Sierra De La Macarena National Park and the River of Many Colors, Colombia

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
At the Sierra de La Macarena National Park in Meta, Colombia there is a river called Cano Cristales(Crystal Caynon) that at a certain time of year displays five colors.

At Sierra de La Macarena National Park in the Department of Meta, Colombia, there is a natural phenomenon that almost beggars belief. In 1980 the Colombian explorer and journalist Andrés Hurtado Garcia appropriately described, a place called Cano Cristales (Crystal Canyon) as being “the most beautiful river in the world“. The river Cano Cristales has also been described as “the river that ran away from paradise.” However it is popularly known as “the river of five colors

At a certain time of the year between the wet and dry seasons, the water level of the river drops sufficiently that sunlight can reach the algae and moss covered rocks of the river bed. Photosynthesis occurs and algae blossom, providing a multicolored biological show of which there are five basic colors with various shades in between.

This spectacle can only be seen between the months of June and November, as during the wet season the river is too deep, and during the dry season too shallow. The rest of the year Cano Cristales looks much like other rivers, with dark green and brown moss. The river also has amazing waterfalls and pools that are great for swimming.

Cano Cristales river is a tributary of the Rio Guaviare which flows from La Macarena mountain range in the eastern Andes, eventually winding its way into southeastern Venezuela. Before 2009 this region of northern Colombia was under the control of the (FARC) Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and foreigners were strictly prohibited from visiting La Macarena National Park. As in many parts of Colombia government forces have now got the upper hand and have driven out guerillas forces. Tourism has returned to Colombia and even Colombians are discovery this amazing eco-tourist destination for the first time.

Cano Cristales river is in a remote location about 100 miles south of the department's capital of Villavicencio. It cannot be easily reached by road, so it is necessary to fly from Villavicencio via Bogota to La Macarena airport strip. The journey from the airport to Cano Cristales is by river boat and four wheel drive or horse back. Because the park is a protected area no over night camping or cooking is permitted, however there are lodges and food is available at the northern side of the park. 

Sierra de La Macarena National Park.

This national park is not well known outside of Colombia, yet it is thought to be one of the most biologically diverse reserves in the world. The park is in a unique location between the highlands of the Andes mountains and the lowlands of the Amazon and the Orinoco region. It combines an extremely diverse ecosystem with over 550 species of birds, and many animal, insect and retile species. The park covers an area 2,026 sq miles and has over 48 species of orchid.

All images from


Beverly Anne Sanchez
Posted on Oct 31, 2010
Richard Wing
Posted on Jun 16, 2010
Alma Galvez
Posted on Jun 8, 2010