Laguna Colorada is a rusty-burnt-orange-hued lake (4278m) that covers approximately 60 sq km and reaches a depth of just 80cm. The rich red coloration on the lake is derived from algae and plankton that thrive in the mineral-rich water, and the shoreline is fringed with brilliant white deposits of sodium, magnesium, borax and gypsum. More apparent are the flamingos that breed here; all three South American species are present.
The lake sediments are rich in diatoms (tiny microfossils used in the production of fertilizer, paint, toothpaste and plastics, and as a filtering agent for oil, pharmaceuticals, aviation fuel, beer and wine). The clear air is bitterly cold and winter nighttime temperatures can drop below -20°C.