Does anyone else remember the hit feature film What Dreams May Come? (We promise we’re going somewhere with this!) If you’ve never seen his film, Robin Williams’ character passes away and after a while, he wakes up in a heaven he has created in his own imagination, and he’s basically living inside paintings; now, this is a very general synopsis and we do highly recommend watching this film because it’s wonderful, but the point we’re trying to get at is: imaging living inside of a painting and that’s pretty much what Cano Cristales in Colombia is like.
(image via: atlas obscura)
Cano Cristales is a river that runs through Colombia and is widely known for its vivid colors, well earning its nickname, ‘the river of five colors’. Cano Cristales is located in Serrania de la Macarena National Park and from May to November the river runs black, blue, red, green, and yellow. You can see these colors all year ’round, but they appear the brightest during these months.
You’re probably wondering just how this river can be different colors, and there is a surprisingly simple answer: a water plant known as Macarenia clavigera turns red, then the plant mixes with sand, water, and a number of other plants to create ~many~ colors.
(image via: the guardian)
While a rainbow river may be perceived as calm and peaceful, Cano Cristales is anything but. Not only is the water fast-flowing, but you’ll find waterfalls, rapids, and a number of pools along the way. The river, however, is said to contain no fish. But what this river lacks in fish, it makes up for in bird and reptile species; in fact, there are 400+ bird species and 40+ reptile species, and so much more.
We know you’re probably dying to check out Cano Cristales, and we don’t blame you, but this isn’t a place you can just go visit. Well, you can, but it’s not that easy. The best way to reach the river is by booking a tour and leaving out of La Macarena. In fact, there is actually a rule in Colombia that tourists aren’t allowed to enter the National Park without a licensed tour guide. While this may seem like a pain, we should consider ourselves lucky we can even visit Cano Cristales, because this is actually a fairly new thing. From 1989 – 2008 tourists weren’t allowed here at all due to guerilla warfare and the potential negative effects that tourists could have on the habitat.