The word authentic gets tossed around a lot when it comes to travel. Authenticity evokes the idea of a destination somehow having withstood the march of time, or providing an immersive experience, whether through culture, cuisine, nature or history.
We know that not all destinations earmarked as “authentic” live up to that description. However, some do–in surprising and memorable ways.
One sure place is Baja California Sur. In particular, the charming city of Loreto, which continues to measure up on authenticity in a variety of ways.
Loreto is scenically situated between the soaring Sierra de la Giganta mountains and Sea of Cortez on the east coast of the Baja California peninsula. The city offers an enticing blend of sea, sand and desert, along with numerous natural attractions. And despite the near-endless list of reasons to visit, this is an area that remains blissfully undiscovered by the tourist masses, giving it an authentic feeling you won’t find anywhere else.
Escape into nature
Get off the tourist trail—literally—by soaking up the many natural attractions in Loreto and the surrounding areas.
Experienced hikers will want to test out the trails of the nearby Sierra de la Giganta mountain range (also ideal for mountain biking). Not all trails are properly marked. It’s a good idea to book a guided trek or bike ride with one of the numerous tour operators in the area.
Or if you prefer getting up close to local wildlife, a quick 25-minute boat ride from Loreto is Coronados Island. The island is home to beautiful white sand beaches, a resident sea lion colony and even flocks of rare blue-footed boobies.
The waters of Baja Sur are one of the region’s biggest draws.
For starters, visit Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto (Bay of Loreto National Park). The federal government declared the park a protected area in 1996. Here you’ll get the chance to snorkel through crystalline waters spotting tropical fish, sea turtles and colourful coral. There are also many opportunities to hop in a kayak or test your balance on a stand-up paddleboard to explore the calm waters.
In addition, depending on when you visit, blue whales make the waters of Loreto their home between January and mid-March. Licensed whale watching boats are readily available to take visitors out to see the gentle giants, where you may also spot dolphins, orcas and other whales.
A feast of foodie options
Foodies will have no trouble sating their appetites in Loreto.
From hole-in-the-wall taco joints to fine dining establishments, there are dining options to suit every craving and budget. Take your pick of everything from perfectly crispy fish tacos to home-baked bread and pastries. Freshly caught seafood is especially abundant here and something you’ll see on many menus. This includes Loreto’s famous chocolata clams, named for the colour of their shells and hard to find anywhere else. Chefs prepare these in a variety of ways and you can find them on most menus around town.
History lives all around you in Loreto. It was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula, founded in 1697. It was also the first capital of California, so historical sights abound.
Museo de las Misiones is one such worthy stop for history buffs. It houses a detailed collection of religious art, historic documents, tools, and crafts which tell the story of the settlement of the Baja Peninsula.
Loreto was awarded the Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) designation by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, in part for its rich history.
Baja California Sur beyond Loreto
Depending on how much time you have, it’s well worth exploring beyond Loreto. Discover the many other unique destinations of Baja California Sur.
Mulegé, just two hours north of Loreto, boasts untouched beaches, friendly locals and a lot of laid-back charm. While La Paz, about four hours south of Loreto, offers vibrant street art, a scenic waterfront promenade and excellent seafood. Nearby La Paz, don’t miss charming Todo Santos, and Comondú is a nature-lovers paradise home to sea turtles and many migratory birds.
Going off the beaten track when you travel isn’t always easy. Loreto offers the chance to explore one of Mexico’s few undiscovered destinations. Take advantage of unspoiled nature, beautiful beaches, rich history and the unique charm of a truly authentic travel destination.
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