Visiting the Unbelievable Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas in Mexico
If you head to the Red Sea, expecting to see scarlet or vermillion water you’ll be disappointed. It’s really not that red! The Black and White Seas also fail to live up their titles. But don’t despair. There are places where the colour of the water really does live up to the promise implied in the name. And one of those places is Las Coloradas. The name comes from Spanish and translates to ‘Blush red’.
Las Coloradas Mexico. Specifically, Las Coloradas on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is the bit which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Carribean Sea. The pink lakes of Mexico found near this tiny town are spectacular. Beautiful in a way that conjures up scenes from a science-fiction blockbuster movie. And definitely worth a visit.
Why are the lakes such an unearthly colour?
Pretty much the first question any visitor asks is ‘why is Las Coloradas pink?’. The answer comes in two parts. The colour itself is caused by the red-coloured algae, plankton, halobacteria and brine shrimps that live in the lakes. The reason the hue is so pronounced is down to human intervention. The region has been a site for salt production since Mayan times. The process of making salt involves allowing the sun to evaporate the water to concentrate the minerals. And of course, the process also concentrates the microorganisms, making the colour very strong.
Immerse yourself in pinkness (or not!)
If question one is ‘what makes it that colour’, question two is generally ‘can you swim in the pink lake?’.The answer is no. The lakes are privately owned, working salt production sites, so it’s understandable that the company that operates them don’t want tourists splashing around in them.
This is no great loss though. For one thing, the water is not more than a foot deep and for another, the extreme salinity would leave you coated with a fairly heavy salty deposit. Itchy. And there are no convenient fresh water showers nearby.
Regard the lakes of Las Coloradas as somewhere to view and somewhere to photograph rather than somewhere to submerge yourself. Save your swimming for somewhere where the marine life is more interesting. After all, you’re in Mexico, home to some of the top swimming, snorkelling, and scuba diving spots in the world.
Visiting Las Coloradas
Las Colaradas is the name of the village nearest the lakes. It’s a tiny fishing and salt mining community with a population of less than 1000 and no real facilities for visitors. The site is around a three-hour drive from Playa del Carmen or Cancun. The most sensible advice on how to get to las Coloradas from Cancun is generally to take a tour there. This is a much more straightforward option than car hire or travelling by public buses and your tour operator will make sure you get the best possible views of the lakes.
What else is there to do nearby?
There’s not much in Las Colaradas itself. But the lakes are located within the Rio Lagartos nature reserve. Your tour guide may well suggest combining your visit to the pink lakes with a boat excursion in the reserve where you can expect to see crocodiles and a wide range of birdlife. Easiest to spot are likely to the flamingos. Flamingos are supposed to be pink but in this area, the colour is particularly pronounced. The same microorganisms that give the lake its brilliant hue are eaten by the birds and it deepens the colour or their plumage.
The pink lakes of Las Coloradas are one of the lesser known sites of the Yucatan. But that will only make your visit there that bit more special. If you get the opportunity, do go. You won’t regret it.