If you’ve been wanting to visit Caño Cristales, one of Colombia’s great natural wonders, known around the world for its “River of Five Colors,” you can start making travel plans as the Serranía de la Macarena National Park has reopened to tourism.
Closed in December 2018 by the country’s National Parks entity and Cormacarena as a preventive measure to protect the area’s delicate ecosystems in case of a prolonged drought with El Niño, since June 14, visitors can return to catch the acquatic spectacle of the Macarenia clavigera algae and its brilliant colors.
The decision was announced during the conference “Caño Cristales for the world,” and allows up to 120 visitors to explore the Caño Escondido and Los Pailones trails every day, only if environmental rules and regulations are respected.
Flowing 80 kilometers through a narrow gorge that levels out on stone terraces, Caño Cristales is best viewed between July and November when water levels are high to cover the algae. Visitors are allowed to swim in designated natural pools, but without suncream lotion nor bug repellent. As it gets hot during the day, pack light clothes, a hat, comfortable walking shoes, and rain jacket in case of a tropical storm – frequent in the region given the Serranía’s rugged terrain and cloud-capped plateaus.
Located in the department of Meta, the PNN Serranía de la Macarena is best reached by air from Villavicencio with a one hour charter flight. At the landing strip of La Macarena hire a licensed tour guide, if you didn’t book one through your travel agent.
To reach the River of Five Colors you must then head upstream along the Guayabero River to the village of La Cachivera. This takes 20 minutes. There you’ll disembark and journey overland 8 kilometers either on foot (1 hour and 45 minutes), on a bicycle (45 minutes) or inside a 4×4 (20 minutes) to an area known as Caño Cajuche. Past Caño Cajuche no vehicles are allowed, so all visitors must walk a few extra kilometers to reach the access trails of Caño Cristales and main entrance to PNN La Macarena. As the park has restricted the amount of visitors, apply in advance for the official entry permit. Colombians and foreign residents in the country pay an entry fee of $34,000 pesos and children $18,500. Foreigners on a tourist visa pay $51,500.