Caño Cristales — Colombia’s “River of Five Colors”

Known as the “River of Five Colors” and the “Liquid Rainbow,” Caño Cristales is a multicolored river in a Colombian national park. Everyone has seen algae, that icky often green stuff that grows in water all over the world — but have you ever seen rainbow-colored algae? That is what happens for a brief period every year at this remote river in Colombia, South America.

A truly colorful one-of-a-kind sight.

Translated as the Crystal Channel, Caño Cristales is located high in the Serrania de la Macarena Mountains in a region that most travelers have never even heard of. It’s location is so remote that the river does not have any fish and you can only get there after a long trek via foot or donkey!

Caño Cristales — Colombia's Liquid Rainbow, the River of Five Colors

This multicolored algae occurs only from August to November, usually peaking in September or October. During that time all the algae on the rocks of the river turns a rainbow of colors — and thanks to the clear river water visitors get a perfect view!

Because the liquid rainbow is located in a national park, a guide is required and camping near Caño Cristales is not allowed.

What Causes The Rainbow Colors?

Short Answer: The yellow, green, blue, black, and bright red colors are caused by algae. That is why the colors are only visible during a certain part of the year, when the season is just right and the algae is in full bloom.

UPDATE When I first wrote about the River of Five Colors in early 2012 there was NOTHING online about it. In 2018 it was added to both Wikipedia and Atlas Obscura, however I want the record to show that The HoliDaze brought it to you first 😉 it might even be on TripAdvisor now but I’m scared to check….hope not.

Ever heard of Caño Cristales? Want to see it for yourself?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

11 thoughts on “Caño Cristales — Colombia’s “River of Five Colors””

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  2. I never thought I’d say this about algae, but wow – that’s beautiful! Planning on going to Colombia next year, so may have to incorporate this into the plans. Been a while since I rode a donkey, though…


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