El encanto de Caño Cristales, joya del ecoturismo colombiano, vuelve a recibir visitantes

The majestic river in which Mirabel and her grandmother Alma sealed their reconciliation in the film “Encanto” exhibits its colors with greater intensity to reaffirm itself as a jewel of ecotourism in Colombia with a potential yet to be explored among its crystal clear waters and magical algae.

The Disney film falls short before the beauty of Cano Cristales, the melted rainbow that houses the Sierra de la Macarena National Natural Park, that this season has already opened its doors to welcome some 14,000 tourists, a third of them foreigners, according to Cormacarena’s calculations.

“It is a wonder. If I had died without knowing it, it would hurt me,” Cleiser Roa, a tourist who was walking near “Los ochos”, some striking circular wells that she had only “seen in commercials” and the favorite area to be photographed, told Efe.

After overcome the pause due to the pandemic and from appearing somewhat shyly in 2021 to receive just 6,338 tourists, they once again shone before the public, with the complicity of the sun and rain, the fuchsia, red, green and yellow tones provided by the peculiar aquatic plant “Macarenia clavigera” , shown between the rock formations where the water runs.

The “river of the seven colors”, which between June and November wears its best suits, flirts decisively within a local and national commitment to make it a “fundamental destination” for any national and international tourist, the deputy minister of Colombian tourism, Ricardo Galindo.

“There is incredible potential here,” he said after matching the experience to those offered in places as mystical as Machu Picchu, in Peru.

This “incredible paradise and green destination”, which remained hidden for half a century of armed conflict, can represent for the municipality of The Macarena, in the department of Meta, a “high level, sustainable and world class” tourism, according to the official.

What was once recognized as the resort of the demobilized guerrilla of the Farc, today it is shown to the world as a haven of peace, in which the llanera culture, with the sound of the harp and the footwork of the joropo, enters through the pores of the visitors.

The biggest prize is when, after following ecological trails and discovering biodiversity, they come across the crystal clear waters of one of Colombia’s natural wonders, in a territory inhabited by 737 species of birds, 245 species of fish, 39 species of amphibians and 68 reptiles.

“It is no secret to anyone that this was a guerrilla zone. Despite the fact that we had a conflictive time, at this time we live a very calm life, ”Leydi Aguilar Quiroga, a member of the Union Association of Tourist Guides Sustainable Living Nature (Asonavis), told journalists.

TOURISM THAT TRANSFORMS LIVES

The expedition to meet Cano Cristales, on its own, it’s worth it. The boat trip on the Guayabero River, where the sunset postcards are a feast for the eyes, shows the exuberance of the vegetation of a place where the Orinoquía and the Amazon converge, as well as keeping stories about those years of violence and how tourism began to transform the lives of the inhabitants.

Then comes the section by truck, which comes before the walk, along a road built by the extinct guerrilla.

When the ecological trails appear, you begin to enjoy waterfalls, on a walk guided by the “historical-cultural interpretation” of the guides and locals, Kreyssig Abaunsa, a biologist at the Sierra de la Macarena National Park, told Efe, who highlighted the paths with myths and legends, and those that house rock art.

Although Caño Cristales takes much of the limelight and is the main objective of tourists, the possibilities are endless: hiking, swimming in natural pools, bird watching and ecological horseback riding are part of the offer, which includes visits to attractions such as El Mirador, Cristalitos, Caño Cajuches, the Cascada de los Cuarzos and the Algae Tapete, small paradises that enhance the stage even more.

In the hotel where she works, in the town of La Macarena, Ingrid Sierra has received tourists from the United States, Bolivia and Venezuela in recent days. Everyone asks her about “the most beautiful river in the world”, a place she paradoxically visited for the last time 20 years ago, when it was hidden from the rest of the country and the world.

“We could bathe where we wanted, now they restrict more because we have to take care of the algae,” the receptionist told Efe.

The mayor of La Macarena, Herminson Cárdenas, sees tourism as a “great opportunity” for this municipality of 32,000 inhabitants. He perceives it as the legal activity that will bring the development that their communities need.

“Those of us who inhabit this land are building peace, we are building life projects,” said Cárdenas about that place of exuberant beauty, which has in Caño Cristales one of the most striking destinations in Colombia, which the Madrigal family raised its brilliance. when he showed his colors in the award-winning Disney film.