a little known paradise in a pink lagoon

J. F. AlonsoJ. F. Alonso

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The salt flats of Torrevieja (Alicante) are surely the largest in Europe. It is a curious and spectacular place that, however, was slow to meet tourism. In the summer of 2017, the first pilot visit was carried out in which about fifty people participated, but the actual opening of this area did not take place until a year later, in July 2018. Since then, a tourist train has traveled the facilities.

The salt produced in the La Mata and Torrevieja lagoons Natural Park It can be found these days on many roads in Spain, including those in Madrid. Every year about 600,000 tons are collected in an area of ​​2,100 hectares (700 in La Mata and 1,400 in Torrevieja). It is a spectacle of nature that has recently become a little known tourist route on the Mediterranean coast.

The tourist train, between the lagoon and the salt
The tourist train, between the lagoon and the salt – Salt flats of Torrevieja

The train -from April to October- passes for an hour through the pink lagoon, the ancient crystallizers of Chemistry and the immense mountains of salt, in addition to all the flora and fauna associated with this internationally recognized wetland.

The use of salt in the La Mata lagoon dates from the Roman times (SI a. C), although there is no written source until the 13th century. In 1803 industrial exploitation begins. From that moment, the exploitation evolved from an almost artisanal model until today, when these salt pans are the first salt producer in Europe. Annual world production reaches 250 million tons, with China as the main reference.

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Salt has an infinite number of uses: it is said that up to 14,000, although nobody knows how that calculation was made. Although the most important in history has been the salty of food For its consumption and conservation, currently the chemical industry, especially that of chlorine-soda and its derivatives, is the main consumer. Significant amounts are also used in road de-icing and water treatment. Only about 5% of salt is linked to human consumption, for domestic use or in the food industry. 50% of the production of this salt works is destined for export, especially in northern Europe.

Pink lagoon of Torrevieja
Pink lagoon of Torrevieja – Moisés Pastor / CC

The pink lagoon produces a hypnotic effect on visitors. The color – according to the guides explains – is due to halobacteria, microorganisms whose membranes are purple; dunaliella salina, a unicellular alga that gives off a pinkish pigment called carotene; and the brine shrimp, a tiny crustacean that feeds on the two previous organisms and that also acquires that color.

The Salinas de Torrevieja are located in the Natural Park of the Lagunas de la Mata and Torrevieja. This environment is also protected by other protection figures such as the ZEPA Zone (Special Protection Zone for Birds), SCI (Site of Community Interest), Ramsar Wetland or Natura 2000 Network, among others.

Last spring, during the great confinement, about six hundred flamingo chickens were born. It was the first time that this bird had reproduced in the pink lagoon, a fact that is believed to have had to do with the limited salt extraction activity, the rains and the tranquility or absence of environmental noise.

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