You must have seen or been to many lakes, whose waters shimmer in different shades of turquoise blues and emerald greens, but can you believe that there are lakes that are cotton candy pink! Unbelievable, you say? You are wrong.
The pink lakes of Las Coloradas exist and are hidden away in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that boasts of a colorful panorama. Little wonder, the Spanish named a small fishing village Las Coloradas that in Spanish means ‘the red’. It has a population of just a thousand people.
It is near this village, towards the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, that numerous bright pink lakes are located, giving a surreal aura to the whole landscape. These lakes form a part of the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a 150,000-acre protected wetlands area that has a prep onderance of animals and birds, such as crocodiles, sea turtles, jaguars, flamingos and various species of sea birds.
When you drive up from Playa del Carmen, you come upon these unusual lakes, that appear lit brightly in pink. Little wonder these lakes immediately become the focus of your attention.
Why is Las Coloradas pink?
It may surprise you to know that these pink lakes are man-made, though not artificially flooded with pink water! Actually, these lakes are infested with red-colored algae, plankton and brine shrimps that subsist and thrive in the salty environment of the lakes. The natural shallow lakes in this region were used in ancient times by Mayans for procuring salt through evaporation of water. Since then, this region’s main industry has been salt production.
The hard, flat plains of this region were fed by the salty ocean water from the mangroves that turned them into shallow lagoons. When the water, under the intense sun, naturally evaporated, it left behind fresh sea salt. The Mayans transported this via canoe from northern Yucatan to other parts of the Mayan empire.
Today, a large company that owns this area has created a number of artificial lakes for the purpose of production of salt. This company produces over 500,000 tons of salt per year. Little wonder it is the second largest salt producer in Mexico.
Now as to why these lakes have turned pink?When the water in these man-made lakes evaporates, the red-colored creatures get bunched up and lend a pink sheen to the whole lake under the bright and intense Mexican sun. It is also believed that the white feathers of flamingos turn pink whenever they feed on these pink creatures.
How to get to Las Coloradas?
These pink lakes are located off the main route and require a three-hour drive from Cancun or Playa del Carmen and two-hours from Valladolid. Visiting the lakes and returning may be a bit strenuous, so an overnight stay at the village is recommended and there is plenty to do and see.
If you are looking for Las Coloradas hotels, there aren’t any in the village. Only a restaurant exists. You will do well to stay in Rio Lagartos, a nearby town, just 30 minutes away. The best part of the stay in this town is that you can avail the Las Coloradas tour by boat. These popular mangrove and flamingo boat tours takes you to the pink lakes as well.
If you want to reach the lakes by road, don’t take the local bus, since due to its many stops, it can take upwards of seven hours. A better option is to rent a car.
What to do at the pink lakes?
You can wade in these shallow pink waters and use your plastic inflatable floats to drift around, soaking in the sun. The depth is only a foot!
But, whatever you do, don’t wade in these waters for too long, since these incredibly salty waters can sting, especially in cuts and bruises. These waters are good only for photoshoots!