The UK may be getting greyer by the day as winter draws in – but vibrant colours and beautiful sights await in an incredible South American river. Caño Cristales in Colombia has been named the “river of five colours” or “liquid rainbow” as an unusual weed creates vivid tones all the way along it.
However, the river for a long time barely saw any tourists due to the very real danger of a terrifying guerilla group. Caught in a certain light, the river can show bright greens, yellows, reds, and purples. The best time to see the river is reportedly in the full sunlight, capturing all the huge variety of tones while being able to see right to the bottom of the river.
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Lasting for about 100km, the stretch is also a spectacular sight for the circular pits which have formed along the riverbed. Pebbles or chunks of harder rocks have fallen into small cavities in the bed, and are then rotated by the water current and carve out a wide space.
These pits are known as giant’s kettles, and overall create a pockmarked effect along the bottom of the riverbed.
While it may look fantastical, the river’s colour is all down to a weed that is understood to be unique to Caño Cristales. Named macarenia clavigera, it clings to the rocks on the riverbed of the fast-flowing stream.
While it is usually red, it can show a number of different colours depending on factors such as sunlight. The colors are believed to be at their peak vibrancy between July and November.
For many years the river was barely touched by tourists and was even on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) warning list to avoid for “all-but-essential travel”. It was within the territory of the dangerous Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), making it highly inadvisable to visit.
While the danger has not completely been removed, the river is substantially safer to visit now. The FCO has taken it off the warning list and now advises visiting with a guide – and tourism has since picked up.
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According to reviews on TripAdvisor, however, it remains a relatively hidden gem, with one glowing review writing: “This is indeed the most beautiful river in the world. It baffles me that there is no mas tourism into the place, which is great!
“I believe it’s a matter of time before the masses find this place and the big hotels start popping up.”
Another wrote: “This is simply out of this world. Unique natural beauty, without any human intervention. A must see without a doubt.
“No safety issues. No fancy restaurants. No fabricated playgrounds for adults. As life is there.”
Located 400 miles south of the capital of Bogota, there are a few stages to reaching the river.
Travelers must first fly into Villavicencio in central Colombia, before taking another plane to La Macarena. There, travelers can hire a guide to take them to Serrania de la Macarena, the fairly isolated mountain range that provides access to the river.
Viator, Uncover Colombia, Amazon Adventures, and others all offer tours, some even including the opportunity to swim.
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