There has been much talk lately on Internet forums and social media of Yucatán’s photogenic pink lagoons, massive salt mountains and remote, unspoiled beaches. Photos abound featuring ponds in dramatic hues of pink, white, and green, visitors grinning through faces smothered in clay-like sand, and guides covered from head to toe not unlike sub-Saharan tribesmen. This, dear readers, is Las Coloradas.
Las Coloradas History
Las Coloradas is an area that has produced salt for millennia, dating back to Maya times, when salt was an important commodity traded among all the major city-states of the day. Today, it is still producing salt, albeit on a much grander and more industrialized scale, thanks to the efforts of the Roche family, who began harvesting salt there in the 1940’s, extracting up to 5000 tons per year. Fast-forward to current production levels and after continuous and significant investment in technology and state-of-the-art equipment, Grupo Industrial Roche produces a whopping 750 million tons of salt and related products each year, most of it for the domestic market, making it one of the largest in the country and the primary source of salt in México.
A Full Day in the Area
And while it may sound technical and perhaps uninteresting, Las Coloradas is a place you need to see to believe. It can be combined with visits to the nearby fishing towns of Río Lagartos and/or San Felipe, making the outing a full-day’s worth of activity and photo opportunities.
Arriving in Las Coloradas by car, or perhaps as part of a tour from Mérida, Cancun, or the Riviera Maya, you will be greeted by a group of guides who are ready and authorized to show you the pink salt lagoons and explain the history and process of salt production. You will be on private company property and must adhere to the indications and directions of your guide, who will be banned from the site if you, the visitor, misbehave in any way. How can you misbehave? Well, you might want to immerse yourself in the water to see if you float. You might want to pick some crystals from the edge of the shore. You might want to wade in after your hat has been blown off your head by the strong breezes that whip up a salty froth on the surface of the ponds. None of this is permitted. Stay with your guide at all times and listen to his explanations – he knows his stuff! An added treat is that the guides all have sharp photography skills and will spend much time placing you and yours in strategic positions to achieve truly amazing photos that you will enjoy showing your friends and family.
What to do in Las Coloradas?
After your walk on sandy paths between the colorful evaporation ponds, you will return to your vehicle for a quick drive into the mangroves to see more pools and learn more about the history of the area. At one point you will go out onto the sand where you can scoop up a fine, clay-like sand from under the surface to smear on your body or face. This sand, completely odor-free, is full of minerals and makes an excellent and 100% natural exfoliant. Leave it on for awhile and feel how it rejuvenates and polishes your skin, leaving it free from impurities. If you believe, it will be so!
Afterwards, a visit to a small, blue pond, filled with water from the nearby ocean (it flows in from underneath the dunes, apparently) is the perfect opportunity to rinse and emerge, 20 years younger-looking and fresh: a new you!
Time for lunch…
All this activity is bound to make you hungry and so, once you have settled up with your guide, you can either accept his recommendation for a place to eat in the tiny village of Las Coloradas itself, or jump in the car and drive to Río Lagartos, not more than 20-30 minutes away, where you will find several options for a decent meal.
San Felipe and Río Lagartos
While both San Felipe and Río Lagartos are fishing villages, Río Lagartos feels a little more commercial (tourism, fishing) while San Felipe still has the laid back feel of a sleepy seaside village. You should time your visit to San Felipe for late afternoon, when the light is soft and warm, and you can photograph the many restored and colorfully painted traditional wooden houses along its tiny streets. An additional and photogenic stop is the cemetery on the outskirts of San Felipe, filled with (plastic) flowers, a bright and interesting place for photography and cemetery buffs.
After your day on the coast, you should ideally overnight in Río Lagartos, before driving back to Mérida, a two-hour drive best done during daylight hours, not because it’s unsafe, but because it’s an interesting drive back and you will be well rested.
Editorial by Ralf Hollmann
Photography by Ralf Hollmann, Jonathan Buenfil, Tania Lopez and Andrea Mier y Teran for use in Yucatán Today
Hotels in Río Lagartos and San Felipe:
Ria Maya Hotel
Calle 19 #134 x 14, Río Lagartos
Website: Ria Maya Lodge
Hotel Villa de Pescadores
Calle 14 #95 Malecón Costero, Río Lagartos
Tel. (986) 856 4796
Whatsap: (986) 106 9579
Hotel San Felipe
Calle 9-A x 14 y 16, San Felipe, 9 km west of Río Lagartos
Tel: (986) 862 2027
Email: [email protected]
Download your maps for this area
Read more about:
- Río Lagartos
- San Felipe
- Pink Flamingos and Sunsets in Río Lagartos and San Felipe
- Travel Journals: Write to Remember
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