Located 38 kilometers northwest of Chetumal, Bacalar brings together many qualities that make it unique and which has earned the official designation as a “Magical Town” by the Federal Government. It has a history much longer than what one would think. It was founded on 435 AC as the Mayan town of Siyancaan Bakhalar. After the conquest of the Yucatan Peninsula, Don Gaspar Pacheco renamed it as Villa de Salamanca de Bacalar in 1544.
Throughout the colonial period, it was under constant threat from British pirates, who even razed it in 1652. Later it was one of the main fronts of the Mayan Caste War: In 1848 it fell in the hands of the Mayan rebels, but was recovered by Yucatan’s government one year later. In 1858 the Cruzoob Mayans conquered it again and this time slaughtered all inhaitants. The rebels kept in in their power until 1901, when the Mexican government occupiled it indefinitely.
Although in the 20th century it grew in size and population, Bacalar continues to maintain a pleasant small town atmosphere, which is the perfect match for the kalleidoscopic presense of the adjascent lagoon. The most ancient part of the town has a very intricate layout and is located between the federal highway and the lagoon. In this area you can find the San Felipe Fort and the wide plaza behind it. One block towards the west is the San Joaquin Church, built in the mid-16th Century, although it preserves little from that time. The image of their patron saint is considered miraculous by local traditions and his festival in August is very colorful. Most of the small hotels and restaurants of the town are located on the lagoon’s coast, south of downtown and four kilometers across, up to Cenote Azul. The boardwalk is the main avenue connecting all these spots, and the restaurants and hotels are the main access point to the lagoon. You can take a swim from their little piers or rent boats, jet skis or kayaks.