In 2001, Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism launched the ‘Pueblos Mágicos Program or “Magical Towns Program” to promote towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience. The ‘Magical Towns’ are selected based on natural beauty, cultural traditions, gastronomy, historical relevance, and art.
Bacalar was named a Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town) in 2006 . This charming town has a small-village feel and is packed with natural beauty. It is located in the state of Quintana Roo very close to the state capital, Chetumal. Bacalar was inhabited by the Mayans and was the first city in the region taken by the Spanish Conquistadores in 1543. Bacalar most likely takes its name from the Mayan word ‘bʼak halal’, meaning surrounded by reeds.
Attractions to Visit:
- Bacalar Lagoon:
Let yourself be delighted by the landscape that makes up this beautiful lagoon. It is also known as the Seven Colors Lagoon because you can see seven different shades of blue throughout the day depending on the sunlight and depth of the water. The lake measures approximately 34 miles long and it is the second largest fresh water lake in Mexico. Annually it attracts thousands of tourists who visit it to go swimming, diving, kayaking or simply to enjoy the natural wonders that this magic-filled lagoon offers.
- Cenote Azul:
Cenotes are underground natural pools found all around the Riviera Maya. Cenote Azul is a natural wonder that is located at the entrance of Bacalar and can be seen from the edge of the road. This cenote is one of the deepest in the Yucatan with a depth of 90 meters. The view from this cenote is incredible since it is surrounded by jungle and beautiful vegetation.
- Fort of San Felipe Bacalar
Throughout the 17th century pirates raided Bacalar and entered the lagoon via a canal that is now named Pirates Canal. In 1729, the Fort of San Felipe Bacalar was built to help protect the town and prevent further attacks from pirates. After construction of the fort, Bacalar was able to successfully defend itself and it quickly prospered exporting dye stick, mahogany, pigs, goats and fruits.
- Bacalar Rapids
Venture through the rapids that flow into the Hondo River or the Chaac Estuary in the same way that the pirates did in their time. The Bacalar Rapids are not very rapid, but move along at the pace of a lazy river. The rapids flow through a narrow channel in the lake and are a great place to take a refreshing dip. Bring snorkel equipment with you to observe the fish and stromatolite rocks as you float down the gentle rapids. The water is crystal clear with so many beautiful colors ranging from sky blue to turquoise.
You can find Stromatolites in the Bacalar lagoon. These are structures similar to coral reefs. Stromatolites are formed by the growth of cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae. These microscopic one-celled organisms are not really algae, but bacteria that carries out photosynthesis, which helps to increase the amount of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Bacalar Lagoon is one of the few places in Mexico and the world where these structures occur. In Mexico they also exist in the Chichankanab lagoon (Quintana Roo) and in Cuatro Ciénegas (Coahuila). Outside of Mexico, the best known Stromatolites are found in Australia, the Red Sea, Rio de Janeiro, and Chile.
- The Caste War Museum (Museo de la Guerra de Castas)
The Caste War was a long conflict that lasted over 50 years and took place between 1847 and 1901. It was between the native Maya of the Yucatán Peninsula and the Yucatecos (the population of European descent) who had political and economic control of the region. In the Caste War Museum, you will find paintings, sculptures, artefacts and tools that were used during the Caste War. In addition, you will also find documents related to the indigenous movement against the Spaniards and an exhibition of traditional medicine.
Come and get to know the Magical Town of Bacalar. It is one of the most beautiful tropical paradises in the great State of Quintana Roo that should be on your list of places to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula.