Located on the Caribbean coast between Cartagena and Barranquilla (only a bit over an hour from each one), there is an amazing natural wonder that not everyone knows about. This hidden gem of Bolivar is not far from Santa Marta, in the Colombian department of Magdalena. It is a place where the bright, deep blue color of the Atlantic Ocean meets the magically beautiful pink water of the Galerazamba Salinas. Welcome to Colombia's pink sea!
The salinas are a type of salt mines where, after the evaporation of the salt water, the salt is obtained and processed, and then marketed. In Colombia, since pre-Hispanic times, indigenous communities extracted sea salt from the coasts. Colombia’s soil is rich in minerals, and one of the main economic activities is the exploitation and commerce of emeralds, gold, silver, copper, iron, coal and salt. There are certain towns called "salineros", whose main activity is found in the salt mines (such as Zipaquirá) or the salinas, as it is the case of Galerazamba.
Galerazamba is a welcoming, tranquil and joyful town, with approximately a thousand inhabitants in its urban area. One of the main reasons to visit this town is its "pink sea". Between February and March, the salt flats turn intensely red when the salt is close to exploding. Those are also the most productive months for the locals since around three hundred people works in the salt flats.
Even though these salt flats are known as Colombia's pink sea, this is not actually a sea per se. It is more of a lake. Its pink coloration is due to a natural phenomenon derived from the high concentration of saline in the waters and the presence of a halophilic alga called mugwort. This alga lives in the depths of the saline waters of Galerazamba, and it produces carotenoid substances of reddish and orange color. Together, these two give the water its pink color.
The most common starting points to visit the Salinas de Galerazamba are Barranquilla and Cartagena. And the main options to get to Galerazamba are - by car (if you have your own or a rented one) or public transport (such as bus or taxi). Keep in mind that the public or personal vehicles are allowed to enter only up to a certain point. From there, you can walk or take a "moto-taxi", which will bring you to the salt flats in about 10 to 15 minutes.
From Barranquilla: You can take any bus going towards Cartagena, and ask the driver to drop you at the place with the moto-taxis, that bring you to the Salinas in Galerazamba.
From Cartagena: You can go to the Berlinas bus station in Marbella or the Marsol one in the zone of Cabrero, instead of going all the way to the main bus terminal. There are also taxi services that take you from Cartagena to the salt flats and wait there for you during the time of your visit (between 1 and 2 hours).
This is an area of natural and cultural charms. The best time to visit is probably from December to April, which are the months of greatest intensity of pink color in the waters, or from August to September. If you come during any other month, you will still see its particular color, but not with great intensity. You will breathe the warm and fresh air and admire the magical beauty of the place. If possible, ask some of the locals about the history of the municipality and the iconic India Catalina, who is a famous character of Colombia's colonial age. Finally, if you have time, it is strongly recommended to try some of the delish local food.
Working hours of Salinas de Galerazamba are from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (Monday to Friday), and on weekends and holidays from 8:00 am. Please bear in mind that this is not a beach for bathing or doing water sports. There is however a nice sidewalk over a portion of the lake that you can take.
Only 15 minutes from Salinas de Galerazamba by vehicle, you will find Totumo Volcano. It is a volcanic cone full of mud next to the Ciénaga del Totumo. This volcano has a low elevation of approximately 20 meters and 4,5 meters in diameter. To reach its crater, it is necessary to ascend a rustic wooden staircase.
What visitors often do in this place is to submerge in the volcano's mud with mineral properties, and after that, they bath themselves in the nearby lake to wash the mud off. Many locals will offer you to take pictures, give a massage and store your belongings for a tip.
Galerazamba is not a fancy touristic destination or a seaside resort. It is more of a place for ecological tourism. Here, you can go to admire the perfection and majesty of nature and also learn more about Colombia's salt culture. It is a great spot for amateurs and professionals photographers to take great pictures of the place, even for marriages and quinceañeras photoshoots.
It is not every day that you can see a beautiful pink sea. So, if you are visiting the Caribbean coast in Colombia, maybe get off the most transited road and take a little trip to Salinas de Galerazamba to immerse yourself in this country's culture and biodiversity.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.