Category Archives: San Ignacio

Discover the Many Caves of Baja

San Ignacio isn`t just known for its mission and whale watching, it is also surrounded by world famous cave paintings. These have been around for thousands of years and while locals knew about them, they have been famous only for a couple decades. There are a couple paintings you can see. El Raton y el Palmarito (the one we saw) are day trips while there are others that take minimum 4 days on a mule. Talk about something unique!

You`ve made it!
You`ve made it!

Because we only had enough time to go to el Palmarito the tips will be about that cave painting. We were told that for a day hike, it was the best one to see.

There are two ways to go about organizing your hike.

Option 1: go to the tourist center underneath the San Ignacio mission and have someone call the guides and organize them for you. There is a $50 peso fee to bring cameras to the top and $100 pesos per person (free for students, doesn’t matter if the student is international or not). If your car doesn’t have 4WD they may offer to take you in their car.

Option 2: just drive to the site and hope there is a guide available for you. You may get lucky and not have to wait, or the most likely scenario, you’ll have to wait until a guide comes to take you to the paintings. You will pay at the base camp instead of the tourist center, and the price will be the same as mentioned above.  (Option 1 is a lot easier and will make everything flow better)

Starting the hike. It takes about an hour each way
Starting the hike. It takes about an hour each way

After driving for an hour and a half, you will arrive to the house to pick up your guide, from there you will drive to the bottom of the hike. Remember, you are walking in the middle of the desert and will need plenty of water and a sunhat, it gets hot. Our guide told us that in the summer it’s 100+ and many people who set out to make it to the top end up giving up. Don’t try this hike in the middle of the summer!

What to expect once you get to the top
What to expect once you get to the top

When you get to the top, you can spend as much time as you`d like and there are three caves you can explore. You’ll fist arrive to the biggest one, covered in different colored figures.

Close up of little animals
Close up of little animals

Even though the paintings are one of a kind, the view is also one to take in; it makes you realize how far you are from everything and how much the people who drew must have walked. On the caves, there are picture of whales, these painters walked all over the area.

Don't forget to look at the valley
Don’t forget to look at the valley

This is considered a World Heritage site, make sure you get to check it out, you will not regret it. And if you have more time, take one of the many other mule guided trips to other sites.

Close up of a figure

Close up of a figure

How to get there? Once in San Ignacio, drive to Bonfil (about 20 kms) and take a left, stay on the main dirt road and drive for about an hour. I believe it was 60 kms each way. You will get to the guide house and they will tell you what to do next.

Palm Trees Among an Infinity of Cactus

San Ignacio is located exactly in the middle of the peninsula, in the middle horizontally (in the middle of the desert) and vertically (pretty much equal distance between Tijuana and Cabo). This makes it a little hard to get to, driving from San Diego it’s about 10 hours without stopping, make sure you leave early so you don’t end up driving in the dark! You won’t miss it because after driving in hours of cactus filled desert you’ll stumble upon an oasis. That’s San Ignacio.

The body of water that helps the palm trees grow. There are a couple campsites on the water.

In the village, there are a few hotels and campsites along the water, almost none of them accept credit cards. Rice and Beans and the Desert Inn are the two that do. Rice and Beans, despite its strange name has very good food (there is also one in San Felipe). Casa Lerée is another hotel to keep in mind, it`s in the center of town and has a very nice, homey feel. Keep in mind there are no ATMs in the village so make sure you have enough cash for your visit.

The San Ignacio Mission, founded by Jesuits in 1728

The San Ignacio Mission was first settled in 1728 by Jesuits. It’s a nice little village, very different from anything you’ll see as you are driving south. The area is very interesting as there are various cave painting sites (some you need to ride a mule for a few days, some only take a day) and from mid January to mid April the whales come south to mate in the Lagoon. There are a couple eco-lodges and campsites that can accommodate you if you wish to see these giant animals.

This is the road coming back from trying to see the whales, unfortunately we were a month early. The road is in pretty good condition and takes about 45 minutes from the village.

This is an interesting little village that will take you back a couple decades without losing too many modern day commodities. It can either be a destination or a stopping point on your way south but it’s definitely worth checking out!

The only whale we saw.
The only whale we saw.

Driving directions: In order to get to San Ignacio, you must follow Mexico 1, from San Diego, it`s about a 10 hour drive, make sure you get cash and gas in the bigger cities because you never know how long until you see the next ATM/gas station (and you never know if the gas station will take cards!). You will know you are getting close when you pass Guerrero Negro, there`s one more town and you finally arrive to your destination!