Lagoons in the desert; Atacama's hidden gems

Francisca Pizarro | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The north of Chile hides many secrets and surprises, and today you are in luck! I’m going to tell you about one of those secret gems of the Atacama Desert: the lagoons, those miracle pools of water in the middle of the driest nonpolar desert of the world. Every lagoon has different characteristics and stories to it, so let’s dive in!

'The Baltinache Lagoons, Atacama's secret gem 

These crystal-clear lagoons are hidden an hour away from San Pedro de Atacama and offer one of the most breathtaking views of Chile. Here you’ll find seven lagoons surrounded by snow-white soil that is actually salt. The high levels of salt in the water allow you to float in them- similar to what happens in the dead sea. Visiting these lagoons is a must if you want to enjoy a breathtaking view and live a unique experience in the desert. Please take note that you can only bathe in two out of the seven lagoons and that it is not recommendable to swim for more than 20 minutes, because of the high levels of salt.

© istock/NataliaCatalina

The Chaxa lagoon, home of flamingos

Did you know you can see flamingos in the desert? Their home is the Chaxa Lagoon, a central point of the Atacama Salt Flat. As you approach the place, you’ll notice it looks like a giant mirror that reflects the sky. Surrounded by the mountain range and volcanoes, it is a landscape like no other. Take into consideration that you are not allowed to swim in this lagoon, nevertheless it is a fantastic place to appreciate wildlife, and especially as said before flamingos. They live here because the water has high concentrations of plankton of which they feed.  

© istock/Jekaterina Sahmanova

Cejar Lagoon, the saltiest of them all

You’ll get as far as 2000+ meters above sea level to get to this beautiful turquoise lagoon, but once you feel the warm, salty water in your body, it will be worth it. The levels of salt in this lagoon are so high that you can float more than you would in the Dead Sea! 

© istock/Blecha

The endless lagoon; Inka Coya

This is the weirdest and most mysterious lagoon of them all; it is shaped like a perfect circle, and it is said to have no bottom! The lagoon is located close to a small town in the desert, called Chiu-Chiu. The locals say that the famous explorer Jacques Cousteau investigated the lagoon and confirmed that it has no bottom. Of course, there is no proof of that, but it is a fun fact to know. Even though everything said before is interesting, the most beautiful thing about this lagoon is the legend that surrounds it. Colque-Coillur was the most beautiful princess from the Atacama's Indigenous culture and fell in love with an Inca called Atahualpa Yupanqui. She was so in love that she soon got pregnant with his child. One day Atahualpa betrayed her, so she decided to drown herself with their newborn baby in the waters of this lagoon. The reason was that the lagoon was "as endless as her sadness," and according to the legend, her body was never found since the lagoon has no bottom. 

© istock/ajlber

The north of Chile and its charm is as endless as the numbers of lagoons on it; these are just some of them! Seeing and swimming in these lagoons is a must and a desert adventure like no other! Visit them, feel your body as it has no weight, and enjoy the view!

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