Bacalar is a quiet, lakeside town in the south of the Quintana Roo State of Mexico, where the colours of the water and sky appear to combine as one. Known as the Lagoon of 7 Colours, it boasts an ever-changing scene of blue and green shades. This picture perfect effect is from a combination of factors such as the suns rays, the relatively shallow depth and the white sandy bottom of the lagoon, which is pleasantly squishy on the soles of your bare feet. Although it could be mistaken for the sea, it is actually a fresh water lake fed by nearby underground cenotes.
Bacalar has been named a Pueblo Mágico (A Magical Village) by the countries tourism board, which recognises unique places in Mexico. If you’re visiting Mexico, I would highly recommend adding this to your itinerary.
What To Do
There’s not a whole lot happening in the town of Bacalar, but that’s the beauty of it. Here you feel the more authentic vibe of Mexico as it is still quite off the tourist radar. The majority of the people are locals going about their daily lives, working and spending days by the lagoon in their beautiful country. It was a nice contrast after travelling from Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
The main attraction is the lagoon, with boardwalks scattered along the waterfront. Days can be spent jumping into the water and swimming. There are many places where you can hire a kayak or go on a boat trip.
Located just off the main square is The Fort of San Felipe Bacalar. It was built in 1725 and used to help fend off pirates coming to raid the town. The ancient walls, columns and bastions were once used as a form of protection for the locals, but now it is a great spot to read about the history and take some photos.
When we were visiting, there was a family fair which had dance competitions, attractions and rides. This created such a great atmosphere full of locals enjoying themselves, which was a pleasure to see.
Where To Eat
For a town that isn’t full of tourists, there were some seriously amazing eateries which I was not expecting. The food was always delicious and the prices were unbelievable, we were paying anything from just $2-$10 for mouth watering meals.
La Playita is one of my absolute favourite restaurants that I have come across on my travels. Set on the turquoise lagoon under the shade of trees, the setting itself is the perfect spot to escape the heat and have some chilled afternoon drinks. Go for a swim or relax on the hammocks, watch the sunset, listen to the music and stay until dinner. I can’t recommend this place enough.
When it comes to the menu, the food has a modern take on classic Mexican dishes and serves quality Argentine-Mexican flavours, seafood, pizzas, burgers, juices and smoothies, along with cocktails, draft beer and wines. Among our favourites were the creamy seafood pasta, coconut ceviche, vegetable stack and the ‘Los Tikis’ shrimp burger.
Taquería Christian (Cristians Tacos) claim to have the best tacos in town and I have to agree. Extremely simple and traditional, but so flavoursome and super cheap. Tacos el Pastor (spit-roasted marinated pork) are the must try here.
El Manati looks like the entrance to a shop. A large space has been transformed into an art gallery, selling everything from clothing, books, fair trade items and hand crafted treasures. Out the back in the garden there are tables and chairs to enjoy a healthy breakfast, lunch or some fresh smoothies from local produce. El Manati has a hipster vibe which seems totally out of place in the town, but is a quirky spot worth a visit and a great hangout for the artistic.
Heladeria Annie Delicias is an ice-cream shop with all types of traditional flavours, as well as interesting ones such as wine or cheese. A popular flavour you can try is called Chongos, a Mexican dessert made from milk, cinnamon and sugar.
How To Get There
The ADO bus system in Mexico is comfortable, convenient and affordable. A suggestion is traveling direct from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen. Bacalar is just 30 minutes via collectivo taxi to the city of Chetumal, where you can access the ferry that takes you to the neighbouring country of Belize, or take a bus to other parts of Mexico.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of options for all budgets. I would recommend Hostal & Suites Pata de Perro. Located in the centre of town, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect accomodation for such a great price for two people. We payed $72 USD total for 2 nights for a spacious private room with air conditioning and fast wifi. It included breakfast, was extremely comfortable and had lovely staff.
Have you visited Bacalar? If so, what was your favourite part? If not, have I convinced you to go? Let me know in the comments below!