Campeche is one of those places you might never consider visiting, when thinking of a short trip from the Riviera Maya. However, it is such a charming and romantic destination, you’ll never regret taking the time to go!
This beautiful port city was founded in 1540 and was the most important port of the Peninsula during colonial times, similar in importance to Havana and Cartagena. The area developed to be an important city, and the locals built elegant mansions, impressive churches and the traditional barrios grew around the main square.
During Colonial times, Campeche was a producer of precious woods, natural dyes and the main port for the neighboring Yucatan State. This made it an ideal target for pirates, so the city had to build a wall and fortresses all around in order to protect the population from the constant attacks.
Campeche offers it visitors a beautiful mix of Ancient Mayan cities, nice colonial cobbled roads, and the view of the sea along the malecon (esplanade). There is also a good mix of the old and the new, as you can walk along downtown and feel like you are living in colonial times, and then visit the modern shopping mall or the convention center and enjoy modern amenities.
Campeche is full of charm, with its magnificent colonial mansions, narrow streets and the presence of the colonial life all around the city. Walk along the malecon, visit the forts and the remains of the original wall that surrounded the city, or visit the museum of Colonial times; we are sure you will be amazed.
Campeche has magnificent colonial sights, Edzna is near the city and was an important ceremonial center, with an active trade with other Mayan regions. Calakmul is a large archeological site, located in a National park of the same name, and it also has a museum displaying both the nature and the archeology of the site.
There are many museums in the city and surrounding areas occupying the former bastions of the wall that surrounded the city, so you can pick your favorites or visit every one. The Virgen de la Soledad Bastion has an interesting Mayan Architecture collection, and the San Carlos Bastion holds an interesting history collection.
There is also the San Jose Museum showcasing the pirates, weapons and boats that used to attack the city, as well as other artifacts from colonial times.
Traditional barrios & their churches
Campeche grew during the Spanish rule and formed different neighborhoods, each barrio has a main plaza and a church; and the houses would be built around these plazas. There are five traditional barrios in Campeche: San Francisco, Guadalupe, San Roman, Santa Ana y Santa Lucia.
Each of the churches in Campeche are worth a visit, but the San Francisco Church is the place where the first mass in the continent was held.
Haciendas were the heart of the colonial economy, as Campeche was an important producer of natural dyes, cotton products, honey, wax and salt. Over time Campeche developed big farms, and started producing dry meat, leather goods as well as sisal, the fiber that made the Peninsula one of the wealthiest areas in the world.
There are haciendas all over Campeche, some of them have become hotels, while others are used as tourist attractions. Do not miss Hacienda Blanca Flor now converted into a hotel, and located just in the outskirts of Campeche, the Hacienda Santa Cruz is also well preserved and has an active production of palm that is used to make hats.
Campeche is one of the best destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula, one of those under the radar places that will make you fall in love. It is located about 5 hours away from Cancun, and even less if you depart from other cities in the Riviera Maya.
To get there, you can go via Merida, with possible interesting stops in Valladolid, Chichen Itza, Izamal and obviously Merida. There is also the option to go down the coast and stop in Mahahual and Bacalar, and then cross the Peninsula with a stop in the archeological site of Uxmal.
Do not miss out on this amazing city and its surrounding areas, bring comfortable shoes, your camera and time to enjoy every attraction. Winter is the best month to visit, as the days are cool and there is a constant cold wind from the sea, so the long walks are more tolerable.
Let’s Retire in Mexico aims to be the best source of information about living in Mexico, please let us know if we are missing an important attraction or if you would like to know more about Campeche.