Pink Salt Lakes, Yucatan Peninsula Mexico
There are plenty of beautiful natural sights to see around the Yucatan, from flamingos to cenotes, mangroves and mayan pyramids. However, for obvious reasons the pink salt lakes and ponds in the Yucatan have started to gain more and more attention.
What are they:
The naturally pink lakes are part of salt mining operations through the Yucatan and the pink color comes from plankton and algae that naturally occur in the water.
The flats are man made evaporation pools for salt collection.
It is not permitted to wade or swim in the pink salt flats, but you can walk on trails beside them.
The pink color forms in the fully flooded lakes and later as the salt concentrates the color fades.
It is possible to see pink color throughout the year, but conditions vary on operation and evaporation.
Some of the lakes are lighter and darker shades of pink and some are even orange.
Why are they pink?
The pink has nothing to do with the salt color as the final sea salt here still comes out white.
The color is in fact a natural occurrence from when the lakes are flooded for salt collection and concentration. The pink color is a harmless bacteria that comes from an algae and plankton that are also influenced by the sun and salt. Everything is happening on a microscopic level, therefore when we look at the lakes all we see is shallow sandy bottoms, pink water, and salt crusted shores.
The lakes are always a varying shade of pink depending on the quantity of pink algae and the stage of the salt production. Because the salt farm is so large there are often different shades directly next to each other. Don’t be surprised if some of the flats even appear yellow or orange.
However, all the guides agree from 12-3 pm the color is the most deep pink because the sun is high in the sky causing the best reflection. The pink flats are a year round activity.
Where are the Pink Salt Lakes?
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Telchac Laguna Rosada – Charcas de Sal (salt ponds near Telchac)
From Merida the Telcha Laguna Rosada is the closest option.
There are a number of salt ponds and a stand that sells bagged salt and other local trinkets.
You can self tour the various salt flats on both sides of the highway.
Remember to not wade into the ponds. This is a business after all and they don’t want you contaminating the salt.
Also don’t forget to buy some salt for home use.
The big salt crystals breakdown easily with a couples pulses in the blender and it taste great with all types of food.
At the entrance to the main salt ponds, just before the building selling things, there is one public bathing pool.
Sometimes this one is also pink, but usually it is yellow. Don’t worry.
The salt rich water and clay soil helps with aches and pains, smooths out the skin and overall relaxes the body. Something like, a short trip to the spa. There is no shade over this pool, therefore plan accordingly as the reflection of light off the salt is amplified.
Los Colorados: The most famous of the pink lakes.
The site of these salt flats is huge, especially compared to the blip of a town they sit next to.
However, it is a 3 hour drive from Merida.
If you have the time, I think the trip is absolutely worth it.
You can stop and look around in various pueblos (little towns) along the way. You will see lots of beautiful nature and the lakes themselves are breathtaking. The site sits much closer to the open ocean than Telchac and in places you can hear the churning waves beaconing you for a swim.
There are some things starting to happen in the town, but the movement there is still slow. It’s best to bring a picnic lunch with you to enjoy after your tour.
When you first arrive you will see a group of people (usually young men) with motorcycles. These are the “official/unofficial” guides and when I went it costs $50 per person for a tour. You will drive your own car.
First, you will see the many pink salt flats made famous by the internet.
Second, you will drive away from the pink flats owned by the factory to public access areas.
They let you soak your feet in a fish pond, rub yourself full of clay, and wash off with the salty water from a naturally formed pool. The tour doesn’t take more than 1.5 hours and afterwards you can explore the small church and central square of the fishing village, or relax on the small quiet beach front.
If you are really ambitious you can add another afternoon stop to nearby Rio Lagartos.
Both from Cancun and Merida it is long day trip but if you start early in the morning you can fit in dinner at a nearby town. If you want to lengthen the trip and stay overnight.
You can stay in Rio Lagartos (about 20 minutes away) or in Valladolid (1.5-2 hours) both are quaint towns that have a variety of hotels and restaurants.
Note to the new traveler: some parts of the Yucatan can be a little sleepy and the smaller towns usually close up shops around 9 or 10 pm (small pueblos even earlier), make sure you have all your food and accommodations sorted out.
Take all the pictures you want while contemplating the pink waters, but know Drones are prohibited.
In 2018 a Drones fell into on of the lakes and the battery contaminated the lake. Remember this is private property, and the pink lake’s main use is salt production and not videography. They prohibit anything that would cause damage, please be respectful to nature and the property both.
May places are fenced off and in case you didn’t read it once or twice above, you are not allowed to swim in any of the pink lakes. Have a really great trip and take lots of breathtaking photos that knock the socks off your friends. Don’t litter, keep the land and water clean while visiting the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula.