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Los Coloradas-Pink Lakes. San Felipe and back to Valladolid

It is believed that until 800 AD, Mayans did not know what gold was, but the natural resources needed for survival were the value of gold for them. According to scientists' estimates, a person in a tropical climate needs about 8g of salt a day. And although the opinions about the Yucatan‘s population varies greatly (from 2 to 10 million people, even with calculations based on very conservative estimates) their needs for salt were huge. So it is not surprising that it was valued by local people because of the survival needs as well as being a highly profitable export. Salt was a valued medium of exchange, used to preserve foods, as a fixing agent for textile dyes, in making of soap and other cleansers. Being such as a valued component, it was controlled by the elite.

A modern industry was established at Rio Lagartos in 1946. Production of salt reaches 500,000 tons yearly. To this day, the salt lagoons are still in operation. When the dry season comes, the water evaporates and the salt becomes easily available for digging. The Pink Lakes, "gold mines" of the native Indian since Mesoamerica, are vast salt deposits just 20 minutes drive from Rio Lagartos. It is the easiest and cheapest way to see them, however sometimes it is not even worth driving there, like in our case. We hired a local to see the nearby Rio Lagartos nature reserve. That's how we saw the lakes, only they were not pink at all, but gray. A local fisherman explained to us that water had not yet recovered from a hurricane in the Fall of 2020 that ravaged the land. Although, it is said that most of the photos on the Internet are edited by a computer, and in reality, such unreal pink color does not exist 😊 Can anyone prove it?

Los Colorados. The Pink lake. Yucatan. Maya salt deposits
The lake as we saw it

Los Colorados Yucatan. Maya salt deposits
Picture from a Yucatan tourism site

From Rio Lagartos we took a small unpaved road to San Felipe. Cows and plenty of birds were the only ones who spotted us.

San Felipe is a cute colorful sleeping fisherman village with a few eating places which serve fresh fish and hotels for those looking for an escape.

You can take a little walk by the water and take a peek at colorful little houses in the village. It is also possible to take a boat to Rio Lagartos to observe flamingos and other birds.

The restaurant " El Popular Vaselina" offers not only a perfect view (it is located just across a street from the water) and a light breeze, but also fresh and delicious seafood. Some locals say that it serves the best seafood on the peninsula. We had grilled octopus and baked fish with cheese. It was very simple but tasty.

So, if you have the patience, time and desire to see the unadorned reality, this twist from the main road will suit you too. On the road we stopped at the places we found interesting. You can return to Valladolid in several ways: by the same small road from San Felipe almost to Tizimin (the area is famous for its cattle farms), then take Road 295. Interestingly, the word “tsiimin” in Mayan means "tapir", after Spaniards introduced horses to the peninsula, the Mayas used to use the same word. The other way is to return from Los Colorados to Rio Lagarta and then take back to Valladolid on the same Road 295.

However, be careful on the road. Many of Yucatans roads are filled with speed bumps. Whether it be ones made by nature on less up-kept roads or man-made ones on tolled highways, there are many easy ways to ruin your car.

There are so many attractions along the way that you can easily spend the whole day without going very far. The Ekʼ Balam archeological site has ruins you can still climb on, though it is a little expensive, almost $25 per person for foreigners.

If you decide to skip the archaeological sites, do not skip the cenote!

Cenote Xcanche is a natural sinkhole with cool, turquoise water for swimming & a zipline overhead.

On the way back to Valladolid, stop at Temozon which is known for the excellent cured meat products. Since the road goes through the town it is impossible to miss the meat houses.

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