Have you ever been somewhere truly magical? Somewhere that almost didn’t seem real for one reason or another? In Colombia, there is a place so full of spectacularly unique natural beauty that we are sure will leave you questioning its very existence, unless you visit and see it for yourself. That place is Caño Cristales.
Located in the southwestern Colombian department of Meta close to the town of la Macarena, Caño Cristales has been a hidden gem of nature that very limited numbers of people have been privy of exploring and admiring due to political instability in the area over the past few decades. However, due to increased military presence and drastic improvements in security in the area in recent years, the tourism infrastructure in and around Caño Cristales has improved, and each year more and more tourists are making the incredible journey to this unbelievable part of Colombia.
So, what is Caño Cristales exactly? Caño Cristales literally translates to “Crystal Pipe/Pipe of Crystals” and is a small river that runs for approximately 100km and has a diameter of about 20km. Its name comes from the fact that the bed of the river is made up of exposed quartzite dating back to more than a 1 million years ago. However, Caño Cristales is not famous for having some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world—it’s famous for the intense and vibrant colours that invade its waters from July to November every year when the algae macarenia clavigera blooms. When the macarenia clavigera blooms, the river comes alive with hues of green, blue, yellow, red, and black. While the most prominent colour is red, the river has not earned the nickname “River of Five Colours” for simply being red in colour. The dramatic display of colours is so spectacular and unique that it has also earned Caño Cristales the honour of being deemed the “Most Beautiful River in the World” and “Liquid Rainbow.”
And, while the display and expression of colours caused by the macarenia clavigera is definitely the most popular attraction in Caño Cristales, the river area, part of the larger Sierra de la Macarena ecosystem, is also home to several endemic species of monkeys, reptiles, birds, flowers including many types of orchids, and mammals due to the fact that the river itself sits at the crossroads of the Amazon, Eastern Colombian plains, and Andes zones of Colombia. The area is known as a hydrophytic rainforest and is home to animals such as the puma, giant anteaters, and hundreds of species of insects.
Likewise, Caño Cristales, like the larger Sierra de la Macarena, is part of the national reserve known as Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park, and while Caño Cristales is the most well-known natural asset in the area, there are a host of awe-inspiring waterfalls in the area as well as amazing hikes and geological sites you can explore.
Off the beaten path, brimming with some of the most stunning natural beauty found in Colombia and perhaps the world, and only a short flight and hike away… what are you waiting for? Caño Cristales is waiting for YOU!
The Uncover Colombia Team