Still relatively unexplored by North American tourists, Campeche – the Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula overlooking the Gulf of Mexico –offers endless opportunities and off-the-beaten-path explorations for tourists with a few days to spend.
The region brims with a broad range of options, including two UNESCO heritage sites, white sandy beaches, 16 Mayan ruins, mangrove forests, the historic Spanish fort and cobblestone colonial streets lined with traditional shops, romantic restaurants and nightlife.
The best way to see it all is to spend a few days. Research during Holy Week – the period between Palm Sunday and Easter – indicated hotel occupancy was at 85%, with tourists spending several days in the Yucatan Peninsula city, a new trend. So far, most visitors to Campeche hail from Mexico itself with a few European visitors.
“Staying a few days allows visitors to more fully explore Campeche’s rich cultural legacy, strong ancestral customs, off-the-beaten-path archaeological and architectural sites, rich Maya and Spanish history, multiple museums, nature reserves, rural haciendas perfect for destination weddings and honeymoons, and our burgeoning culinary scene,” said Jorge Manos, Minister of Tourism for the State of Campeche.
“In our conversations with visitors, we are discovering that to truly enjoy Campeche, visitors should spend a minimum of two to four days. With our wealth of attractions located within a relatively small radius, visitors have a unique opportunity in Campeche, a Mexican destination unique in being so far largely undiscovered by foreign tourists.”
Capital City Campeche Celebrates 500th Anniversary
This is also a special year for one of the region’s strongest draws, the walled city of San Francisco de Campeche, Mexico’s only fortified city, where the Spanish first landed in 1517 – 500 years ago. Located on the Bay of Campeche, visitors can explore the city walls and fortifications built to protect it from pirates or walk its romantic historic old town, once one of New Spain’s most important ports, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Attractions include Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a baroque cathedral with neoclassical features, the impressive colonial Carvajal Mansion with its massive Carrara marble staircase, the Xmuch’haltun botanical garden with over 200 species of subtropical plants, and archaeological, architectural, cultural and naval museums. Gastronomy aficionados can experience a mix of Mayan, Spanish and Caribbean flavors that create a unique and gourmet dining offering in the city’s cafes and restaurants. See hotels in Campeche.
Festivals and Celebrations
An extended stay allows visitors to see sites while enjoying seasonal events and festivals. Spring offers the city’s International Jazz Festival, when musicians from across the globe play in venues throughout town. Day of the Dead in late October and early November mixes ancient and modern macabre traditions. Visitors and locals alike revel in free musical and cultural offerings during November and December’s Historic Quarter Festival. In February and March the streets of Campeche flow with feathers, sequins and color during Mexico’s oldest Carnival.
Year-Round Natural Attractions
Home to 16 Mayan cities, Campeche offers opportunities for discovery and exploration, including Edzna, the region’s most important archaeological site. First settled around 600 BC and located in the state’s northern region, this fascinating Mayan city flourished during the Classic period and was once home to as many as 25,000 Maya.
More than 40% of Campeche is in a protected, natural state, providing a unique opportunity for nature lovers including one of the largest protected areas in all of Mexico, the 723,000 hectare Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, a stunning mixed natural and cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently, only about 500 visitors a day see the ruins, mostly Mexican nationals, ensuring tranquility and time for contemplation, along with Instagram-ready bragging rights. The Laguna de Términos is also a major draw for bird watching and dolphin sightings.