Yucatan Peninsula Travel Guide and Vacation Rentals

The 11 best things to see and do in Bacalar

The oldest population of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo keeps its attractions and ancestral natural secrets for the enjoyment of visitors. These are the 11 most important.

1. The Bacalar Lagoon

Bacalar is not as famous as the relatively nearby Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but it has its lagoon, cenotes and other tourist attractions that make the trip to this southern corner of the state of Quintana Roo unforgettable. With its nearly 12,000 inhabitants, the town is on the border between town and city. It was elevated to the rank of a city in 2007 and the head of the municipality in 2011.

The main attractions in this area is the Bacalar Lagoon and the spectacular cenotes. It is also frequented for water activity and sports. Very close to Bacalar is Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo. This city offers a set of attractions that are worth enjoying on the same trip to Bacalar.

2. Laguna de los Siete Colores

The Bacalar lagoon is better known as the Laguna de los Siete Colores, because of its 7 different shades of blue according to its different depths. It has less than 100 square kilometers of surface, since it is long (about 42 kilometers) but narrow, reaching only about 4 kilometers at the point of maximum width.

Being part of the same aquifer network of the lagoon, but as differentiated bodies of water, there are the magnificent cenotes of Bacalar, outstanding for their beauty and majesty, the Cenote Azul and the Cenote de La Bruja. The name of the lagoon comes from the Mayan term «Bakhalal» which means «Fencing of Reeds».

3. Bacalar Rapids

They are not really fast enough to practice white water rafting, but there is an interesting and beautiful acceleration of the water that occurs at one end of the Laguna de Bacalar. The currents are generated because the lagoon narrows from 2 kilometers to no more than 10 or 15 meters in a relatively short stretch.

The route resembles a river of moderate course and clean waters in which you can take a refreshing dip, with the precautions of the current. There are two ways to get to the rapids. You can go by boat or on a nice walk through the access that is on the road to Chetumal.

4. Stromatolites

The stromatolites take form over millions of years by patient bacterial action that appears as corals or rocky forms, creating a species of freshwater coral. The Bacalar Lagoon is one of the few places in Mexico and the world where these structures occur. In Mexico, you can also find them in Laguna Chichankanab (Quintana Roo) and in Cuatro Ciénegas (Coahuila). Outside of Mexico, the best known are in Australia, the Red Sea, Rio de Janeiro, Chile, and the Bahamas.

5. Cenote Azul

On one side of the lagoon of the Seven Colors, clearly distinguishable in its fascinating dark blue circle, surrounded by vegetation and turquoise blue waters, is the Cenote Azul. Its waters are so clear that it is possible to observe clearly up to 30 meters below the surface.

The Blue Cenote is frequented by experienced divers, who come down to enjoy the beauty of plant and animal life in its depths. The non-professionals divers usually go to observe it and to photograph it in total connection with nature. It is located about 4 kilometers south of the town of Bacalar.

6. Cenote de La Bruja

The cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans, who worshiped them as the gateways to their Olympus and possibly believed that they were cavities formed by huge projectiles that had impacted the earth by order of a powerful god. The geological explanation is not so fantastic, but in any case, there are cenotes that have mythical reminiscences, at least in their name, like this one from La Bruja (The Witch).

Its dark blue waters are easily distinguishable from the turquoise blue of the lagoon and it is a spectacle both on its surface and its depths. Lotus blossoms grow on the water and underneath, snorkelers and divers can admire its walls covered with vegetation and mangrove roots, and multicolored fish.

7. Fort of San Felipe Neri

When you decide to leave the lagoon and the cenotes to explore the land, we recommend visiting the fort of San Felipe de Bacalar, named in the eighteenth century in honor of the Saint Florentine of the sixteenth century that founded the Congregation of the Oratory. The castle was erected by the Spanish to repel the incursions of the English, French and Dutch pirates, who went to the mainland in search of supplies and women. In the fort, you will find the Caste War Museum and a small museum alluding to piracy in the Caribbean.

8. San Joaquin Church and San Joaquin Fair

The church that venerates the father of the Virgin Mary according to the Christian tradition, is a sober edification in the typical Spanish religious architecture during the colonial period. The date the church was built isn’t clear, although there is documentary evidence prior to the beginning of the Caste War. It is almost always a quiet place, appropriate for a time of recollection in solitude, except on Sundays during the massive Sunday Mass.

Between the end of July and the beginning of August, the Bacalar fair takes place in honor of San Joaquín. For the occasion, the villagers show their best products and traditional events such as horse races and rooster fights are held. Music, dances and pyrotechnic shows are the festive complements of religious celebrations.

9. Chetumal

Located in the bay of the same name, Chetumal is the capital city of the state of Quintana Roo. “The place where red trees grow” according to the Mayan language, is only 45 kilometers from Bacalar and has interesting tourist attractions, such as the Museum of the City of Chetumal, the Museum of Mayan Culture, the Art Walk and the Cultural Poliforum. It also exhibits in its streets and squares a large number of monuments in honor of characters from Mexican history, such as Andrés Quintana Roo, Leona Vicario and Lázaro Cárdenas.

The Museum of the Mayan Culture shows one of the most complete collections on this pre-Columbian civilization, through statues, reliefs, vessels, funerary objects, paintings, jewels, and other pieces, that illustrate the daily life and the greatness of these people in fields such as architecture and cosmogony.

10. Motor boating and paddle surfing in the Laguna de Bacalar

If you are a motorboat lover, Laguna de Bacalar is the best place in Mexico to practice this sport. Frequently, the streets and parking lots of Bacalar are full of motorboats of different sizes that come to compete in state, national and international championships. The participants enjoy the pleasure of competing in a paradisiacal location.

Another sport that is gaining momentum in Bacalar is paddle surfing or paddleboarding. For this reason, Bacalar is frequented by young people who take their boards, oars and enormous desire to have fun.

11. Taste the Bacalrean delicacies!

Bacalar is Magic Town also for its culinary art, a fascinating fusion of the ancient Mayan cuisine, with the viceregal and modern contributions, including the influence of Belizean cuisine, such as rice with beans, prepared with coconut oil. The tamales bacalerenses are a delight, particularly those of xpelón, a variety of beans; and the sotobichay, prepared with leaves of the chaya or spinach tree, which grows in Yucatan. If you prefer local marine food, we recommend the snails, unless you want to opt for the fresh fish and seafood of the area.

Bacalar Travel Guide