The Mysterious Pink Lake of Torrevieja
12th August 2021
This is Laguna Rosa – the Pink Lake of Torrevieja.
It’s a stunning, captivating enigma of the natural world. Inexplicably beautiful, vividly pink, and deadly to all but the most extreme living things.
While it’s not a unique phenomenon (there are quite a few pink lakes in the world), Torrevieja’s pink lake is something of a bizarre oddity on the Costa Blanca; it’s twinned with another lake, which has similar properties, but is brilliantly blue instead.
So, what is it that makes this lake so potently pink?
Chemistry in colour, biology in bloom
Laguna Rosa looks artificially pink at times; like a milkshake, or bubblegum. But that luscious blush is naturally-occurring, thanks to a rare quirk of chemistry and biology.
What makes the lake pink in Torrevieja?
A combination of bacteria, algae and sunlight. Oh, and lots of salt.
The lake is incredibly salty, at up to 350g of salt per litre. That’s about ten times saltier than an average sample of seawater, which contains between 31 and 38 grams of salt per litre. Halobacteria – salt-loving microbes – are among the only creatures that can survive in water like this, which is deadly to most plants and animals.
These microbes do more than just survive, though. With little competition from other animals, they absolutely thrive. Their bacterial blooms, fuelled by the Costa Blanca’s abundant sunlight, paint the water in varying shades of pink all year round.
The Halobacteria share the lake with a species of microalgae, another extreme saltwater specialist. Algal blooms add to the colour of the water, too – and most importantly, form a foundational part of the lake’s short food chain. Hardy shrimps that feed on the algae (and by extension, the halobacteria) become deeply pink-coloured, and the flamingos that eat them take on the pink colour from their food.
Not much else can survive here, though – and while flamingos are adapted to deal with massive quantities of salt, even they have their limits.
The pink lake in Torrevieja is safe for people to swim and wade in, but it’s prohibited. People still do it, just to feel the strange sensation of floating effortlessly in the milkshake-pink water (and to get a photo for Instagram, no doubt).
That experience comes at the expense of ruined swimwear, uncomfortably dry skin and taking on the stench of bacteria-infested water – not to mention a stern telling off and a potential fine of up to €6,000.
The area is a protected natural reserve (the flamingos have only just returned to nest at the lake, after being absent for decades) and a working salt mine. So, for visitors’ safety and natural preservation, swimming is off-limits.
Importance to Torrevieja
The pink lake of Torrevieja is more than a quirky landmark and tourist attraction. Laguna Rosa is an important economic and gastronomic feature of Torrevieja – which was once the heart of Spain’s historic salt industry.
The lake still produces some of the finest natural salt in the world; more than 800,000 tons of it a year, making it the most productive salt lake in all of Europe.
The salt from the pink lake is a local delicacy, used to make the best local produce in Torrevieja, like bacalao (salted cod). It’s sold at all the top markets, and exported around the world.
Conservation and science missions are in full swing here, too. The lake is a biological and ecological marvel, and it may hold the secrets to how life started on Earth – or how life could look on other planets.
But people remember the lake most for the colour. On a clear evening, with a dazzling sunset, different shades of pink fill the sky and the water below. This mysterious pink lake still has so much hidden beneath the surface; and just has to be experienced to be believed.
Costa Blanca holidays you’ll remember forever
Discover one of the best Costa Blanca holidays – and uncover the mysteries of the pink lake of Torrevieja for yourself when you visit. Book your stay in our holiday apartments in Torrevieja, at Los Locos Beach.