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Photography by Michael D. Moran

Laguna Colorada


Less than 150 miles from Bolivia’s famed Salar de Uyuni salt flats is an equally Dalí-esque vision: a vast crimson lake dotted with rare puna flamingos. Part of the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, Laguna Colorada is a shallow saltwater lagoon situated in the country’s southwestern altiplano, some 14,100 feet above sea level. Red algae and sediment give the six-mile lake its peculiar hue, which morphs from punch pink to fireball orange to boring ol’ blue depending on the salinity, water temperature, and time of day or year. 

The water also stands in stark contrast to its islands, which are Colgate white thanks to massive deposits of borax. With its snowcapped mountains, puffing volcanoes and teetering rock formations, this desert landscape is otherworldly — as if a sci-fi novelist and an acid-tripping surrealist were tasked with co-imagining life on Mars circa 3034. But Laguna Colorada’s surrounding reserve is more hospitable than the Hollywood dream machine, with inhabitants like elusive Andean foxes, pumas and viscachas as well as herds of domesticated llamas and alpacas.

Good To Know

If flamingo spotting is a priority, plan your trip for summer (December through April in the southern hemisphere). That’s when hundreds of endangered puna flamingos flock here to feast on plankton.

Outfitter To Tap

Aracari can craft a private, bespoke, locally guided trip to Laguna Colorada and Salar de Uyuni, weaving in other must-sees like Polques hot springs and the Licancabur stratovolcano. The team can also secure a reservation for one of six geodesic domes at Kachi Lodge, the only luxury eco-friendly property bordering the salt flats.

How To Get There

The lake is accessible by road on three sides, but it takes a 4×4 to reach it. Most tours depart from Uyuni, an hourlong flight or eight-hour drive from La Paz; then it’s another five hours to Laguna Colorada. Worthwhile diversions include the telegenic Siloli desert and the Sol de Manaña sulfur springs field. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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