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Region Los Llanos - Colombia

Villavicencio & surroundings

Casanare

National Park Tuparro

Caño Cristales

San José de Guaviare

Cerros de Mavecure


Villavicencio & surroundings

A spectacular 110km long road brings you from Bogotá to Villavicencio, the capital of the Meta Department. Villavicencio is a reasonable big city and because of its low altitude (500m) very warm. The surroundings of the city are used mainly for cattle breeding by the local farmers. Close to Villavicencio one can visit some nature or theme parks like ‘Las Malokas’ or ‘Los Occaros’ but to get a good feeling of what the typical Los Llanos can offer you have to stay at a typical farm or you will need to go deeper into the area. North of Villavicencio the road brings you to Villanueva and Yopal (Casanare Department). To the east the road brings you to Puerto Lopez, a small town close to the Rio Meta banks, and further over a road in bad condition you arrive in Puerto Gaitan, a perfect base point for boat trips on the Meta River. The road south from Villavicencio passes Granada and ends at San Jose de Guaviare (Guaviare Department) from where you can visit other interesting destinations. Some of these destinations are mentioned later on in this section.


Casanare

Casanare is another important department in the Los Llanos area north of the department Meta. The capital of the department, Yopal, can be reached easily by road from Villavicencio or by road from Sogamoso in the Boyaca department descending the western Andes Range over a beautiful road. Also here, especially around the areas close to the Andes range, you find a lot of cattle breeding. Casanare and the northern Arauca department are responsible for most of the oil production in Colombia. During the rainy season the river Meta and other important rivers grow and overflow the surrounding flatland. This giant swamp attacks a lot of animals, especially birds and mammals such as capibara, giant anteater, monkeys, wild pigs, river dolphins and reptiles such as anacondas, turtles and caymans. During the actually rain season it’s very hard to visit this destination as most of the roads are inaccessible. The best time for spotting wildlife is December till March and July till September. Some places of interest to spot wildlife are Orocue, Trinidad, Maní, Natural Reserve La Esperanza, Hato Aurora and Laguna Tinije.


National Park Tuparro

On the border of Colombia with Venezuela in the Vichada department one can find the National Park Tuparro. This park consists of mainly flatland with savanna and a lot of canyons and rivers of which the Orinoco River, the Tomo River and the Tuparro River are the borders of the park. Besides a lot of wildlife and nature some of the highlights are ‘Pozo Azul’ (a natural swimming pool with blue water), ‘Cerro Thomas’ (huge rock you can climb for views over the surroundings), ‘Raudal Maipures’ (water rapid with various rocks), Caño Lapa’ (beautiful canyon with a waterfall), ‘El Balancin’ (famous rock in Maipures water rapids) and ‘Cerro Peinillas’ (other huge rock on the border of the park). The park can be reached from Puerto Inirida by boat over the Orinoco River or from Puerto Carreño and  Or you can go over land to Puerto Ayachucho in Venezuela and from there by boat to the park. To get to Puerto Carreño one can fly from Bogota or Villavicencio. There is also a road connecting Puerto Carreño with Puerto Gaitan. A very nice and adventures trip over a road in very bad conditions. It’s also possible to go by boat over the Meta River. This trip takes about 2 to 3 days and on the way you could make stops in Orocue, Santa Rosalia and Primavera which all have surroundings good for spotting wildlife. Both Tuparro National park and the rivers in the surroundings are considered one of the best places for fishing.


Caño Cristales

Caño Cristales is sometimes referred to as ‘The Most Beautiful River in Colombia’, or ‘The River That escaped From Paradise’. True or not, this river with 5 different colors (red, green, blue, yellow, black and combinations of these colors), gives you a good reason to check it out for yourself.
The source of Caño Cristales is ‘La Serranía de la Macarena’, a very old mountain range south of Villavicencio with maximum heights of over 2000m. This is the area of the ‘Clavijera Macarenia’, a water plant which only grows in this part of the world. The plants needs a lot of water to grow and colors eventually green. Depending on the amount of sun the plants color red. The most beautiful moment is when the plants are in full bloom and the whole river colors red. The other colors you see like yellow, brown, black, white and everything in between are formed by the water, the currents, the different depths, the way the light falls and the rocky floor of the river.
This plant turns from green to red during the months of July till end November. These are also the best months for visiting Caño Cristales as during the rest of the year you won’t see the beautiful colors. There are different ways to get to Caño Cristales. There is an illegal road  constructed  by the guerrilla from  Vistahermosa to La Macarena and it is possible to get to la Macarena via the Guaviare and  the Guayabero river from San José de Guaviare. These routes are not safe due to guerrilla activities, the only safe way to get to the Macarena is by air from Villavicencio, there little cessna planes for 3 to 5 passengers fly to the Macarena. Once arrived it is only a small tour over the Guayabero river and a good walk of around 2 and a half hours to get to the entrance of  Caño Cristales.

The river Caño Cristales has its origin high in the Serrania de la Macarena and has two main canyons (arms) which both are worth exploring and full with (little) waterfalls, natural swimming pools and rock formations in and under water. Some of the highlights are ‘Los Hoyos’ (waterfall with water falling through holes in rocks), ‘Cascada de los Cuarzos’ (a huge waterfall), ‘Los Pianos’ (waterfall with different kind of levels), ‘Pozo Cuadrado’ (a nice natural swimming pool) and ‘Salto de Aguila’ (a waterfall with tunnels under water). this river has many nicknames, all in combination with paradise, rainbow or other stunning descriptions. Besides the Caño Cristales there is much more to see in the area.
Serrania de la Macarena is a big undiscovered jungle area with many beautiful little streams, caves, waterfalls and much more. A couple of highlights in this area are:
Caño Canoas, an impressive waterfall situated an 8 hours trek away from Caño Cristales.
Caño Indio, another river with similar characteristics as Caño Cristales.
Raudal de Guayabero, an arm with quick running water of the Guayabero river, where the river reduces to go through a small canyon. On the north side of the Raudal petroglyphs are found form the former Guayabero settlement.
Ciudad de Piedra, North of Raudal de Guayabero where stone formations have been found that seem to be placed to form an old city.
Salto del Gato, an enormous waterfall further upstream over the Guayabero river.

Nowadays Caño Cristales is completely save for to visit. For other destinations in la Serrania de la Macarena it is recommended to inform yourself very well about the situation before going there.


San José de Guaviare

South of the Meta department you find the department of Guaviare. The capital of the department, San José de Guaviare, can be reached easily by road from Villavicencio passing through Granada and Puerto Lleras or instead you could fly from Bogota. In San José de Guaviare you can stay at the Posadas Ecoturisticas at the Laguna Negra which the perfect starting point for exploring the surroundings. The direct surroundings of the Posadas is an excellent place for spotting fauna (many birds but also monkeys, caiman and even anteaters can be spot). A bit further you could visit, ‘Ciudad Perdida’ and ‘Ciudad de Piedra’, both flatlands with very interesting stone formations and caves. In ‘Ciudad de Piedra' you will also see the famous ‘Puerto Orion’, a huge rock with a hole in the middle. Other destinations of interest are ‘Pozos Naturales’ (natural swimming pools), ‘Cascada de las Delicias’ (a waterfall of 30 m from which you can do canopying) and the ‘Laguna Negra’ (a beautiful lake in the Playa Guio Natural reserve). All these places of interest are called together ‘La Lindosa’ named after the ‘reserva natural la Lindosa’. It’s also possible to make trips over the Guayabero River which during dry season has beautiful river beaches. The department of Guaviare also houses the famous park of Chiribiquete. A spectacular park deep into the jungle with a lot of tepuys and wildlife. Reaching this park is very difficult because of the remoteness and safety situation (guerrilla activities). Another spectacular destination are the water rapids of Tomachipan but due to guerrilla activity it’s not safe to go at the moment.


Cerros de Mavecure

Close to the border with Venezuela, where the savannah of Los Llanos changes into the jungle, you can find the ‘Cerros de Mavecure’. A strange but spectacular sight of huge round shaped rocks sticking out high above the jungle. The highest rock is over 350 meters. Millions of years ago these rocks where part of the oldest mountain range of South America. Nowadays they are a nice and spectacular interruption of the dense jungle vegetation. A great boat journey of several days can bring you from San Jose de Guaviare to the city of Puerto Inírida, but more convenient would be to take the plane from Bogota or Villavicencio to Puerto Inírida. The capital of the Guainía department is the starting point to visit the ‘Cerros de Mavecure’ and it takes only 3 to 4 hours in boat over the Inirida River to get there. The most notable rocks (Cerros) are ‘Cero Mavecure’, ‘Cerro Mono’ and ‘El Pajarito’. Some of them can be climbed from the ‘El Remanso’ Indian community located at the foot of the ‘El Pajarito’ Rock. It is an amazing experience to camp on one of the rock overlooking the jungle and the rivers curving through it. Don´t miss the sunset and sunrise! Other rock that can be climbed is the ‘Cerro Diablo’. From here you don’t have views over the Inirida River but over the flatlands on the other side. From here you can make a spectacular walk through the jungle and savanna to Laguna Clara, a lake with crystal clear water. In the wet season the lake communicates with the other rivers in the area and attacks fresh water dolphins.