Its possibly Mexico's best kept natural secret. A vast expanse of turquoise hued water encompassing over 50 miles from the North to South shore, shaded by mangroves and thickset reed beds along the perimeter. Second largest of Mexico's tropical sweet lakes, Laguna Bacalar is one of the few in North America that can be seen from space, yet remains one of the most unexplored by those on the Mexican tourism trail.
If the magic of Laguna Bacalar were not enough for the eye, its surrounding jungles teeming with wild eagles, parakeets and exotic mammals are surely a paradise that few can pass up the opportunity of exploring. Laguna Bacalar is often nicknamed the “Lagoon of Seven Colors” by the natives of Bacalar town, due to the many underground rivers which conclude their flow in its turquoise depths. Many started life high up in the mountains as modest springs, transforming into great gushing watercourses as they meander down the subtropical jungle terrain. The rich iron ores of the soil influence the colors of the river – allegedly how Laguna Bacalar achieves its multi-colored hues.
Bacalar town sits upon the East shore of the Laguna and until 2011, was the seat of the Othon P. Municipality in the South Eastern Yucatan peninsular state of Quintana Roo. Located 40 km from the regional capital of Chetumal, the area remains well connected for tourism, despite being underwhelmed by foreign visitors. Bacalar is well known in Mexico as a former pirate base. The 17th Century Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar was supposedly built to keep out such ruffians, however several notable pirate groups still managed to hold the town against its will and make off with a considerable quantity of loot in two separate incidents. The fortress was never damaged during the scuffles with pirates and civilians, remaining one of the few archaic monuments that bore witness to those historic scenes.
Ruled by the Mayans until the 15th Century, Bacalar owes much of its modern town-scape to the Spanish. It was the first town of Quintana Roo to be invaded by conquistadors in 1543 and subsequently became the Spanish municipal seat of the region until the Mayans took over in the late 18th Century. Mayan ruins dominate the surrounding landscapes of Bacalar – many shrouded in legends of ghost armies or spiritual guardians said to walk the settlement perimeters. The Mayan ruins of Kohunlich are arguably the most fascinating, famed for the great stone faces carved into the walls of the former temples and intact pyramids – the resting place of many a great Yucatan emperor. At Dzibanche, the ruins are more widespread, yet no less breathtaking. Set around a series of plazas, the steeped pyramids have become an uninterrupted habitat for an abundance of exotic bird species.
The inherent beauty of Bacalar is that few from the “outside world” have yet discovered its natural charms. Shrouded in thick tropical jungles and Mayan legend, it is one of the only places in Mexico where visitors can truly be at one with such enchanting landscapes and exotic species. Never stumbled upon by a walking group or interrupted during a photo opportunity, this is isolation at its most beautiful!
Attractions & Thing To Do in Bacalar
Museo de la Pirateria – housed within the 15th Century fort of San Felipe Bacalar, the newly opened Museo de la Pirateria offers a unique glimpse into the unknown history of pirate invasions and strongholds within the town. Dispelling the urban myths (slightly), Museo de la Pirateria takes pride in showcasing the relics and costumery said to have once belonged to Mexico's own Bluebeard of the high seas. Open: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm.