Caño Cristales, the mythical river of five colours is found deep in the department of Meta close to the towns of La Macarena, Mesetas, Vistahermosa, San Juan de Arama and Puerto Rico, making up part of the Sierra de La Macarena National Park. This place is important for its profound biological and geological significance, as it is one of the oldest formations of the planet, which means that the organisms that inhabit here have a long evolutionary history producing unique species. Additionally, this area is the meeting point for the Andean, Amazonian, and the Orinoco ecosystems.

The Caño Cristales River owes its red colour to an algae called Macarenia Clavijera which is on the surface of the rocks along the river. The quartzite rocks of the Serrania de la Macarena plateau were formed approximately 1.2 billion years ago. They are a western extension of the Guiana Shield of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil and belong to the oldest exposed rocks in the world.

Caño Cristales is a fast river with many rapids and waterfalls. In some areas of the river bed there has been a particular style of erosion which has formed small circular pits – giant’s kettles – which have been formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. One of these harder rock fragments falls into one of the cavities and it is rotated by the waters current and begins to scrape at the cavity wall and increases the dimensions of the pit.

The river is especially beautiful after the rainy period, between June – November when the red Macarenia clavigera thrives. Between December and May the park doesn’t receive tourists, because the ecosystem is protected for the next season.

To get to La Macarena you can travel either from Bogotá or Villavicencio by air. From Bogotá there are charter flights on some weekdays. From the cowboy city of Villavicencio which is 3 hours by car from Bogotá there are flights in small aircraft every day. 

NOTE: It is recommended for tourists that will visit Caño Cristales to apply the yellow fever vaccine as prevention, certificates can be requested upon arrival.