Laguna Colorada: Marvel of Nature in Bolivia’s Andes

The adventure continues

Laguna Colorada: Marvel of Nature in Bolivia’s Andes

During our time in South America there were many memorable locations visited. From the majesty of the Amazon River to the mountainous ice bound valleys of Patagonia to the never ending spray of Iguazu waterfalls or the archaeological blend of Machu Picchu located in the mountainous jungles of Peru, often, we had more than an inkling of what we were in for based upon what we had seen on the Internet.

What we weren’t prepared for was the awe we experienced at variety of locations we encountered driving from San Pedro in the northern part of Chile across the Andes heading towards the Uyuni salt flats, a natural marble in its own right.

As it turns out many of the locations we visited had been previously visited by that rockstar of environmentalism Sir David Attenborough who appears to have lived and continues to live his best life, dedicated to planet Earth. If I hadn’t watched his documentaries I don’t think I would have thought to visit the places that we did in South America, frolicking with flamingos, swimming with sea lions, marvelling at macaws or cavorting with camelids like llamas, vicuna and guanaco.

This very small video is about one of the many places we visited on that trip across the desert called Laguna Colorada. Sometimes it’s good to research where you are going and sometimes it’s not. While we had a rough idea of some of the places we were visiting, not being fully aware of all of them meant that we were extremely surprised and delighted when we came upon them.


This lake is situated 4200 m above sea level which is over 14,000 feet. A lot of this part of the journey was over 4000 m above sea level and that led to Helen getting altitude sickness. Although in the video above you never would pick it because we were so excited about the places we were visiting. We had already departed San Pedro in Chile climbing up to pass through border control into Bolivia at the top of the Andes before visiting the white and green lagoon as well as a geothermal areas complete with bubbling mud pools.

We also visited an area known as the Salvador Dali desert. We made the multi-day trek in a powerful four-wheel-drive with an incredible driver and four strangers who quickly became friends.

Our only bit of excitement driving-wise came as we were barrelling down one of the desert tracks and the bonnet suddenly opened totally obscuring everyone’s view. The driver calmly slowed down, stopped, re-affixed the bonnet and we continued on our way as if nothing had happened.

As mentioned rather than try and recount the entire trip from San Pedro to the Uyuni Salt flats I just want to speak of this one place, Laguna Colorada – the Red Lagoon or Lake.

Discovering Laguna Colorada: A Symphony in Red

Nestled high in the Bolivian Andes, Laguna Colorada is a marvel of nature that paints a breathtaking picture of vibrant hues and wildlife diversity. Known as Bolivia’s “Red Lake,” this shallow salt lake is a spectacle of color, life, and geological wonder.

A Canvas of Colors

The lake’s most striking feature is its deep red coloration, a masterpiece created by red sediments and pigmented algae. The algae thrive in the mineral-rich waters, painting the lake with a palette that ranges from crimson to burnt orange, depending on the light and time of day. This natural phenomenon is not just a feast for the eyes but also a critical habitat for a variety of species.

Flamingos: The Pink Dancers

Laguna Colorada is a sanctuary for flamingos, and it’s here that one can witness the elegant dance of these pink-feathered creatures. The lake is home to three of the world’s six flamingo species, including the largest population of the rare James’ Flamingo. Once thought to be extinct, these flamingos have found refuge in the plankton-rich waters of the lake. The red algae, rich in a pigment called canthaxanthin, is responsible for the flamingos’ iconic pink plumage, staining their feathers to a vibrant hue as they feed.

Llamas: The Gentle Highlanders

Amidst the flamingos, one can spot herds of llamas grazing along the shores. These gentle creatures are an integral part of the Andean culture and landscape. Adapted to the high altitude and harsh conditions, llamas are a symbol of endurance and harmony with nature.

The Red Algae: A Microscopic Miracle

The red algae not only contribute to the lake’s unique color but also support the intricate ecosystem. These microscopic organisms are the foundation of the food chain, providing sustenance for the flamingos and other wildlife that inhabit the area.

A Journey Worth Taking

Visiting Laguna Colorada is an experience that transcends mere sightseeing. It’s a journey into the heart of an ecosystem that thrives against all odds, a testament to the resilience of life. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photographer, or simply a traveler seeking the extraordinary, Laguna Colorada is a destination that promises to leave you in awe.

If you’re planning to explore the wonders of Laguna Colorada, remember to respect the delicate balance of this ecosystem. It’s our responsibility to ensure that this natural wonder is preserved for generations to come.

We followed in the footsteps of travellers before us, some famous, some not. We initially were skeptical about the value of what we would see on this journey through a desert plateau. I am so glad we silenced our inner sceptic and went on the adventure.


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