You’d be forgiven for thinking this expanse of red water was a mirage if you were travelling in any sort of altered state through Bolivia’s southwest altiplano. You’re not seeing things though. This shallow salt lake, covering 6,000 hectares, rests at about 4,250 metres above sea level and is a neighbour to the famous Salar de Uyuni. The unusual colour of the water comes from a surfeit of red algae and other microorganisms. White patches are also not a visual illusion – just massive borax deposits on the lake’s surface.
The other attractions at Laguna Colorada are the flamingos that can be seen wading in the shallows. One of the three species is the rare James’s flamingo – also known as the puna flamingo – which is native to the region but was thought extinct until a small population was discovered in 1956. While they’re still considered endangered, the abundant plankton in the water keeps them coming back in hefty numbers for food. They’re naturally white, by the way; it’s the algae that stains them this glorious shade of pink.