Las Coloradas is the ultimate Instagram-worthy place. This magical, colorful site is located on the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Imagine a huge lake the color of pink flamingos, cotton candy, or pink lemonade. These beautiful lakes are filled with salt which are originated by the close by small village called "Las Coloradas". This area has a great legacy, which lasts until our days, due to its salt production which was typical for the Maya since ancient times.
The lakes get their pink hues from red-colored algae, plankton, and brine shrimp (Artemia salina) that thrive in this salty environment. When the bright sun slowly evaporates the water, these living organisms become more concentrated. This also explains how flamingos get their pink color—from eating these species!
Las Coloradas is the name of a quaint fishing village with a population of 1,000 people. These pink lakes cover the landscape on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The fishing village has very few street names or signs, honoring its laid-back vibe. Rio Lagartos is another charming fishing village that will give you a true sense of the relaxed Yucatan lifestyle.
Las Coloradas is a part of the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a protected wetlands area that is home to flamingos, crocodiles, sea turtles, jaguars, and all kinds of birds—more than 380 bird species to be exact. The entire reserve spans over 150,000 acres. More than 40,000 flamingos nest and feed in this area. This is the biggest population of flamingos with about 2-3 flamingos per Mexican—or so we’re told.
Rio Lagartos is named after crocodiles, which you are likely to see if you choose to embark on this spectacular day trip. Believe it or not, these crocodiles are fairly calm compared to what you might expect.
As for its names, Rio Lagartos is on a “ria,” not a “rio,” or river. A ria is where the ocean comes into an inlet, but often looks like a river. Rias are often home to mangroves and countless animals.
Eager to see another biosphere reserve? Follow us to Sian Ka'an for a full day excursion!
The Salt-Making Process
Ancient Mayans used to produce highly valuable salt in Las Coloradas, and now, thousands of years later, salt is still big business in Las Coloradas. Salty ocean water from the mangroves floods the salt plains, creating shallow lagoons. When the sun evaporates the water, fresh sea salt is left behind.
Ancient Mayans used salt for nutritional purposes and for food preservation. They distributed the salt across the Mayan empire via canoe. The salt-making process is natural, (remember the Mayans used to do this) but a large salt-making company crafted the large lakes we see today. They produce 500,000 tons of salt per year.
Swimming around the factory is off-limits, but from Rio Lagartos, there is an area where you can float in the pink water and take a Mayan mud bath, which has great skincare benefits. The water is only about a foot deep and can sting if you have cuts, so just take caution before hopping in. However, it is safe to get in, and we highly recommend capturing plenty of beautiful photos!
Las Coloradas is about three hours from Cancun. This is a great day trip to take, and you won’t run into lots of crowds or tour groups. It’s like the Yucatan Peninsula’s best-kept secret!
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