Bacalar is the municipal seat and largest city in Bacalar Municipality (until 2011 a part of Othón P. Blanco Municipality) in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, about 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Chetumal.
In the 2010 census the city had a population of 11,084 people. At that time it was still a part of Othón P. Blanco, and was its second-largest city (locality), after Chetumal.
The name most likely derives from Mayan: b’ak halal, meaning “surrounded by reeds”, the name of the locality attested at the time of the 16th century arrival of the Spanish.
Bacalar is also the name of the lagoon, Bacalar lagoon on the east side of the town.
Bacalar was a city of the Maya civilization in Pre-Columbian times. This was the first city in the region which the Spanish Conquistadores succeeded in taking and holding in 1543. In 1545 Gaspar Pacheco established the Spanish town here with the name Salamanca de Bacalar. The region of the southern half of what is now Quintana Roo was governed from Bacalar, answerable to the Captain General of Yucatán in Mérida.
After the town was sacked by pirates in the 17th century, the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar was completed in 1729, and may still be visited today.
In 1848 Bacalar had a population of about 5,000 people. In 1848 during the Caste War of Yucatán rebellious Chan Santa Cruz Maya conquered the town. It was not retaken by the Mexicans until 1902.
Bacalar was named a “Pueblo Mágico” (“Magic Village”) in 2006.
As of July 2009, highway 307 has been expanded so that there are two lanes on each side for traffic. There was still a sections where the highway has not been completed but it was in good driving condition. There were no tolls to pay. The exit for the city of Bacalar is on the left. The scenery is through the Sian Kaan Biosphere for part of the trip. The driving time from Cancun is 5 hours. Well worth the drive.
From Cancun, via Playa del Carmen and Tulum, go in ADO terminal and buy an ADO (more comfortable with toilet and more expensive expect you don’t buy an advance ticket) or MAYAB (It is an old bus without toilet and it is the cheapest around MXN 200, ) bus ticket. There are a lot of buses leaving every half hour more or less, so you just need to make sure with which bus you like to travel.
You can also take a Colectivo/Kombi, which are departing from Tulum very close to the bus terminal from the main road. Find the one heading to Felipe Carillo Puerto (60MXN per person). Let the driver know that you are heading to Bacaral and he will drop you off at the right place, so you don’t have to search for the specific Collectivo station (direction Chetumal). The trip from Felipe Carillo Puerto to Bacalar will be 65MXN per person (prices as of January 2017). You will be dropped in Bacalar on the main street, opposite the gas station.
On foot or bicycle would be very doable if you are staying in the city of Bacalar, as well as taxis, which are not expensive.
The water of Lagoon Bacalar is among the most pale and gem like blue that could possibly exist.
The main attraction of travelling to this area is the 7 colours Lagoon, whose beauty could easily induce one to sit and read for a few days without regret. The Lagoon (fresh water) is somewhat shallow at the shores, except where there are sinkholes commonly known as cenotes. It is well seen by kayak or sailboat.
The sand when disturbed smells strongly of minerals or sulfur, though sitting by the lagoon or even being on the water certainly carried no odor whatsoever.
The Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar, in the center of town, represents one of the bastions used by the Maya before they were overrun by the Spanish, it has a small but modern museum inside, if you are in town it´s worthwhile visiting.
On Sunday night, there may be music and dancing in the city square.
The mayan ruins nearby that are worthwhile visiting are Chacchoben, Dzibanché and Kohunlich. They don´t have a lot of people and the jungle surroundings are magnificent.
You can try guided kayak/canoe trips, scuba, horse-back riding in the rodeo or on trails to Lake Bacalar, bicycle tours and jungle walks to explore the beautiful lake and its surroundings.
You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.
Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.
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