For most of the year Caño Cristales, located in central Colombia, looks like any other nice, pure mountain river flowing with crystal clear cool water over smooth river rocks and brilliant beds of green moss and algae. Then, for a couple weeks of the year, Caño Cristales turns into undoubtedly one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. During a brief period between the Colombian wet and dry seasons (from Sept. – Nov.), the water level evens off and allows its unique Macarenia Clavigera plant to bloom like gorgeous fields of underwater red roses among golden wheat. The bloom accentuates the yellows and greens of the algae, moss and sediments on the river bottom and the deep browns and blacks of the river rocks and shelves that have formed over the ages. The result is an array of colors that looks more like an artistic swirl of Skittles or melted Crayola Crayons than a naturally occurring event below a few feet of river water. It is truly stunning.
Thankfully (and unfortunately) we do not live in Game of Thrones, otherwise, this river would probably be called “The Blood River” or something along those lines. Instead, Caño Cristales has been adorned with much more appropriate nicknames, including “The River of Five Colors,” “The Most Beautiful River in the World,” and my personal favorite – “The Liquid Rainbow.”
If you get an itch to go to Colombia and see this natural wonder for yourself, it is truly a crapshoot, similar to trying to go to Japan during the two weeks the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom. An additional hurdle is the fact that there is no easy access by road. The bottom line is – you either have to be extremely wealthy or extremely lucky to be able to catch this phenomenon.