The Caño Cristales, a 62-mile river, is a unique biological wonder also known as the ‘Liquid Rainbow’ and the ‘The Most Beautiful River in the World’ for its fusion of vibrant colors. This jaw-dropping phenomenon only occurs during certain months of the year – and can be seen nowhere else on earth but here. It has also been named as the ‘Five Color Rainbow’ for rather obvious reasons! Colombia travel is incomplete without witnessing its astonishing beauty.

Caño Cristales colombia travel

Photo: Mario Carvajal via Wikimedia Commons

Shades of red, ranging from pale pink to blood red and maroon, dominate the river. In other areas, bright greens mixed with yellows and blues stand out dramatically.

However, this phenomenon does not occur from moss or algae. The spectacular waters turn into a kaleidoscope of colors from an aquatic plant called macarenia clavigera, which requires precise conditions to it take on its vibrant hue (including water temperature and the amount of sunlight). These beautiful plants attach themselves to the rocky beds of the river, blending together to create a fusion of reds, blues, greens, and yellows.

macarenia clavigera

Photo: Itziar Areta via Flickr

Caño Cristales waterfalls

Photo: Mario Carvajal via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, environmental laws regarding river pollution have been enforced to protect the plants from litter and impact of other human activities. Some rules include mandatory tour guides with groups no more than 7 people, a limit of 200 per day in the area, a ban on wearing sunscreen or insect repellent, and limiting areas where swimming is allowed.

Caño Cristales

Photo: Cody Clark via Flickr

The colors of the river can be seen from June to December, when they are most vibrant. For the rest of the year, the river is closed to allow the plants into a colorless hibernation before turning goregous again.

It is definitely an awe-striking wonder that should be seen during any Colombia travel!

How to get here:

The river is located deep in the Serrania de la Macarena province of Meta. Take a plane or bus from Villavicencio to Bogota. From Villavicencio, you can catch another plane that will take you to La Macarena, where you can find a guide who will take you to the river.

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