Caño Cristales is a sight to behold. The most beautiful river in Colombia “blossoms” once a year between the wet and the dry season, when the moss and algae bloom in an array of rainbow colours – giving the river its unique character and name. It’s one of Colombia’s most unique tourist attractions and can make a great addition to your tailor-made trip. Here are our tips for making the most out of your visit to Caño Cristales!
Timing, timing, timing
The blossoming that turns Caño Cristales into a magically colourful “rainbow” only happens once a year, between the wet and the dry season. You’re most likely to catch the rainbow coloured spectacle between July and October. If you’re interested in experiencing this unique phenomenon during your trip to Colombia, be sure to check with our local expert Karol about the best time to visit.
More than just a river
While Caño Cristales may be best known for the for the rainbow colour show the river puts on once a year, make sure you don’t miss out on the other unique experiences and natural attractions the area has to offer. There are several waterfalls and natural pools to be found in the area, and Caño Cristales is located next door to La Macarena National Park. Spend time spotting the exotic local flora ad faun during a trip down the Guayabero river, or pay a visit to the lesser known Caño Piedra or Caño Cristalitos.
Where to start/finish
We usually recommend taking 3 to 4 days to visit Caño Cristales, starting in either Villavicencio or Bogota. From Villavicencio you can travel by a small Cessna or DC3 plane to La Macarena, from where it’s just a short boat trip to the Rainbow River. For Bogota, board a charter flight to La Macarena, and spend the next two to three days exploring the region.
Your tailor-made Caño Cristales experience
We recommend the following route to make the most out of your Rainbow River experience:
Day 1: Villavicencio to La Macarena
Travel by plane to La Macarena from Villavicencio and spend the rest of the day exploring the area. Book a trip along the Guayabero river where you can spot exotic flora and fauna, or opt for a visit to Caño Piedra or Caño Cristalitos. Spend the night in La Macarena.
Day 2: La Macarena: Caño Cristales
After breakfast at your hotel in La Macarena, take a 20 minute boat trip to Caño Cristales. Spot local wildlife along the way, including different species of birds, monkeys and maybe even caimans. The boat trip is followed by a short jeep ride to Cajuche, for the final hike towards Caño Cristales. Caño Cristales can only be visited with a guide, and our well experienced guides will be happy to show you the best natural pools and waterfalls for swimming. Pro tip: bring a (UV protective) T-shirt to swim in, as you’re not allowed to apply sun screen or bug spray before swimming in the area.
Day 3: La Macarena – Caño Cristales
After spending a second night in La Macarena, travel by boat and jeep and hike to Caño Cristales. Explore new sites of the region today, including Piscina del Turista, la Silla del Tinigua, Tres Espejos, Pozo Cuadrado and Las Escaleras. Enjoy a swim in one of the natural pool, and lunch along the way, before returning to La Macarena for a third and final night.
Day 4: La Macarena – Villavicencio
Travel back to Villavicencio by plane after lunch, and continue your journey through wondrous Colombia from there!
Take a look at our travel suggestions and design your own Colombian travel experience.
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