Did you know you can flat in salt lagoons in San Pedro de Atacama? There are multiple options, but the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache (Hidden Lagoons of Baltinache) are surely the best spot to do in the Atacama Desert! In this blog I’ll tell you all you need to know about visiting the hidden lagoons of Baltinache in Chile by yourself. If you want to know how to get to San Pedro and how to get around, head over to this blog post.
Disclaimer: Some photos in this blog were taken with a drone. It’s not allowed anymore. Still want to get these high angle shots? Get an Insta360 with these super long selfie sticks!
In This Post
How to prepare for your day trip
Before you start your journey, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. First of all, it’s important to have your own form of transportation. I highly recommend a 4×4. The ability to travel by yourself is so important around San Pedro de Atacama, as tours are very pricy. If you travel with more than 1 person, it’s already cheaper to rent a car instead of jumping on tours! The best place to rent a car is Calama airport. This is the place where you fly in for visiting San Pedro de Atacama and it’s about an hour away from the tourist destination. Rentalcars is a great option for renting your car, as there are many companies to choose from with great flexibility.
The next thing you should do – you should actually do this before you arrive in San Pedro de Atacama – is downloading offline maps. I recommend Google Maps or Maps.Me. Both apps have the ability to navigate offline and it’s an absolute must, as mobile coverage is gone as soon as you leave the towns. Highlight the spots you want to visit, and make sure you include Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache. Pay close attention that you save the right spot, as there’s another Google Maps spot called Laguna Baltinache. That’s the wrong one, so better click on the link above.
The last thing you have to do before departure, is stocking up water and food. There are zero (!) food options along the way and there’s no restaurant at the salt lagoons. Bring some salty snacks and soft drinks too! We brought empanadas and about 10 liters of water for the four of us. Honestly, I would bring more next time. I’ll tell you why later in this post. Oh, and don’t apply sunscreen before you plan to swim (float), as it contaminates the water.
What's the best time to visit the Baltinache Salt Lagoons?
Most of the tours leave in the early morning, so I’d highly recommend to leave late in the morning or in the early afternoon. Avoiding the tour groups gives you more privacy and a better experience! We arrived around 1.30pm, a tour group just left and about two other groups of independent people were around. Brave enough to conquer the dirt road! The Baltinache salt lagoons are open between 9am and 4pm.
How to get to Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache
Getting to Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache is not that easy. It takes a 45km dirt road to get there and it’s bumpy! A lot of people got stuck here with flat tires and you’ll see many of them along the way. If you’re going by yourself and you get stuck in the middle, you have to walk to find help or better wait until someone’s ready to help you out. Don’t let that scare you, it’s all part of the adventure!
During this 45km, you’ll see yourself driving on the left and right side of the road, just to find the best tracks. Don’t be afraid for people coming from the other direction or people overtaking you. During all our time on the dirt road, we saw about 5 other cars.
Once you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by the crew. They will explain the rules (most likely in Spanish) and tell you what to do and what not to do.
What if I can't drive there by myself?
No problem! If you can’t drive, if you don’t have a car or if you don’t dare to drive by yourself, you can pick a tour. GetYourGuide offers tour packages to the salt lagoons. You can use these links to book either the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache tour, or go to the Cejar lagoon. I recommend the first one!
How much does it cost to visit the Baltinache Salt Lagoons?
The entrance price is 10.000 Chilean Pesos per person, which is about €11 or $12 USD. A tour would cost you around $50 USD, 43.000 Chilean Pesos or €45 euros per person.
Floating in the Lagoons
There are 7 lagoons and you can swim in two of them. The most beautiful one is the one in front, but the quietest one is in the back. The first one has a picknick zone as well and from my own experience I can say that an empanada never tasted as good as after a swim in the salt flats! You can park your car at both spots and the area is connected with wooden bridges, to hike through the area. It’s smart to bring some face covering, sunglasses and clothes/towels to cover your body, as the sun is super strong and there’s barely any shadow.
As I mentioned before, don’t apply sunscreen before you enter the salt flats. Walk in carefully, as the edges are very sharp. Don’t jump in, as you don’t want the salty water in your face! As soon as you’re able to lay down, you truly experience the freedom you’ve been driving this whole way for. Due to the salinity, it’s recommended not to stay in the water for more than 20 minutes.
Getting out works the same way as getting in. Go slow, be careful for the sharp edges and grab your sandals or shoes. As soon as you get out, you’ll see the result of your salt bath. The salt will stick to your body, it’s everywhere!
Preparing for the way back
Before you drive back, you want to wash off all the salt. But here comes the problem. Water is scarce if you’re at such a remote location. That’s why it’s smart to bring extra liters of water to cleanse your body before you drive back. You really don’t want to drive back with the salt all over your body. Sometimes the staff has some water, but don’t count on it. After you cleansed your body, immediately put sunscreen to protect your body for the bright sunlight.
What if I don't want to drive this far?
If you’re not so keen to drive this dirt road but still want a self drive, you could consider visiting Cejar Lagoon. This one is way more expensive (30.000 pesos for a swim, that’s $35…) and easier to get to. It’s also more crowded and they say the water is less blue than the Baltinache Lagoons. It is still impressive and if you’re not keen to drive the dirt road, you could go for this option. I didn’t visit Cejar Lagoon myself, but it’s a great option! Another option is to book a tour through GetYourGuide.
Extra stop: The Magic Bus of San Pedro de Atacama
If you have some energy left, you could head to the Magic Bus for sunset! It’s an abandoned bus, located close to the main road towards San Pedro de Atacama. If you have about 8km left until the main road, you turn to the right (coming from the lagoons) and you continue that road for 7km to arrive at the bus.
I went at sunset and arrived at the same time as about three touring cars and a couple of tourist cars. This ruined a little bit of the experience, but I must say that the surroundings are super cool too. You don’t have to fix your eyes on just the bus, but in the end it’s what most of the people come for. If you want to have the spot for yourself, you should head there for sunrise.
Getting there is quite hard as you need to take the dirt road. The condition is bad, so if you don’t count yourself a good driver it might be better to skip it. If you decide to go, download the app Maps.Me, download the offline map and navigate using this app. Google Maps will give you the wrong directions and you’ll end up at an entrance point of Valle de la Luna that’s permanently closed. Been there, done that. Just download Maps.Me and you’ll be fine!
💵 Entrance fee: None
📍 Google Maps Location: Doesn’t work. Use Maps.Me and search for Magic Bus.
For more recommendations and photography spots around San Pedro de Atacama, check out this post
If you have any questions regarding this article, advices of something that’s missing or whatever, please let me know by leaving a comment!