tour guides will advise you if itineraries will be changed due to weather conditions and recommendation from authorities. Local authorities coordinate travel permits with the military fore around the area so as to ensure your safety while visiting the River of Five Colours. The trip is usually comprised of four to fourteen people.


  1. Carry a backpack with you during the trip.

It will also help to carry a backpack with you with all your essentials inside, like electronic gadgets, food, bottled water, your health insurance and documents for personal identification. Make sure to put them inside a plastic bag that’s safe enough for water not to get in. The River of Five Colours is also considered as an ecological location so the use of sunscreen and mosquito repellant is prohibited so it’s advised to wear something light but will cover your skin if you do not want to be exposed to the sun and insects you may probably encounter during your trip.


  1. Vaccination is highly recommended.

Before you book your flight to experience the majesty of the River of Five Colours, it is of utmost importance that you get vaccinated with yellow fever and tetanus vaccines. It is recommended due to the condition of the area where you’re going to travel to but it is not compulsory.


The Science Behind The Changing Colors of The River of Five Colours

The red color in the river is brought about by the unique plant species that grows deep down the river floors called Macarenia clavigera. The beautiful color transformation can only be seen when the river’s water level is just right. During the wet season, the current is too strong so the plants deep down do not get enough sunlight in order for them to grow. Other species that produce the other hues of the River of Five Colours are different species of algae and moss that also live in the river.


Do You Want To Go To The River of Five Colours?

If you’re thinking of visiting the River of Five Colours, you can purchase a tour package directly from the La Macarena website or you can buy it from other reputable travel agencies. Just make sure to take your time in researching to find the best deals so you can travel to Caño Cristales without having to spend so much. Read reviews from other travelers who have been there and subscribed to airfare alerts so you’ll be one of the people who will get notified if there’s a great deal for traveling to Colombia.

Also, take note that the River of Five Colours is closed to all travelers from January to May to give the ecology some break from people who wanted to see it. Only around 200 people are allowed to visit the river per day. It’s a well-protected area so make sure you don’t litter or do anything that can cause damage to the ecology and its inhabitants during your tour.


Is It Safe To Travel To The River of Five Colours?

For many years during the 90’s and early 00’’s, many areas in Colombia were considered as no-go areas or red zone areas including the River of Five Colours. Today, Caño Cristales is considered safe to visit for there’s now a large military presence around Caño Cristales who patrol the area to make sure that tourists and travelers are secured and safe during their trip. However, it is still your discretion if you want to proceed with traveling to the place.


The Best Time To Go To The River of Five Colours

The river transforms from its normal colors to red, blue, orange, green, and yellow hues during the months of July to December. Shades of green and red are the most common but you won’t be disappointed as you can see how distinct the colors of the river are during these months. Aside from the stunning transformation, you will also enjoy waterfalls and natural pools along the river.

Temperatures in the River of Five Colours are fairly consistent due to the fact that Colombia is sitting very close to the equator. There are plenty of tours available year round but the best months to visit as mentioned above is during July to December.


How To Get To The River of Five Colours

The River of Five Colours is situated in Serrania de Macarena National Park. You can travel by taking a ninety-

Villavicencio Airport

Villavicencio Airport

minute flight to La Macarena from Bogota, Colombia. You can also take a cargo aircraft from another city called Villavicencio. Choose which you’d be more comfortable with.

You can also travel to the region by land or boat, although it may take longer compared to flying. There are flights every day in Bogota but you might need to stay the night in La Macarena before traveling the next day to the River of Five Colours. From La Macarena, it’s a ten-minute boat ride and around four-hour walk to get to the river. Once you get there, you’ll definitely say it is worth all the time you spent traveling by air, by water, and walking.


The River of Five Colours Is Awaiting You

Caño Cristales is indeed one of the hottest holiday destinations you must aim to visit this year. With its amazing transformation and peaceful habitat, you’ll be sure to find the peace and serenity you’re looking for as you travel to the River of Five Colours. Book a trip now so you can fly before the year ends!

Visit the South America destinations category to learn more about best places to visit in South America!