The stunningly vibrant Laguna Colorada sits just a few hours south of the picture-perfect Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats in the deserts of Bolivia. Most visitors know that visiting the Salt Flats is a must, but far too many travelers miss out on visiting Laguna Colorada, which is easily one of the most impressive natural landmarks in South America.
Keep reading for exactly how to visit this incredible destination – despite its remote location, it’s actually quite easy to visit. We’re sharing all the tips you’ll need to visit or plan a tour to Laguna Colorada and things to do and see in this stunning region of Bolivia.
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Laguna Colorada – meaning red lagoon in Spanish – is a bright red lake in southwest Bolivia near the border of Chile and Argentina. Laguna Colorada Bolivia is also one of the country’s most visually striking natural areas, along with the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats nearby.
Laguna Colorada was nominated to be part of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. This salt lake is located in the remote Altiplano (High Plains) of Bolivia, an area known for its incredible salt and mineral deposits and soaring altitude.
When I say that Laguna Colorada is red, it is really red! Along the shore, even at just a few inches of depth, you can’t see through the water because of the saturated red color
Why is Laguna Colorada Red?
Laguna Colorada gets its bright red color due to red sediments in the water and red algae. Certain mineral deposits in the area have caused these sediments and colored algae, just as they cause Laguna Verde nearby to be green-blue and cause other lakes to be colorful as well.
The lake is only about a meter deep at its deepest point, which contributes to its deep red color and the opacity of the water.
While the red color is visible throughout the year, sunlight and clouds can make sections of the water look clearer than others, more orange, or darker red. One of the most incredible parts of visiting is seeing the tones of water look like they’re changing before your eyes.
Part of what makes Laguna Colorada so striking is not just the red water but the white “islands” and bands that stretch through the water and contrast the red. These white patches are composed of borax found in the lake, and they look like snow!
Flamingos at Laguna Colorada
There are thousands of Andean flamingos that live near Laguna Colorada and in the surrounding areas, and they make this destination even more breathtaking. Their legs are resistant to all the chemicals in the water of the lagoon, and they are extremely vibrant and pink from the food they feast on in the lagoon.
These flamingos will actually freeze themselves into the water in the lakes in the area at night to sleep as a flock – they’re “freed” in the morning when the sun rises and ice melts.
Where is Laguna Colorada?
Laguna Colorada is located within the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve (Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa). Located near the border with Chile, this national park is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes you’ll ever find.
Deserts, mountains, snow-capped peaks, and colorful lagoons are everywhere here, and part of the beauty in getting here is what you’ll see along the way. Nearby destinations include the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats – visitors that come here for the Salt Flats generally try to combine a trip to Laguna Colorada with their visit, and it is well worth it!
How To Get to Laguna Colorada
Part of what has made Laguna Colorada Bolivia such a popular and famous destination is its proximity to the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats outside of Uyuni. Just a few hours south of the Salt Flats, it’s an easy addition to a trip.
The proximity of the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Laguna Colorada makes visiting this area even more attractive for visitors. Laguna Colorada is a highlight on the multi-day tours through the Eduardo Avaroa National Park, and most visits to the area will include stops at the Salt Flats and Laguna Colorada.
Because Laguna Colorada is located in such a remote area, almost all visitors make the trip as a part of a 4×4 jeep tour. The most popular Laguna Colorada jeep tours depart from Uyuni, and include a guided tour of the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats as part of the trip.
While you can overland and drive independently to the site, taking a jeep tour is the best way to go. Not only is it important to know your way around out in the desert – which can truly be a matter of life or death in such a remote area, but it’s the most cost-effective way to get here.
Laguna Colorada Tours
There are many tour options to consider when deciding how to get to Laguna Colorada. Travelers can choose from tours and excursions of just one day, or tours and excursions that last multiple days and include a full tour itinerary of the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and other impressive nearby wonders.
The best tour for you will depend on how much time you have in your Bolivia itinerary. However, we generally recommend spending at least two full days in the Uyuni / Laguna Colorada area. Three days is the ideal length of time to fully appreciate this magical region.
One-Day Tours to Laguna Colorada
Best One-Day Tour to Laguna Colorada: Uyuni to Laguna Colorada Day Trip by Joker Expeditions
One-day Laguna Colorada tours are not very common, as Laguna Colorada is located in such a remote area. Driving from any of the nearby cities just takes far too long for day trips to be worth it, in most cases.
While they’re worth looking into if you’re on a tight time constraint, so much of the attraction of the area is in experiencing all that it has to offer, not just Laguna Colorada.
- Reviews and Bookings: Uyuni to Laguna Colorada Day Trip by Joker Expeditions
What to Pack for Salar de Uyuni
Check out our Ultimate Salar de Uyuni Packing List for our tried and tested packing list. Don’t repeat our mistakes on your Laguna Colorada and Salar de Uyuni adventure!
2-Day Tours to Laguna Colorada
Best 2-Day Tour, Uyuni to Laguna Colorada: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Laguna Colorada Tour by Joker Expeditions
Most tours to Laguna Colorada depart from Uyuni, as most travelers are drawn to this region of Bolivia first to see the Salt Flats. Multi-day tours will almost always start with almost an entire day on the Salt Flats, including visiting popular destinations in the Salt Flats like Incahuasi and nearby caves with mummies from indigenous groups in the area.
2-day, 1-night tours from Uyuni tend to stick to the Uyuni area and Salt Flats, so make sure when booking your tour that it includes a stop at Laguna Colorada (like the Joker Expeditions 2-day tour we recommend)!
- Reviews and Bookings: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Laguna Colorada Tour by Joker Expeditions
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3-Day Tours to Laguna Colorada
- Best 3-Day Tour, Uyuni to Laguna Colorada: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, Laguna Colorada, and Beyond with Joker Expeditions
- Best 3-Day Tour, San Pedro de Atacama to Laguna Colorada: 3-Days Salar de Uyuni and Lagunas Tour from San Pedro
Once you plan on spending three days exploring the region, you’re practically guaranteed to find that every tour will visit Laguna Colorada. We generally recommend that travelers dedicate at least three days to the area for this reason: it allows visitors to fully explore the entire region and all its treasures.
Tours lasting three days generally depart from Uyuni and start with a complete visit to the Salt Flats, or from the small city of San Pedro de Atacama in the desert of Chile, just across the border. From either starting point, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the area and Laguna Colorada.
- Reviews and Bookings: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, Laguna Colorada, and Beyond with Joker Expeditions
- Reviews and Bookings: 3-Days Salar de Uyuni and Lagunas Tour from San Pedro
4-Day Tours to Laguna Colorada
- Best 4-Day Tour, San Pedro de Atacama to Laguna Colorada: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Lagunas Route from San Pedro de Atacama
- Best 4-Day Tour, Tupiza to Laguna Colorada: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Lagunas Route from Tupiza
Four days spent exploring the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and the altiplano region that is home to Laguna Colorada is really the ideal length of time. You’ll be able to explore all the attractions and have plenty of time to enjoy your trip along the way, including even more time to connect with locals, spot wildlife, and enjoy some of Earth’s most stunning scenery.
You can find 4-day tours that start from Uyuni, though most tours lasting four days start from other, nearby cities like Tupiza or San Pedro de Atacama, as the further distances require more travel time.
- Reviews and Bookings: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Lagunas Route from San Pedro de Atacama
- Reviews and Bookings: Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats and Lagunas Route from Tupiza
Tours from Tupiza
Another route for a Laguna Colorada tour is to start a multi-day tour in Tupiza, Bolivia, a city to the south of the Salt Flats and located near the border of Argentina. Joker Expeditions is another highly recommended tour company that starts its tours in Tupiza, offering many different levels of accommodation and giving you a lot of freedom to tailor your trip to your preferences.
By starting a tour in Tupiza, you do the typical route from Uyuni “backward.” This often means there are fewer people you’ll encounter at popular destinations along the way. Plus, you’ll end your tour at the Salt Flats, which is the perfect culmination and a perfect grand finale.
Generally, tours departing from Tupiza are most convenient for travelers who plan on heading to Argentina afterward – or those who are arriving in Bolivia from Argentina. However, I recommend them to all travelers considering visiting the Salt Flats – I loved the “backward” route, and ending the tour at the Salt Flats is a great highlight.
Things To See Near Laguna Colorada
As part of a jeep tour in the area, you’ll see so many unforgettable landscapes and destinations as you adventure through the area. However, it is worth checking out the itineraries of these companies before you book to see what exactly you’ll be doing so you know what to expect.
Though there is a standard itinerary and they take you to the best spots, if you have your heart set on one place, make sure to ask specifically and verify!
Another popular, colorful lake in the area with an incredible color is Laguna Verde. This is another standard inclusion on most multi-day Salar de Uyuni and Laguna Colorada tour itineraries.
Though I was more impressed with Laguna Colorada’s striking red, this greenish-blue lagoon is incredible as well. You won’t find the famous flamingos in Bolivia at this lake, but make sure it’s on your itinerary, too!
Arbol de Piedra
Located in an area known as the “Desert of Dalí” for its landscapes that look like they’re out of a surrealist Dalí painting, the Arbol de Piedra is a giant rock shaped like a tree, carved out over centuries by the wind. This surreal landmark is surrounded by beautiful mountains and desert landscapes.
Hot Springs – Termas de Polque
This area is also home to some bubbling hot springs that can’t be missed. While the natural springs have been contained by rock walls to make them easier to swim in, you’re really in the middle of the desert here, which makes for some beautiful scenery and a relaxing dip.
Come well prepared with a cozy towel – it will likely be cold and windy outside so you won’t want to stand around and drip dry. There is a small outpost here with a restaurant and bathroom for visitors.
Salar de Uyuni
But of course, you’re not going to visit Laguna Colorada Bolivia without visiting the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats. Even if you don’t have time within your itinerary to visit Laguna Colorada (though it is well worth it to MAKE the time!) visiting the Salar de Uyuni is still an incredible experience.
It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience in a place unlike anywhere else on Earth.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.