Floating in Laguna Cejar
After an exhausting travel day, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our first excursion. Today, we would head out on a private tour to see Laguna Cejar, Ojos del Salar (Eyes of the Salt), and Laguna Tebenquiche!
There are many, many salty lakes in the Atacama. Some of the most notable are Laguna Cejar, Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache (Hidden Lakes of Baltinache), and Laguna Tebenquiche. I had a hard time selecting only one (or two) to visit but decided on a visit to Lagunas Cejar & Tebenquiche at the recommendation of our tour company. And it was a great recommendation! Honestly, I was a little hesitant because Laguna Cejar is one of the most well-known of these lakes so I was worried about running into crowds. But, that wasn’t an issue at all (at least not in August) and we only saw a few other people at each lake.
Our first stop was at the system of lakes known as Laguna Cejar. One of the major reasons to visit here is that since it is one of the saltiest lakes in the world, you can float in the water without any effort. And what a strange feeling that is! We heard there are around 300 grams of salt per liter of water. That’s about 2.5 lb per gallon for those of us who aren’t on the metric system – and that’s a lot of salt! For reference, that’s about 9-10x saltier than the ocean!!
Apparently, Luke and I were the only ones crazy enough to jump in that day. In retrospect, I guess since we were in the southern hemisphere it was the middle of winter. Back in Washington, I look at people like they are crazy when they jump into the freezing lakes too… It’s probably unnecessary to even say it, but, it was extremely cold. And what a weirdly awesome sensation to float! Our guide told us we were pretty lucky to have the entire lake to ourselves since usually there are swarms of people in the water. So, we were thrilled to get a few rare photos of us floating all by ourselves!
When we got out of the water, our guide had these really fashionable llama robes for us to wear. He told us they made us look like the Flinstones! They may have been a little silly, but they were really warm and they made the long, chilly walk back to the showers much more enjoyable. By the way, a shower was absolutely necessary afterward. Moments after getting out of the water, my skin already had a white salty residue. I also made the mistake of not rinsing out my hair, thinking that it hadn’t really gotten wet. Consequentially, I found myself with some weird looking dreads for the rest of the day.
After a quick rinse, we were on our way to our next stop: the Ojos del Salar. Apparently, the Ojos contain fresh water, or at least, relatively fresh water compared to the other salty lakes in the region. They are pretty unusual because they form these two nearly perfectly round lakes in the middle of the desert (hence the name “Eyes of the Salt“). Unfortunately, it was a little difficult to get a good picture of the Ojos without the means for an aerial shot… Perhaps you can try to imagine one of these round lakes on each side of a desert road in the middle of nowhere.
The lakes made for a fun quick stop before making our way to the last stop for the morning: Laguna Tebenquiche. There we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the salt flats along this beautiful lake. I loved this lake in particular because it was so still and peaceful. We could also see spectacular reflections of the surrounding mountains. Confession: I have an obsession with mountain reflection photos. I am pretty sure I made Luke stop for another picture at just about every turn. Don’t worry, I was somewhat selective in our gallery, so I’ve at least spared you from clicking through 100 really similar shots.
When we met our guide, and new friend, Papas Fritas, back at the car we were delighted to find that he had been preparing a snack for us. Before heading back for our next tour, we enjoyed a cold beer, some delicious Chilean cheeses and spreads, and savored the spectacular views for a few more minutes. Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a photo of the lovely table he prepared for us, but don’t worry, I got one the next day on the way to the Lagunas Altiplanicas.
Make sure to check out the rest of our gallery back at the main Atacama Desert page!
Next up for us: an afternoon ATV adventure!
Tour: Laguna Cejar + Ojos del Salar + Tebenquiche
Total Time: around 5 hours
Activity Intensity: Very Easy
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