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Cano Cristales: all you need to know

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

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1. Discovering Cano Cristales

Hey there, travel lovers! Have you heard of Cano Cristales in Colombia? If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind adventure, a visit there should definitely be on your radar. Nestled in the heart of Colombia's Serrania de la Macarena National Park lies this hidden gem, also known as the "River of Five Colors or the Liquid Rainbow". This Colombian river is unlike any other in the world, as it boasts a stunning display of colors that change throughout the year. This phenomenon occurs due to the specific combination of water, sunlight, and aquatic plants that thrive in the river. Without doubts, an unforgettable sight that has captured the attention of travelers from all over the world. In this blog post, we’ll give you a rundown of everything you need to know before planning a trip to Cano Cristales. So sit back, relax, and let's dive into the world of Cano Cristales!

2. Best time of year to visit and weather in Cano Cristales

The vibrant colors of Cano Cristales come to life from June to November. That is the season when it is open to the public. During this time, the water has reached the ideal level and the sun's angle creates the perfect environment for river's algae, moss, and underwater plants to become visible. The flora bloom in all the spectra of colors. You can walk, enjoy and take pictures in the surreal world that this river creates in front of you. But its stunning colors are just the beginning. From winding waterfalls to cascading pools, this natural wonder is sure to leave you breathless.

Do not go between December and May, the river will be dry and you will not have access permission. But why? When the dry season begins (December to March), the water does not run, the plants are exposed and the sun burns them. Cano Cristales is a river that runs out of water in the dry season and is reborn in the main rainy season (April to May). As long as the river has no water, the Macarenia Clavigera plant, responsible for giving the river its color, "almost" will disappear. But only almost, because the small stems simply remain, clinging to the rocks, invisibly almost. So if you go to Caño Cristales in the dry season, you will see an apparently dead river. There is no running water, just small wells with little standing water. Some plants will look dry or burned under the inclement Sun and other plants, which are left without water, are not seeable. For this reason, Caño Cristales is closed during the December-May season. If you were to go, you could inadvertently step on one of these plants, causing considerable damage to the flowering of the river. The most fascinating time is that when it starts to rain, the water begins to run down the river again and those flowers that seemed dead are reborn and begin to bloom, giving way to the season that usually begins in June.

It is a sight to behold, and visitors are advised to book their trips during the mentioned period to fully appreciate the river's beauty. Humid jungles, savanna vegetation, and a humid tropical climate make the Macarena national park a very special place. In an extensive territory, the fauna and flora of the Orinoquia, the Amazon and the Andes converge.

3. How to get there

The journey to Cano Cristales begins in Bogotá and then to the nearby town of La Macarena.

Here are the steps to get there:

1. Fly into Bogota, Colombia's capital city. There are international flights available to Bogota from major cities around the world.

2. From Bogotá, you can fly with local airlines directly the town of La Macarena. But please be careful from Bogotá you do not have daily flights. That is only possible from Villavicencio, a city located approximately 3 hours drive south of Bogota. So you first have to drive or fly to Villavicencio.

3. From Villavicencio, you can take a charter flight to La Macarena. Charter flights can be arranged every day through tour operators or directly with the airline. Some popular airlines that offer charter flights to La Macarena include Aexpa, Satena, and ADA.

Before flying to La Macarena, we recommend to hire a tour operator. It's important to note that the access to Caño Cristales is limited, and visitors are required to obtain a permit from the Colombian National Parks Authority to enter the Serrania de la Macarena National Park.

Accommodation options are limited as well. It's better to plan the trip in advance and book a tour with a reputable operator to ensure a hassle-free experience. They will arrange a full package to visit the national park and provide information about the area and its unique ecosystem. Contact Newtours Colombia to book a perfectly organized trip.

4. What to do and what to visit in Cano Cristales: the journey

Cano Cristales is undoubtedly a place of rare and unique natural beauty. Visitors get to explore the area on foot and by boat, learning about the plants and animals that call the river home.

Monkeys, birds, and reptiles will be your friends during this journey. The area around Cano Cristales is also rich in cultural history, with the indigenous communities of the region adding to the cultural significance of the area. Visitors can learn about their way of life, their customs and traditions, and their role in the preservation of the natural environment.

But that's not all there is to do in Cano Cristales! Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled with the plethora of activities on offer - from hiking and horseback riding to birdwatching. The landscape surrounding the area is stunning with waterfalls, rainforests and cliffs providing the ideal backdrop for hikers and nature lovers alike. So if you're in search of a unique natural escape, then Cano Cristales tours isn't one to miss out on.

4.1 Must-visit places and activities in Cano Cristales:

1. The River of Five Colors - The main attraction of Cano Cristales is the river itself. It is famous for its multi-colored waters, which are caused by the presence of different types of algae and minerals.

2. The Natural Pools - You can find several natural pools where you can swim and cool off in the crystal-clear water alongside the river.

3. The Waterfalls - Cano Cristales is home to many impressive waterfalls, including Cascada de la Virgen, Cascada del Amor, and Cascada Escondida.

4. The Serrania de la Macarena National Park - This protected area surrounds Cano Cristales and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including monkeys, parrots, and orchids.

5. Trekking and Hiking - There are many trails to explore in the park, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. You can also go for a guided tour to learn more about the local flora and fauna.

6. Bird Watching - Cano Cristales is a heaven for bird watchers, with over 400 species of birds inhabiting the area.

7. Photography - With its stunning landscapes and vibrant colors, Cano Cristales is a photographer's paradise. Be sure to bring your camera and capture some unforgettable shots.

5. Important tips for Beginners to enjoy Cano Cristales

1. Pack Accordingly: The weather in Cano Cristales can be unpredictable, so make sure to pack for all types of weather. We recommend you to bring: hiking clothes (long pants, long-sleeved shirt, tennis or special walking boots), sleepwear, raincoat, swim suit, sandals or flip flops, sunglasses, personal hygiene items, snorkel, cap, repellent only for night use in the town (repellent, sunscreen, creams or soaps are not allowed in the river), flashlight, battery, camera, towel, small backpack for walks.

2 .Respect the Environment: Cano Cristales is a fragile ecosystem, so it is important to respect the environment and follow the park's rules and regulations. Please do not bring sunscreen or insect repellent to the river, as these substances can affect the ecosystem of Caño Cristales Colombia.

3. Vaccination: It is mandatory to have the yellow fever vaccine before traveling to Caño Cristales, according to local laws. The yellow fever vaccine must be applied at least 10 days before the trip.

4. It’s important to take out travel insurance when travelling to Colombia.

5. Buy local products when buying food and handicrafts.

6. Remember to exercise caution and keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times.

7. If you take a taxi, it’s best to use the phone numbers and mobile apps of reputable companies such as Easy Taxi or Taxis Libres.

8. Listen to the recommendations of tour guides and staff at your accommodation.

6. Accommodation in Cano Cristales: Hotels

La Macarena is the closest town to Caño Cristales and the main point of access for visitors. It has a range of budget-friendly hotels, guesthouses, and hostels, offering basic amenities such as comfortable rooms, hot water, and Wi-Fi. Some of the popular options include Hotel Macarena Real, Hotel La Cascada, Hotel Casa Turismo, and La Hormiga Hostel. Directly, in Serrania de la Macarena National Park there are a few rustic and eco-friendly lodges located, offering a unique and authentic wilderness experience. Some of the popular options include La Manigua Lodge, Masaguaré Eco Lodge, and Camp Verde Lodge. Just contact us and we will give you the best recommendation according to your budget.

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, Cano Cristales is a breathtaking destination offering an unforgettable experience for any traveler. Whether you're drawn to the remarkable colors of the river or the cascading waterfalls, you're sure to leave awestruck by the natural beauty of this hidden gem in Colombia.

The rainy season starts in April and lasts until May, but it's in June when the water starts reaching the ideal level. The dry season, which is the best time to visit, starts in June and lasts until November. The weather during this period is usually warm and sunny, with occasional storms. But after a storm is when a trip to Caño Cristales is best because the aquatic plants will appear at their most vivid color. The average temperature ranges from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius (77- 86°F) during the day, and it can get cooler at night.

It's important to note that Cano Cristales is located in a remote area in Colombia, and access to the river is limited to authorized tour operators, so be sure to plan your visit ahead of time. Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and safety regulations may be in place that could affect your travel plans, so be sure to check local guidelines before embarking on your journey. Contact Newtours Colombia to book a perfectly organized trip.

There are many reasons to explore this enchanting location, especially for those looking for an immersive nature experience. There's no doubt that Cano Cristales deserves a spot on your travel bucket list. So start packing your bags and get ready for an adventure that's sure to be filled with unforgettable memories

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