Amazing Places: Chile’s Red Lagoon

Erika De Paz

Keep reading to discover the strange beauty of Chile’s Red Lagoon!

Latin America hides amazing natural wonders. Corners that are not only known for their surprising beauty, but also for their over the top peculiarity. Over on this side of the world, we can find places so weird and surreal that they seem an echo of the landscape described to us in the fairy tales we read when we were children and that are undisputable evidence of a superior being’s hand in nature and creation. Places so incredible that sometimes they are hard to appreciate when we stand close to them, and that is the case with the Red Lagoon (Laguna Colorada), an important body of water hidden in the north of Chile.

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At first sight, it might look like somebody spilled a glass of red food coloring, like the ones used for baking, to change the color of this lake’s waters. This landscape’s peculiarity causes an impact on anyone: our eyes are not used to encountering places like this one. But even though it looks impossible, such places exist. This small lake is located in the Camarones area, near Camiña, a town 147 km away from Iquique. It is located 3,700 meters above sea level and, even though it’s small, it’s known as the Red Sea. Its thermal waters are not apt for human consumption and its high temperatures, ranging from 40°C to 50°C, stop animals from approaching it.

A place erased from the map

To say this place is pure fantasy is not by any means an exaggeration. Besides its weird look, it’s amazing that its existence had not been recorded up until recently. Only the inhabitants of the area knew about this small lake, and it wasn’t until 2009 when the Chilean National Tourism Service (known in Spanish as Sernatur) registered it. This is a very curious fact if we take into account that its objectives are, among others, to publicize Chile’s touristic sights. The most surprising part of it all is that some maps do not reflect or show the existence of this magical destination.

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A Red Lagoon full of mysterious curses

The legend states that, many centuries ago, an Aimara community settled near it, unaware of the fact that it belonged to the devil. They drank its waters and soon they all perished. Many townspeople attribute a “cursed power” to this lake and, according to them, it has presumably been responsible for many tourist’s disappearances.  This is why it is forbidden to approach the lake, because all those who do, disappear. The depth of the lake is another one of its mysteries. The believers attribute the lack of awareness and data to the people’s fear of disappearing. The skeptics, however, assure the main reason why so much is still unknown, is because of the water’s temperatures.  

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The blood-red color of its waters has also been associated to curses and speculated about. Some think it is the devil’s work. And although it is certain not many studies have been carried out, it’s believed that the scarlet color is due to certain algae that inhabit deep in the lake’s waters and loose sediments while others assure it’s just because of the red clay soil.

This explanation also applies to its sister lakes, which are green and yellow. These not only accentuate the weirdness of the landscape but, just like the Red Like, are veiled with mysteries: apparently, they start bubbling every time somebody unpleasant or mean visits the location.  

Whether it really possesses the supernatural powers that some people believe, it is important to visit the place with a tour guide that’s familiar with this Chilean corner. This is due to the fact the path to it is made of many unkempt roads and it’s easy to get lost.

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Touristic destination under construction

Currently, the plan is to turn this interesting gift of nature into a beautiful touristic destination. To get to the Red Lagoon, you have to go from Camiña and even then, access is pretty complicated. The plan is to create a new road that’s well kept and easy to navigate. With this road, the tourism to this curious place would be boosted and it would provide a new source of income to the locals.

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All of those who visit this place are captivated by its strange beauty. Beyond the ancestral myths this enigmatic lake holds, it’s just unmistakable how remarkable it is to anyone’s eyes. Some would think it’s one of the spookiest attractions in Chile, but getting carried away by these myths would only prevent them from seeing one of the most astonishing landscapes on planet Earth… A true wonder, hidden in the desolate mountains and, without a doubt, one of the best-kept secrets of this Latin American country.

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Photos by Vladimir Prieto on Flickr.

4 Comments

  1. I like this article very interesting and always like Erika De La Paz articles, thank you Erika

    • Nativo Crafts

      Thank you for your comment Lourdes! We’re happy you enjoy our content :)

  2. Erika,
    We really enjoyed your article. My husband and I plan to go see Laguna Roja at the end of December. In which town did you stay on your way to Laguna Roja? Do you know if there is a hostal in Camiña?
    Thanks,
    Tatiana

    • Nativo Crafts

      Hi Tatiana! Thank you for your comment. If you plan to visit Laguna Roja, we recommend that you book a tour with a tour operator in Chile. It’s easy to get lost when you’re on your own and don’t know the area, and it’s best to be with a guide that knows the region because the Chilean Altiplano has hypoxic air caused by the very high elevation. Normally, people book a tour from Iquique, with stops along the way. Happy adventures for you and your husband!