After a morning at the Mayan ruins of Ek Balam we headed towards the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsular to visit Las Coloradas and see the flamingoes in Rio Lagartos. I had planned to stop at Tizimin for lunch at a local restaurant that was rated rather well on google maps. When we reached the town centre of Tizimin, we easily found a spot to park our hire car, just a block from the town square and the restaurant Tres Reyes.
Tizimin town itself does have not much to offer tourists; even the town square and the obligatory church would not be worth stopping for on your drive to the coast unless you need some provisions or a lunchtime spot. However, it was interesting to see the locals sit and enjoy their lunchtime on the square en route to the restaurant for a traditional Mexican lunch.
The menu at Restaurant Tres Reyes was very local with Sopa de Lima and many other local specialties mixed in with a few more child friendly dishes. The décor of the restaurant appeared to be stuck sometime in the 60s, which seemed to go with the laid back feel of the town, and combined with the food certainly meant the place deserved the high rating on google. It also seemed to be very popular with locals, as there were plenty of people popping in to collect their takeaway lunches.
After eating we headed straight on to Las Coloradas, the rest of the drive there was quite unexciting, across the acres of low scrub jungle that covers much of the Yucatan, the only break was seeing children leave their schools for the day piled two or even three on a bike.
Las Coloradas is not on most people’s itineraries when touring the Yucatan peninsular. I had spotted a picture of it on instagram and was blown away by the colours of the lakes and therefore had decided to make the small detour on our way to see the flamingos in Rio Lagartos.
Las Coloradas are artificial salt lakes, fed by seawater through pipes connected to the Caribbean Sea. The water is pumped into the lakes and then left to dry in the sun leaving the salt crystals behind. Once dried up the salt is gathered by diggers and then loaded onto trucks. We could see the white salt mountains, glistening in the sunlight when we drove past.
We were not disappointed as when we finally reached the end of the coastal road at Las Coloradas, mainly a village for the workers of the Las Coloradas salt works, and saw the salt lakes to our right. Online it said that officially the salt lakes are off limits for visitors, but the public road goes alongside some of the lakes, plus there was no one around, except that we could see some trucks and diggers in the far distance.
We parked our car right next to the edge of one of the lakes and got out of the car. We were soon joined by a group of Mexican tourists that were actually looking for Rio Lagartos but had taken the wrong turn. They seemed to be as mesmerised as us by the pink colours of the lakes in contrast to the light blue sky. Depending on the way we looked at the water the colour of the pink seemed to change to a lighter pink or a darker, more reddish hue. The sun and clouds reflecting on the water made it even more magical. I am sure the majority of girls and boys would love to see the pink water of the lakes and paddle in the shallow salt waters, it is something you do not get the chance to see in many places.
I would advise to come when the sun is not at its highest point as the light is better for taking photos but also be aware if the sun is not sunny the colours might not be as bright. Our receptionist told us that if you visit at the wrong time, the water might be more of an orange/brown colour, than pink. Also you need to find a lake at the right evaporation stage as the colours move towards brown in the later more concentrated stages.
We took off our shoes and started to walk into the water. We could feel the salt crystals crunch underneath our bare feet. I had a small cut on one of my feet and the salt water stung, therefore I got out again immediately. I have seen photos of people swim in the water, I guess you probably could, but we felt it was not appropriate to do so. I took plenty of pictures and then we decided to drive a bit further into the array of lakes. We drove around the corner to get a different angle off the lakes and the light and soon discovered that the lakes from here were not as pink but more red and brown and so we moved on to drive back along the coastal road to Rio Lagartos. If you do visit and cannot find the right pink move around and check different salt pans and light angles.
At a brief stop at one of the paths leading to the nearby beach, we realized that the sea here was rather murky and the beach covered in seaweed and therefore not worth considering for a swim. This was just as well as we later were glad to have more time at our next stop, Rio Lagartos.