Visit to Imperial and the Salton Sea, California

With its 17,203 inhabitants, the city of Imperial is located in the valley of the same name, south of the state of California, United States.

Imperial is part of the El Centro Metropolitan Area, along with the neighboring cities of El Centro, Anza, Wilsie, Heber, Brawley, Citrus View, among others.

Imperial Valley map

The region surrounding these urban centers is arid, although crop fields abound thanks to hundreds of irrigation canals such as the All-American Canal, which bring water from more distant places such as the Colorado River.

Its location in a desert area makes Imperial receive very high temperatures in summer, which in the months of July and August can easily exceed 100 Fahrenheit degrees.

Imperial has also become the starting point for tourists who want to visit the Salton Sea, the Algodones Dunes, bird watching, play golf or visit amusement parks such as El Centro’s Fun4All.

California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta

The city is home of California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta, a festival with music, rural exhibitions, shows, contests and many more attractions, which every year attracts thousands of people during the first days of March.

This festival takes place in an immense field located in front of the airport, on Route 86, and the tickets start at $ 6.

The 2018 edition has already started, and at IaniWorld we dedicate an article telling you the details.

Mid-Winter Fair
California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta, edition 2017 (Image belonging to the official site

Salton Sea

The Saltón Sea is located north of Imperial and is a huge endorheic salt lake.

An error of calculation in the excavations of irrigation canals coming from the Colorado River, produced that during a great flood of this river, in 1905, the water deviated and filled a great depression located in the Imperial Valley.

The amount of water was so huge that it flooded 1,000 square kilometers of desert, affecting several houses and farms, creating this inland sea.

Palms in coast of Salton Sea
Palm trees on the west coast of the Salton Sea, near Route 86.

Currently the Salton Sea has a size of 974 square kilometers and measures approximately 56 kilometers long by 14 wide, although they vary during the year due to the use of water for agriculture, evaporation and rainfall in rivers that feed it: the New River, the Whitewater and the Alamo.

Some towns such as Desert Shores and Salton City have some small docks and picturesque beaches on the Salton.

Salton Sea
Waters of Salton Sea.


The region has a great variety of dishes linked to Mexican cuisine. Some of the restaurants dedicated to it are Rosa’s Restaurant, Johnny’s Burritos of Imperial, Guadalajara’s Mexican Restaurant and Antojito Como En Casa. All of them with moderate prices and very good reputation.

We also find other establishments dedicated to other types of food, such as Grasso’s Italian Restaurant, dedicated to Italian food; Burggers & Beer, where the specialty is homemade hamburgers, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, of Italian gastronomy, and Kotori Japanese Food, dedicated to Japanese and oriental food.

Most of the restaurants are on Route 86, which also bears the name of Imperial Avenue.

Salton Sea shores
Small docks on the Salton Sea.


Several establishments can be found in Imperial or in the neighboring El Centro. Among the most economical are Classic Inn and Suites, Budget Inn & Suites, Motel 6, among others, with prices starting at $ 35 per night.

Meanwhile, some of the most complete are Hampton Inn El Centro, TownePlace Suites El Centro or Best Western El Centro Inn, all priced from $ 130 per night.

Imperial City
The cities of Imperial and El Centro have a wide range of services and infrastructure.


Imperial is located on Route 86, which is a two-lane road in each direction. From Los Angeles you can arrive driving on Interstate 10, traveling 200 kilometers (124 miles), to the city of Indio. Then continue south on Route 86, which runs along the west margin of the Saltón Sea and through the towns of Desert Shores, Salton City and Brawley. After 135 kilometers (84 miles) circulating along this route, we arrive at Imperial.

Imperial has an airport located meters from Route 86 and the downtown area of the city. The Imperial County Airport (IPL) has four daily flights to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), operated by Mokulele Airlines. Flights is operated with Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft with capacity for 9 passengers.

The flight takes 1:30 hours and prices start at $ 114 round trip.

Imperial County Airport
Imperial County Airport.

Another option is to use the bus. The company Greyhound covers the route between Los Angeles and El Centro. The trip takes between 4 and 5 hours and the prices start at $ 21 per stretch.

Although the best option is to rent a vehicle, which allows us more freedom when visiting the farthest points of the city.

Imperial is located 25 kilometers from the Mexican border, continuing south on Route 86, while if we go east on Interstate 8, we will arrive at the Algodones Dunes, which we will be covering in the future for IaniWorld.

Imperial City map
Imperial and El Centro are merged together. The majority of gastronomic, shopping and hotel establishments are located on Imperial Avenue (Route 86).
Iani Nikolov
News Reporter

1 thought on “Visit to Imperial and the Salton Sea, California

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *