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San Ignacio and the Viscaino Desert Reserve

San Ignacio

Visit the pretty colonial lagoon-side town San Ignacio, set in a desert oasis, base for whale-watching.

The parched, sun-scored landscape of the Viscaino Desert Reserve in Baja California’s mountainous interior may seem relentless as you travel the solitary road which winds through the canyons, with only cacti as silent witnesses to your journey. But then you arrive at San Ignacio, set in a spring-fed oasis bursting with fertility: mangoes, figs, grapes and oranges are cultivated here, while the pretty colonial town is shaded by date palms built by the Jesuits who founded the settlement in 1728.

Their mission church, built from volcanic stone and caressed by bougainvillea, sits on the laurel-shaded square is still an active pace of worship. With its ornate wooden doors it is one of the most elegant colonial buildings in Baja. Indigenous people thrived here long before the arrival of the Spanish however and visiting the 5,000 year-old cave paintings of the Cochimi Indians nearby is a highlight of a visit, though most of the town’s economy is now dependent on the supply of whale and bird watching expeditions for visitors in the calm waters of the adjacent lagoon. Gray whale watching is very laid back here. There are only 16 permits so guides and boatmen plan accordingly: there are not too many boats out at any one time.

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Baja California

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Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Charlotte in Bolivia
    Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert

    Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.

Meet the team