The distance between San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) in Bolivia is 92 miles (148 km). Laguna Colorada is a natural wonder, home to the Jame's Flamingo—a flamingo species you'll only find in the Andean high altitude areas of Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina.
The easiest and best way to travel here from San Pedro de Atacama is by private transfer or by booking a tour. The travel options are pretty limited which is why these options are to recommend. Several tours are available and many of these will take you to Salar Uyuni, a second natural wonder, with Laguna Colorada included. They last about 2-5 days but customized tours can be arranged as well.
If you rent a car you can't leave it in Bolivia but it's still doable—just make sure to get a good car for the trip that can withstand the roads. Buses run via Calama a few times per week but it's not the best option since you'll need to transfer twice, including getting a private transfer for half of the 6-hour journey.
This seven-day itinerary includes a tour to Uyuni, Laguna Colorada, and many parts of San Pedro de Atacama.
By Private Tour or Transfer
Duration: 4 hours (one or several days by tour)
Traveling by private transfer from San Pedro de Atacama to Laguna Colorada takes approximately four hours but be prepared for an additional hour or two if there's a lot of traffic at the border. This is the best option for this trip and can easily be combined with a private tour if you want to stay a few days.
Private tours are popular and it's a great way to explore not only Laguna Colorada but also other places such as Salar Uyuni and the Salvador Dalí Desert. A private transfer will either just drop you off or you can make it a whole-day trip with some sightseeing included. It can last anything from one day up to several days.
Duration: 4 hours, more with stops
Driving a car from San Pedro de Atacama to Laguna Colorada can be done if you're planning on returning to Chile with it. The journey starts by driving on route 23 and almost right away continues on route 27.
The most exciting thing about renting a car is that you'll be driving through the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve where the Laguna Colorada is located, along with Laguna Verde (Green Lagoon) and many more breathtaking sights. You'll need a good car for this trip—preferably a jeep.
Duration: 6 hours
The bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama to Laguna Colorada starts with a 1.5-journey to Calama. From here, you'll transfer to a bus towards Caspana and this will take 2-3 hours. Be mindful that the buses from Calama only run a few times per week so check the schedule beforehand.
Once you arrive in Caspana you'll need to get a transfer to Laguna Colorada which is a 3.5-hour journey. Because of the transfers and limited bus availability, this is the least recommended option.