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Bacalar is the municipal seat and largest city in Bacalar Municipality in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, about 40 km north of Chetumal. Bacalar is also the name of the lagoon, Bacalar lagoon on the east side of the town.

Bacalar was named a “Pueblo Mágico” (“Magic Village”) in 2006.

Origin of the Name

The place was inhabited by Mayans for centuries.

The name most likely comes from the Mayan “b’ak halal” (“surrounded by reeds”). The paths around the lagoon were lined with white shells because the inhabitants walked at night when it was cooler and the shells marked the paths.

History & Timeline

Bacalar was a city of the Maya civilization in Pre-Columbian times.

  • This was the first city in the region which the Spanish succeeded in taking and holding in 1543.
  • In 1545 Gaspar Pacheco established the Spanish town here with the name Salamanca de Bacalar.
  • The city was invaded and destroyed by pirates in 1642 and then rebuilt only in 1726.
  • After the pirate attack, the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar was built and was completed in 1733.
  • In 1848 during the Caste War of Yucatán rebellious Chan Santa Cruz Maya conquered the town.
  • The city was retaken by the Mexicans only in 1902.

Things to do in Bacalar

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, which is worth visiting.

On Sunday night, there may be music and dancing in the city square.

There are plenty of outdoor activities to choose from: guided kayaking trips, snorkeling, horseback riding at the rodeo or trails to Bacalar Lake, bike tours, and jungle walks to explore the lake and its surroundings.

Beaches & Water Activities

Bacalar Lagoon is one of the palest-blue and jewel-like waters that can exist. Laguna Bacalar is a long and narrow lake. Its length from north to south is about 42 km, and at its widest point, it is less than 2 km.

The main attraction of this area is the Seven Colors Lagoon. The lagoon off the coast is somewhat shallow, except for the sinkholes commonly known as cenotes. It is clearly visible from a kayak or sailboat.

The lake is known for its vibrant blue color and crystal-clear water, thanks in part to its white limestone bottom. Like most bodies of water in the Yucatan Peninsula, the lake is fed by underground rivers or cenotes.

Cenote Azul is only 4 km south of the center of town at the southern tip of Bacalar. Cenote Azul is one of the deepest cenotes in the Yucatan at 90 m. The place is open to the public from 7:00 to 18:00 daily.

“Canal de los Piratas” links the Hondo River with the lagoon, and is known as the Pirates Road.

Nearby Archaeological sites

The Mayan ruins nearby that are worth visiting are:

  • Chacchoben
  • Dzibanché
  • Kohunlich.

They don´t have a lot of people and the jungle surroundings are magnificent.

How to get there & Transportation

  • Take a bus or “collectivo” from Cancun, via Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
  • Traveling from the south, take a bus or “colectivo” from Chetumal.
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