Río Lagartos / Yucatan

Yucatán, Mexico


This is one of my favourite trips in Yucatán and it is great to do it after visiting the ruins of Ek’ Balam or as a separate day trip, for real relaxation. 


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Río Lagartos is a sleepy fishing village within the biosphere reserve Ría Lagartos, on the gulf coast of Mexico.  There are a couple of restaurants, a small shop and a seafront promenade.

This hidden paradise is nestled in the National Park of Ría Lagartos, which is internationally famous for the 20,000 pink flamingos that come to the area between January and September to mate.

I never get tired of this place. I certainly recommend eating at a restaurant on the malecón (waterfront) before you take the trip, if you are coming here after the Ek’ Balam visit. I had a good time at Ría Maya (simple but fresh seafood restaurant) and I take the boats from here from the owner Diego. There are plenty of boats for rent on the malecón as well.

Each lancha (small boat) takes 6 passengers…

Ría Lagartos is a mangrove-lined estuary which shelters bird species like white ibis, snowy egrets, red egrets and tiger herons. If you rent a boat in the village for a ride, you will certainly spot a few bird species. A standard tour for about 100 US takes two hours. This includes the entry fee to the biosphere.

Great Egret.

Spanish explorers mistook the narrowing of the ría (estuary) for a río (river) and the crocodiles for lizards (lagartos). Basically, you will drive to the village of Río Lagartos, but you will sail to the lagoon Ría Lagartos. And you will certainly spot a crocodile during your sail, and not lizards.

When I go to Ría Lagartos, I always want to put mud on, for rejuvenation. The mud is really white and smooth. You can also ask the captain to take you to the pink lagoon.

After mud bath with friends. The captain will take you afterwards to the sweet water lagoon by the village to wash off your mud and salt. There is also a shower in the restaurant.

The stunning cotton-candy pink lakes are called Las Coloradas and they are actually salty. You can’t swim in them if you approach them from the village Las Coloradas (by car), but if the captain takes you to them on a tour from Río Lagartos, you will be able to have a quick swim in one of them. Or rather a float. The sensation is like in the Dead Sea; you can’t swim, you can only float (because the salt is really concentrated and heavy).

Floating in one of the pink lagoons (it is impossible to swim here as the salt makes the water heavy).

The Maya knew the place as Holkoben and they used to stop here to rest on the way to Las Colorados where they extracted salt. Actually, we now know that Río Lagartos was the major port of the Itzá during the Terminal Classic and Postclassic period (700-1200 AD) as Chichén Itzá controlled the saltworks of the north coast at that time and much of the wealth of the Itzá capital was obtained through the salt trade. The salt was then extracted in the locations of Las Coloradas, El Cuyo and Chikinchel.

The vibrant pink color of these lakes is due to red-colored algae, plankton, and brine shrimp that thrive in the salty environment. Want to hear a cool fact? The reason flamingos are pink is because they eat these pink creatures.

If you want to make this trip for photography reasons (stunning photos of the pink lagoon), then I recommend that you go to the village of Las Coloradas (half an hour drive from Río Lagartos along the coast). And you can combine the visit to the village with a stay on the sea and its white sandy beach – it is absolutely deserted and you can collect beautiful seashells here.

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