Have you ever seen a pink lake? There are surprisingly many of them, hidden deep in thick rainforests or tucked away on tropical islands. If you’ve ever fancied seeing one in real life or wondered how it is that they get their bubble-gum pink hue – you’ve come to the right place!
Despite looking like a delicious milkshake, pink lakes are very much natural water. It is in fact the algae within the lake that are responsible for the colour. During photosynthesis, the algae produce a red “carotenoid” pigment – the same as the one found in carrots, which produces a red dye. These algae thrive best in salty conditions, so it is common for pink lakes to occur around salt flats.
Funnily enough, this is also the reason flamingos are pink! They feed off the same carotene pigment, giving them their colour. If flamingos in the wild have access to a high supply of algae (containing the pigment), their plumage will turn a vibrant pink. But if this is taken away from them (in captivity, for example) their colour will fade to white or grey.
Our Favourite Pink Lakes:
Laguna Colorada - Bolivia
This lake boasts vibrant shallow waters, as well as year-round flocks of carotene-spoiled flamingos. Hugging the border between Chile and Bolivia, the lake is nestled below the staggering Andes mountains and surrounded by traditional villages. With plenty of homestay options and trekking opportunities, Laguna Colorada is one of the world’s most accessible and well-visited pink lakes.
Lake Hillier - Australia
This lake is one of the oldest known and has been written about in detail by 19th century explorers, who, stumbling upon it, couldn’t believe their eyes! Located off the coast of Western Australia, the lake is highly inaccessible (we don’t recommend you trying to find it alone). Instead, the best view is from above by helicopter tour. From this angle, the lake is a glorious pastel contrast to the turquoise waters nearby. For more on Lake Hillier, read our extensive guide.
Las Salinas de Torrevieja – Spain
Located inside a huge natural park in Valencia, this water reserve is a glorious spot. Unlike many of these other lakes, this one is man-made and publicly open to swim in! The salty waters are brilliantly rejuvenating for the skin, and many locals come down specifically to swim, soak in the water and expel the bodies’ toxins in this huge, free spa.
Lake Retba – Senegal
This lake is actively used for salt production, but it is no less beautiful. Watch as labourers scoop up huge piles of salt from the lake bottom and heap it into their little wooden boats. The salt is a big industry locally, because it can be used to preserve fish – making it keep for much longer. Though some lakes stay the same colour all year round, Lake Retba’s colour fluctuates with the season, so it is best to visit during the dry season of November to June, to see the lake at its most vibrant.
Salin d’Aigues Mortes – France
This is another hotspot for flamingos! A protected heritage site, Salin d’Aigues Mortes is very easy to visit, so long as you book onto a tour. Your guide will take you all around the lake by train, whilst explaining how it gets its colour and how the lake has been used since Roman times for salt mining.
Great Salt Lake – USA
Located in Utah, a state known for its weird and wacky phenomena, this humongous lake makes a great day trip from Salt Lake City. The Great Salt Lake is the biggest saltwater lake in the US (and the entire Western Hemisphere!), at 75 miles long. Not all of the lake is pink, so it is important to choose which part you visit carefully. Stansbury Island is accessible by ferry and offers stunning views, or alternatively, you can visit the Spiral Jetty.
Maharloo Lake – Iran
Southeast of Shiraz, this lake is another active salt mining lake, with plenty of biodiversity for animal and bird-lovers. To visit, your best bet is to drive (or hire a driver) to take you to Maharloo village, where you can get the best views from the shore. This is another seasonal pink lake, so make sure to visit in July or August for the strongest pigmentation of the water.
Hutt Lagoon – Australia
Another lake in Australia, this one is pretty remote, but well worth the journey. What’s fascinating about this one is that it actually changes colour over the course of the day! As the sun moves across the sky, the light reflecting off the water transforms its colour – from pink, to red and even bright purple. To stay nearby, check out the small fishing town of Port Gregory for plenty over overnight accommodation options.
Las Coloradas – Mexico
This beautiful coastal area was used for salt harvesting as far back as Mayan times and is now a protected biosphere reserve, bursting with rare creatures and wildlife. For tips on planning a five-day trip in the surrounding state of Yucatan, check out our recent guide.
Sivash Salt Lagoon – Crimean Peninsula
Our final pink lake is a very shallow lake that acts as a natural border between Crimea and the Kherson Oblast. Stretching as far as the horizon, this lake produces spectacular colours, particularly at sunset, where the sky turns the same shade of pink as the water. Still used for salt mining, the lake is walled by miniature mountains of salt on all sides, reminiscent of artic icebergs.