The Ultimate Llanos Orientales of Colombia Bucket List

Over the last few years, Los Llanos Orientales has become a top favorite nature destination in Colombia. Travelers have fallen hard for the incredible landscapes, the safari experiences, the culture, and food.

With 16-17 million ha in the country, there is a long list of things you want to see and do. So I put together a bucket list with some of the most remarkable Colombian Llanos travel experiences and destinations.

From Caño Cristales in La Macarena to rafting in the Güéjar River Canyon, bird watching in Restrepo, aero-safari in Altagracia, horse riding and cowboy experience in El Encanto de Guanapalo, cocoa experience in Arauca, sport fishing in the Bita river in Vichada, glamping in the Corocora Camp to boating along the Manacacias River chasing dolphins in Meta— The Llanos Orientales is full of incredible adventures!

Here’s our ultimate Colombian Llanos Orientales travel bucket list!


Meta is one of the top bird watching destinations in Colombia. The multiple ecosystems you can find in Meta offer some of the most varied bird species checklists from the paramo to vast plains with echoes of the Amazon forest and parts of the Guiana Shield.

It also offers more than 47 festivals and cultural events throughout the year. The International Folkloric and Tourist Festival of El Llano is one of the most important and has the Cuadrillas de San Martín horse exhibition, which is Cultural Heritage of Colombia.

Another highlight for Meta is the Caño Cristales river, along with wonderful natural landscapes and adventure destinations. In Meta, you will have incredible gastronomic, cultural, wellness, nature and adventure experiences just a 20-minute flight from Bogotá. It is a great destination for those who have little time, or for those who travel with their families.

Top Experiences in Meta

La Macarena Mountain Range (Sierra de la Macarena): Caño Cristales Route

Caño Cristales – Creative Commons Wiki

Piedemonte Llanero Route: Birdwatching, Wellness and Horseback Experiences

Undulated Savanna – Mururito Nature Reserve

Llanero Dawn Route (Amanecer Llanero): Safari and dolphins

Manacacías River

Llanero Spell Route (Embrujo Llanero): Rafting at Rio Guejar Canyon

Travesía Aventura, Rio Guejar

More Bucket List Experiences in Meta

  • Birdwatching at UNAMAS Nature Reserve: Amazon jungle transition Orinoquia-Amazon
  • World Cowboy Meeting
  • 51st International Joropo Tournament.
  • Los Ocarros Biopark
  • Lomalinda Regional Natural Park
  • Guaicaramo Hot Springs (Barranca de Upía)
  • Ostrich Park
  • Las Malocas Park
  • Obelisk of Puerto Lopez


Casanare is one of the top safari destinations in Colombia. The multiple nature reserves in the flooded plains of Casanare offer some of the best wildlife viewings in northern South America, especially during April and December.

Another highlight of Casanare is the cowboy’s rich culture. Discover the Cowboy culture in the Ranchón del Llanerazo, a museum that invites you to live the life of the Llanero man. There you will know the “Cantos de Trabajo del Llano”, which is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world.

Top Experiences in Casanare

Aerosafari in the Colombian Plains

Aero safari – Altagracia Nature Reserve

Colombian Cowboy Experience

Cowboy Experience – Hato Los Deseos

Safari at Nature Reserves and Hatos

Safari in truck – Hato Matepalma

More Bucket List Experiences in Casanare

  • Birdwatching at La Primavera
  • Visit Corocora Camp for Luxury Glamping
  • Wildlife Photography tours
  • Gastronomy
  • Horseback Riding Expedition
  • Culture & Traditions
  • Conservation Experiences


Vichada is the biggest department of the Colombian Llanos and is blessed with an incredible richness of water. It is the place where the Orinoco River forms its natural border between Colombia and Venezuela. From the spectacular El Tuparro national park to the mighty network of rivers, lagoons and canals and abundant wildlife – it’s the perfect destination for anglers and nature lovers.

To get to Vichada, you need an air connection since there is no direct road in good condition. You will find the airport of Puerto Carreño its capital, and also other airfields in other places in the department. You can also get there by boat, through the rivers that run on its territory: Orinoco, Meta and Vichada.

Top Experiences in Vichada

Tuparro Natural National Park

The Eighth Wonder of the World Tuparro Natural Park Colombiaamazinglandscapes / CC BY-SA

Streams of Maypures and Ventanas

Streams of Maypures and Ventanas © FishIn Colombia

Sportfishing at Bita and Tomo Rivers

Fishing in Puerto Carreño © FishIn Colombia

Bojonawi Nature Reserve

Bojonawi Nature Reserve

Pink river dolphin at Meta, Bita, and Orinoco Rivers

Bita River © FishIn Colombia

More Bucket List Experiences in Vichada

  • Hills of Casuarito
  • Orinoco and Bita Rivers beaches
  • Streams of Tuparro
  • Azul and El Pañuelo lagoons.
  • Peinillas Canal
  • Mesetas Canal
  • Rancho Barú and Rancho Wisi
  • Tomo, Tuparrito, and Tuparro rivers
  • Pedro Camejo Island
  • Guahibos and Cuibas Tribes
  • Maipures Indigenous Cemetery
  • El Unuma Indigenous Reserve
  • Gaviotas Center
  • Marandúa Project
  • Trekking


Arauca is a diamond in the rough for nature and adventure tourism in Colombia. Its poor development is related to the presence of illegal armed groups. Here oil and livestock play an important role in the national economy.

In 2018, this area of Colombia was supported as a Tourism, Peace and Reconciliation zone with Creata Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, and USAID collaboration. However, despite the efforts, it is still a conflict zone in the country.

Its attraction lies in the richness of its landscapes. Its territory is divided into a mountainous part, an alluvial plain of the Orinoco, and the foothills of the plains with vegetation of savanna and tropical forest. Thus, the contrasts between mountains and plains offer you exotic landscapes and a great diversity of flora and fauna.

Top Experiences in Arauca

“Cotizas” of Arauca – handmade shoes and handicrafts


Arauca Birding


Cacao Experience


Llanero Experience and Vaquería Songs


La Barcaza: Boat trip on the Arauca River


More Bucket List Experiences in Arauca

  • Cravo Norte
  • José Antonio Páez International Bridge
  • Las Toninas Aquapark
  • Arauca River
  • Los Morichales Park
  • El Alcaraván Experimental Farm
  • Rondon Port
  • Saravena
  • Tame

If you want to know more about Colombian nature tours, or want to visit the Llanos Orientales, follow us, write us comments, or just contact us.


  • SITUR Meta
  • Fundación Omacha

About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.[/vc_column_text]


Travel Guide to the Rainbow River – Caño Cristales – in Colombia 

Known as ‘the most beautiful river in the world’ or ‘the five color river’, Caño Cristales is a must-visit natural attraction in Colombia. Since it is nestled in the wildlife haven that is Sierra de La Macarena National Natural Park, traveling to Caño Cristales is a wonderful ecotourism adventure to enjoy Colombia’s nature at its best.  

In this post, you will find all the information you need to know to travel to Caño Cristales, such as what exactly Caño Cristales is, how to get there, the best time to visit, and also what other attractions you can find at La Macarena National Natural Park. 

Discovering Caño Cristales 

A crystal-clear river flows through the rock formations on a steep plateau in a tropical moist forest reflecting a red tone, with yellow, blue, green, and black hues. This is what Caño Cristales is.  

The unique color of the river is caused by the endemic aquatic plant called Macarenia clavigera, which adheres to the rocks on the riverbed to feed on their minerals. You can find many circular pits, or giant kettles, along the river, which only makes it more authentic. Also, you can enjoy small cascades, rapids, and natural pools that guarantee a relaxing time. 

Caño Cristales is born in the southern plateau of La Macarena mountain range, in the department of Meta, and is a tributary of the Guayabero river. Flowing for about 100 kilometers (62 mi), it does not exceed 20 meters wide. 

How to get to Caño Cristales 

Caño Cristales is located to the north of La Macarena town, in the Meta department, in the center of the country.

The best way to get to La Macarena is by air because the road from Villavicencio is not in good condition and takes too long.

You can drive to Villavicencio from Bogota (2.5 hours) and then take a flight to La Macarena, though.  

Bogotá – La Macarena 

Having said this, there are direct flights from Bogota to La Macarena with Satena airline, only from June to December. These flights leave every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday before midday and take about 1 hour.

The flight back to Bogota leaves the same days in the morning. The other option is to book a charter flight to La Macarena, which departs from El Dorado Airport in Bogota on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. 

Villavicencio – La Macarena 

From Villavicencio’s Vanguardia airport you can also take charter flights any day of the week at different hours, but they usually depart in the morning and fly back in the afternoon. 

Take into account that these planes have small capacity, so you shouldn’t carry a suitcase over 15 kg or a handbag over 5 kg. 

La Macarena – Caño Cristales 

Once in the rural town of La Macarena, an adventurous trip awaits. You must cross the Guayabero river by boat for 20 minutes, a dirt road through the Colombian plains in a 4×4 for 25 minutes and, finally, you must walk 40 to 50 minutes to the entrance to the river.

Here is where all the guided tours to Caño Cristales begin. 

Take a look at the tour map: 

Best Time to Travel to Caño Cristales 

By this time you are probably to add Caño Cristales to your Colombian destinations checklist for your trip to Colombia. Unfortunately, you cannot visit the ‘liquid rainbow’, as it’s otherwise known, all year round.

The tourist season lasts 6 months, from early June to late NovemberThe start or end of the season may vary, depending on weather conditions.

During the first half of the year, the entrance to the river is closed since it is when the plants that color the waters have their reproductive period.

So even if you could get to Caño Cristales, you wouldn’t see the majesty of the red water. You can still visit Sierra de La Macarena Park and have a great time. 

Travel to Sierra de La Macarena National Natural Park 

Right in a place where elements from the Orinoco, the Amazon, the Andes, and La Macarena range converge is Sierra de La Macarena National Natural Park. La Macarena range is a western extension of the Guiana Shield and an isolated mountain on Colombian territory. 

This protected area of 605,793 hectares is also an Important Bird and Biodiversity (IBA) due to its avifauna diversity. 

The reserve that comprises 5 municipalities in Meta has variety of vegetation ranging from rainforests, floodable forests, to scrub and herbs. Members of the Guayabero ethnicity are the park rangers that preserve the reserve. 

What to do in La Macarena NNP 


Hiking in La Macarena mountains through rocks, narrow paths, up and down slopes, bearing the hot and humid weather of the region, is for adventurous travelers. 


Birds such as the Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata), the Straight-billed Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus picus), the Red-capped Cardinal (Paroaria gularis), the Black-bellied Cuckoo (Piaya melanogaster) and other 450 species can be found here. 

Wildlife observation

The park hosts incredible fauna, including snakes, Capuchin monkeys, and one of the largest crocodiles on the planet – the Orinoco crocodile. 


Nature photographers are delighted to shoot amazing postcards of the landscapes in La Macarena NNP. 


The calmness felt in the park, along with the sounds provided by nature are ideal for practicing relaxation activities such as yoga. 

Heritage observation

Near the Guayabero river torrent, where it goes from 300 m to 30 m, there are petroglyphs -or carvings, and pictographs made by the former indigenous inhabitants. Anthropomorphous figures, as well as birds and celestial symbols, stand out.  


Please consider  the following tips for your travel to Caño Cristales and Sierra de La Macarena NNP:

  • You can only enter the park and Caño Cristales with a local tour guide 
  • You have to be vaccinated against yellow fever ten days before your travel to La Macarena. 
  • The entrance fee is COP 53,500 for foreigners. Most agencies take care of the formalities. 
  • If you want to take a refreshing dip in the river, remember not to apply sunscreen or insect repellent before traveling to Caño Cristales since the chemicals are harmful to the aquatic plants. 
  • Know that you are not allowed to swim in certain areas of the river. 
  • Wear appropriate clothes for the hot weather, and also a good pair of hiking shoes with a grip. 
  • Bring enough cash for the trip as it may be hard to draw money from the only ATM in the town. 

This is all you need to know to travel to Caño Cristales in La Macarena!

If you are planning a trip to Colombia, we are happy to help you have an unforgettable nature experience! Contact us

 About the author

Ana María Parra

Modern Languages professional with an emphasis on business translation. Interested in the cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism, and sustainable living.