Tour of Caño Cristales, Gods River. An adventure I will always keep in my memories.
Tour of Caño Cristales, Gods River. An adventure I will always keep in my memories.
I would like to start by telling you that Caño Cristales is located in the municipality of La Macarena in the south west of the Department of Meta, 255 kilometers from the capital city, Villavicencio. It is part of the Sierra de la Macarena. This municipality has a lot of indigenous origins as it was inhabited by communities known as the Guayaberos and Tiniguas who lived on the islands of the Guayabero River which currently bears their name and bathes a large part of the municipality and La Macarena mountain range.
Foto 1 y 2 (fotos de la Macarena)
In the 1950s, settlers arrived in the area, brought by the beautiful lands that had three great reasons: hunting and the sale of their skins, fishing and the export of wood. When these three bonanzas began to decrease, the planting of the coca plant and marijuana became popular. At that time, the lands of the farmers started to be filled up with these crops, which triggered some problems of social order that, in a bad way marked this beautiful region. However, fortunately they are already a past situation, because we see a prosperous municipality, with friendly and kind people, willing to show their immense wealth to all of Colombia and the entire world
It is a town with a modest commerce, there are essentials to buy, and there are no Bank entities, only some branch offices, which is why we recommend you to bring cash to this place. There are different shops, a health post, an airport and a military base.
In order to access La Macarena National Natural Park, visitors must pay a fee of $130.000 COP, $35 USD or 30 Euros.
Where to stay in Caño Cristales, La Macarena?
In La Macarena it is not possible for visitors to stay, there are no hotels or Camping sites, because this spectacular place in located in La Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park, which is protected by CorMacarena and National Natural Parks, therefore, the access is limited, always trying to control the number of people, avoiding affections to the environment.
If you decide to stay, it has to be in the urban area of the municipality of La Macarena. You won’t find big hotels or All Inclusive hotels; this is an Eco-Tourism destination. In La Macarena you will be able to find hotels from $50.000 COP, 13 USD or 11 Euros, or more complete hotels with air conditioner and swimming pool from $80.000 COP, 21 USD or 18 Euros.
My recommnedations are Hotel La Cascada or Hotel El Mirador.
In the urban area, visitors can enjoy a relaxing environment, a town that normally displays “Llaneras” customs, with good commerce. You will not find internationally know restaurants, but local ones, so, you will be able to eat typical food. I recommend trying “Ternera a la Llanera”
How to get to La Macarena?
You can get to this place by plane, from Bogota, Medellin and Cartago (Flights operated by Grupo San German Express, with charter flights at fair fares). In addition, some airlines operate flights from the city of Villavicencio. The costs of those flights can vary from $500.000 COP (135 USD or 119 Euros) to $900.000 COP (243 USD or 214 Euros) depending on the city of origin and the time of booking. The recommendation is to purchase the flights some time before.
People travel by small airplanes, carrying 19 passengers approximately; the permitted baggage weight is 15 kg and 5 kg of hand luggage.
We normally start our tour traveling from Cartago, in the department of Valle del Cauca, with a 50 minutes flight, flying over the departments of Valle del Cauca, Tolima and Huila, until Meta.
Foto 3 y 4 (fotos de los Aviones)
Flights to La Macarena length.
From Bogota: 50 minutes
From Medellin: 1 hour and 10 minutes
From Cartago: 50 minutes
From Villavicencio: 40 minutes
Fotos 5, 6 y 7 (fotos del paisaje hechas desde el avión)
How to get to La Macarena by land, from Bogota?
You have to get to the city of Neiva, in the department of Huila (315 kilometers, 5 hours and 30 minutes approximately, pavement roads). In the city of Neiva, you will have to take the road to the city of Florencia, in the department of Caqueta (237 kilometers, 5 hours approximately, pavement roads). Being in the city of Florencia, you have to take the road to San Vicente del Caguan (153 kilometers, 3 hours approximately, pavement roads). In order to continue with your path, yiu have to take the road from San Vicente del Caguan to La Macarena (140 kilometers, 4 hours and 30 minutes approximately, roads not in the best condition. This types of roads are good for 4WD cars. It is also good to travel by automobiles, but drivers have to take it slow in order to take care of their cars)
When driving along this route, you will be able to see a spectacular landscape, a lot of green and natural beauty.
How to get to La Macarena by land, from Villavicencio?
From Villavicencio, you will have to take the road to San Jose del Guaviare (285 kilometers, 4 minutes and 50 minutes approximately, pavement roads and in good condition). From San Jose del Guaviare to La Macarena there is a road, which is recommended to be taken by 4WD cars, because the roads are not in great condition. This road is not recommended for small vehicles. The length of this path is from 9 to 10 hours, if the weather condition permit, the distance is 120 kilometers approximately.
You will have the chance to go through some municipalities such as Acasias, Guamal, San Martín, Granada, San Juan de Arama, Vista Hermosa, Piñalito, Yarumales y Caño Canoas. In these places, visitors can stop and take a moment to look at their nature wonders.
How to get to La Macarena by river?
You will have to get to San Jose del Guaviare and take a speedboat that normally operates 1 day a week (normally Saturdays) with an approximate fare of $100.000 COP, 27 USD or 23 Euros. The journey may take 8 hours approximately taking Guayabero River.
How to get to La Macarena by bus?
You will have to get to the city of Florencia, Caqueta, and take a bus to San Vicente del Caguan (Approximate price in 2021 $30.000 COP, 8 USD or 7 Euros per passenger), once there, you will have to find a private service to the municipality of La Macarena, which normally has a price of $100.000 COP.
When should you visit Caño Cristales?
One of the main attractions of La Macarena is Caño Cristales, also known as the River of the Gods, the River of 5 Colors or the most beautiful river in the world. To observe this river in maximum expression and see its striking colors you must visit it during rainy seasons or in winter, from June to November
Let’s go to Caño Cristales
Continuing with our adventure to finally go to the river of the gods “Caño Cristales”. From the hotel we move to a small port on the Guayabero River; we do this walking about 2 or 3 blocks in the town. There, we take our boat that will take us to the Port of Los Mangos, about 15 minutes in motor boats with capacity of about 10 people that will take us on a wonderful tour, in which we can see different types of birds, monkeys, turtles, iguanas, alligators and many more. Once we reach the path, a 4WD truck will be waiting for us, which will take us along a road on a journey of approximately 25 minutes in the middle of the jungle. Then, we will arrive at the National Natural Park checkpoint where they will register us and authorize our entry; the army always keeps this place.
We start our tour walking in a predominantly flat topography, easily accessible in a walk of approximately 40 minutes, to finally reach Caño Cristales and marvel yourselves with the colors and majestic beauty of this wonderful place nestled in Sierra de La Macarena National Natural Park.
The guide assigned by the operating company will help us to get to know the entire area in a logical route that covers the most beautiful sites of this place, visiting: El Tapete Rojo (place where the plants at the bottom of the river show their greatest beauty). El Sector de los Ocho (deep holes that the water makes in the rock in a rounded shape that from the top look like many eight numbers). The Swimming Pool, for tourists, with crystal, clear waters. These will help us to refresh ourselves after the walk. Los Quarzos Waterfall, that is simply spectacular to continue refreshing ourselves and immerse ourselves in its crystal, clear waters. We will also visit different ecosystems.
There are authorized places to bathe; it cannot be anywhere because in some places, even though we see that it invites us to jump into the water, it is not possible because we can damage the plants that give the river its color. There are also places where there is danger to the integrity and safety of people due to strong currents of water and caves are formed in the stones, since the topography of the River is very rocky.
“While I was swimming in its waters, I felt like swimming in a tank, because it is transparent, and, in the bottom, there are beautiful stones, plants and fishes swim right next to us”
At lunchtime, we will be given with a delicious wrap in banana leaves that can be chicken or fish, so delicious that we will be wanting for more, even the leaves. This food will fill us with energy after such a demanding journey. We can have lunch by boat on the river or we can go to the house of some farmers of the area, where they will provide us with a place to stay, a table and we can buy coffee, juice, water, among others. This way, we support the economy of the area. It is important to carry a small bag because each traveler must carry lunch, also their water and a tent in case it rains because in Caño Cristales you can go from a burning sun to a super downpour in minutes, also from a rainy day to intense heat.
Visitors must take a bottle with them. Plastic is not allowed in this place. The bottles visitors bring can be filled at the hotels.
Because this is such a large place, with some routes, we must take at least 2 days to visit Caño Cristales, because it has 5 different paths that are just like the palm of the hand: Caño Escondido, Los Planos, El Aguila and Pailomes, which is also divided into: Caño Cristales Colores, where the plant Macarenia Clavigera can be found. This plant can only be found in this place and is the one in charged of giving the river its red color, after receiving the sun. By the area of Papillon, this plan can also be found, but in this area it does not receive the sunlight, and is green colored.
Fotos: 8,9, 10, 11, 12, 13 (fotos caño Cristales)
Other touristic attractions of La Macarena
La Macarena is not only Caño Cristales, there are many routes to discover, since it is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world with great natural wealth, abundant flora and fauna that show us incomparable beauties, worthy of being visited, among them:
- Caño Cristalitos and El Mirador. A place to which we access by boat on the Guayabero River, about half an hour approximately, arriving at the “Cristalitos” farm, where we will find a turtle hatchery that is a beautiful project for the conservation of the species and avoid some locals to remove the eggs of the turtles and consume them. They perform a whole process with the eggs, so that the turtles are born, grown and once they have the ideal size and strength, they are released into the river. Monkeys, birds and many domestic animals can also be found in this farm. They bring animals that have been removed from their natural habitat to carry out a reincorporation process and release them again.
Fotos: 14, 15, 16 Fotos de Caño Cristalitos, fotos de las tortugas
- Laguna Del Silencio: This place is accessed by river (Guayabero River), until arriving to the town of La Cachivera. There, a path by horse is taken for around 2.7 kilometers. Visitors will get to a farm of farmers of the region, where you will have the chance to buy water, snacks or rest.
- Then, passing through the forest we arrive at the Laguna del Silencio, which really lives up to its name because if we remain silent we will only hear the sounds of nature and the animals that live there. Once we board some boats that are moved with oars, we can get inside the natural beauty of this paradisiacal place and we can have sightings of birds, monkeys, reptiles and many more animals. The boat ride lasts about 25 minutes and then we enter the wet forest, sailing between trees and thick vegetation.
After leaving the humid forest, we start another 15-minute walk to reach a farmers house. There, they will give us a delicious lunch and we can rest and bathe in a delicious puddle that Caño Cristales River creates, and later, in the afternoon, we will start our trip back through the forest for about 20 minutes to arrive again to a place where the horses are. That road will take us back to the port.
Fotos 17, 18, 19, 20 y 21 Fotos de la Laguna del Silencio, de la cabalgata, del bosque húmedo
- Sunrise in La Macarena and always from a Tree: At 5am, we will be picked up at the hotel to take the road to San Vicente del Caguan in a 4WD truck to get to Hotel El Mirador, where we will be able to appreciate the sunrise, enjoying a delicious coffee combined with some medicinal plants that give us energy. It is always amazing to see how the sun shows itself through the beautiful mountains of La Serrania de la Macarena. After seeing this unforgettable natural spectacle, our operator will offer us a delicious breakfast and then undertake the most beautiful and educational task of “planting a tree”, each tourist will leave his or her contribution, by planting a tree and promising that he or she will return to see its progress. This nice initiative seeks general environmental awareness and to be like a small contribution from the traveler to everything that was witnessed during this visit.
Fotos 22, 23 y 24 Amanecer y siembra del árbol
- El Raudal, which we will access going up El Guayabero River by a boat trip that lasts approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes arriving at Caño Tremor and there, we can delight ourselves with the torrent that are created in this sector. El Raudal can only be visited during summer time, because the river in that sector is about 200 meters wide and in the stream is reduced by the rock formations to only 30 meters, which triggers some very strong rapids that would damage the boats. If the river is low, you can also see the Petroglyphs on the stones. In the sector ,Ciudad de Piedra can also be seen.
- Interpretation Center of the Botanical Garden, located in the main park of the municipality of La Macarena, where you can learn about history, what to do, how to get around and about the routes. In addition, you can learn about the region’s biodiversity and learn about many topics of great interest when you are in the area. It is worth visiting and there is also highly trained staff who will assist you and answer your questions in a friendly and cordial manner. The ticket has a value of $5.000 COP, 1.5 USD or $1.2 Euros.
In this interesting place, you will be able to see a gigantic illuminated model of La Serranía de la Macarena National Natural Park, where all the tourist will learn about the places and where they are located.
- Caño Piedra and Caño Escondido. We will have to take the road to San Vicente del Caguan, for about 20 minutes by 4WD truck to reach rocky formations bathed by the crystal, clear waters of the River, with beautiful natural pools among trees that invite you to immerse yourself and enjoy the waters. A little colder, but amazing.
Nearby, there is a country house of the region with different types of animals, in freedom: Macaws, parrots, birds, peacocks, ducks, chickens, and many more.
Fotos 24, 25 y 26 (Caño Piedra, finca Campesina y animales)
- Caño Canoas, which is a wonder in the middle of the jungle, with different ecosystems of humid jungle. It is a majestic and imposing 70 meters high waterfall, with a main fall and several curtains of water that show its beauty. It is located on the road that leads from La Macarena to San Jose del Guaviare
- At night, we will go to “Parranda Llanera” which begins with a delicious “Ternera a la Llanera”, which is the most representative food. Then, we will witness samples of folklore, with dances, samples of talent with the harp, poetry, singers with strong and beautiful voices, among them the famous “Cara Cara del Llano” a Llanero singer with a hoarse and strong voice who sings melodious songs that lead us to remember how beautiful the Colombian Llano is. We will listen to Joropo in different voices, we had a few glasses of aguardiente llanero. At the end, the party gets turned on, because the professional dancers take the attendees out so that we could learn to dance Joropo and that is how we do it, although our dance was nothing but laughter, we will have to practice more. Anyways, it was a delicious night living the traditions of the people of La Macarena.
Fotos 27, 28, 29 Fotos de Grupo de Joropo, bailes
- There are other interesting places to visit. Sadly, the time was not enough: Caño Barro, Caño 7 Machos, Caño Indio, Caño Canoas and Salto Yarumal
La Macarena is not just Caño Cristales. During the summer season, from December to June you can come to enjoy magical places such as El Raudal de Angosturas. In addition, there is a chance to practice sport fishing, and you can catch some fished as El Amarillo, which can be a very heavy fish. Eco-tourism activities, cultural tourism and many more wonders can be witnessed during this moment.
Tourism operators in La Macarena are very well organized, they apply collaborative or community tourism in many cases, they give everyone participation and seek that everyone has the same opportunities. There are more than 150 professional guides, trained by SENA. Their professionalism and commitment to their region is evident. Our trip was accompanied by the guide Juan Pablo Escobar, an excellent professional who was always attentive to our group without letting details go by. I recommend you hire him when you have your trip to Caño Cristales.
General recommendations for your visit to Caño Cristales
- Buy your plans and flights in advance, so you can have better fares and help local operators to schedule your visits well, remember that La Macarena National Natural Park has an established capacity of visitors per day.
- Wear comfortable clothes for walks, a bathing suit (wear them because in Caño Cristales there are no changing rooms), at least 2 pairs of shoes, with good grip, that can get wet, and that are comfortable for long walks.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirts, a hat or a cap, preferably with neck protection, since sunscreen is not allowed and the sun shines very bright during walks.
- Carry a Bottle bag to carry water, a 2-liter capacity is recommended. Carry a small backpack because you must carry your water and your lunch.
- Bring a raincoat for the rain, that can occur at any time
What is not allowed?
- Entries with no previous reservations or an authorized guide.
- To carry single-use plastic
- To drink alcoholic beverages
- To take plants or animals from the places to visit
- Smoking is not allowed
- Drinking water from the water flows is not recommended.
We invite you to:
- Support the local economy by buying handicrafts made my locals. With this, all their hard work and effort will be valued.
- Try not to contaminate and help to keep the biodiversity of the region.
- Report any kind or attempts of fauna and flora trafficking.
We can conclude by telling you that coming to La Macarena was a trip that we will carry in our hearts forever. It was like a story taken from a fairy tale, for its imposing and majestic river of colors “Caño Cristales”, unique in the world, for its natural and landscape wealth, for its culture, for its great biodiversity, for its people and because they are a world-class national destination. There are no fears, there are no risks, only beauty and much to discover. La Macarena and Caño Cristales are waiting for you to live, like us, an unforgettable experience, book now.
Fotos 30, 31 y 32 Más fotos de Caño Cristales
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