A "Pueblo Magico" Where Nature and Culture Meet
Mexico awards the title of Pueblo Mágico, or "Magical Town," to select villages deemed symbolically or historically important, and Bacalar, in the Grand Costa Maya, is one of the chosen few.
Located only 30 minutes away from Chetumal, in the southern part of Quintana Roo, Bacalar’s name is believed to come from the Mayan word for "place of reeds," since it sits uphill from the Lagoon of the Seven Colors. The Spanish colonized the area in the 16th century, and the centerpiece Fort of San Felipe was once used as a defense against French and Dutch pirates. Now, this museum is one of the best history lessons on the town’s past, and a great viewpoint to take in sweeping views over the lagoon.
Explore the Magic
By the fort and main square (the Plaza Principal), visitors can find restaurants serving regional and international cuisine. Seafood is one of the highlights, but there is also plenty of Mexican classics, and, of course, taquerías. Bacalar's lodging options include boutique hotels and hostels, sitting around the main square and in front of the lagoon, where you will also find some bungalows and camping options. The town itself is easy to navigate, since it’s walkable, and the coastal road lining the lagoon’s southern shore is great for cycling. The Lagoon of Seven Colors is one of Bacalar’s main draws; swim, snorkel, kayak, paddle or go on a boat ride across its waters and admire its fascinating natural colors surroundings.
There are plenty of adventure tours, including group and individual kayaking, boat, and paddleboard tours, which allow visitors to learn more about the natural surroundings while spotting wildlife. In the lagoon, the Cenote Negro, with its deep, midnight blue shade, is a stark contrast in color against the lagoon’s vibrant hues. One of the deepest cenotes in the area, Cenote Azul, is also only a few miles from the town center. Unlike the nearby cenotes located in the Riviera Maya, which are more like underground caves, these are open and make for a wonderful spot to spend the day swimming and snorkeling.
Uncover the Past
Less than two hours away by car, Dzibanché and Kohunlich are two of the more impressive Mayan archaeological sites to visit. Nestled in a tropical forest, Kohunlich, which was built around the 4th century, is known for its "Temple of the Masks," an Early Classic pyramid boasting stairways lined with carved stone masks. Just north, Dzibanché is a smaller site but less visited, so you’ll have the temples practically all to yourself. Don’t forget to visit other important sites like Chacchobén, Kinichná, and Oxtankah.