Loreto, Baja California Sur:
Mexico’s Newest Pueblo Mágico
Article by Jill Jackson
In June 2012, the historic town of Loreto, on the Baja California Peninsula, was designated a Pueblo Mágico in a ceremony that took place in front of its 17th-century mission. “Pueblo Mágico” is a recognition awarded by the Mexican government to cities and towns that have preserved their cultural and natural heritage. With the designation come funds to help promote tourism and continue to preserve the destination.
Located about 750 miles south of San Diego (and Tijuana) on the gulf side of the peninsula, Loreto is celebrated as an enchanting haven “where the desert meets the sea,” with friendly townspeople, Old World architecture, and an enriching culture. The Sierra de la Giganta, one of the tallest and most spectacular mountain ranges in Baja, overlooks the charming seaside town. The surrounding desert is rich with unique plants and animals.
The Gulf of California (also called the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortes) teems with marine life, creating unlimited ecotourism opportunities. In addition to its legendary sport fishing, Loreto is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise, offering kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, kiteboarding, golf, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, bird watching, and sailing. On a trip to the offshore islands, visitors marvel at marine life that includes sea lions, exotic birds, playful dolphins, and several species of whales.
In addition to its fame for outdoor sports, Loreto is known for fabulous fresh seafood. One of the main specialties is “almejas chocolates,” a type of local clam. They are prepared in many different ways: with a little lime and hot sauce, traditional tatamades (buried in the sand and steamed), or barbecued on the half shell with white wine, garlic butter, and cheese.
Loreto was founded in 1697 as the original capital of the Californias under Spanish colonial rule. Nuestra Señora de Loreto was the first successful Spanish mission in California and is considered the most important historical monument in town. It was restored in the 1970s. The town declined in importance when the capital was relocated to Laz Paz after a devastating 1829 hurricane. The population today is around 14,000 people.
Generally warm, Loreto has more than 350 days of sunshine; some rain falls in the mountains during the late summer and early fall. Small shops throughout town offer handmade arts and crafts; visitors can enjoy shopping without the distraction of street vendors or peddlers. The malecón (a promenade along the sea) is undergoing a complete renovation and when finished at the end of 2012, promises to have a wider pedestrian walkway with shady spots and benches as well as new lighting, planter boxes, and trash cans.
Loreto has a relatively new international airport (LTO), and is only a 90-minute, direct flight from Los Angeles (LAX) via Alaska Airlines. WestJet connects Canadians to this little slice of heaven via Calgary. There are direct flights on Aereo Calafia from Tijuana (TIJ) or La Paz (LAP), too; visitors from mainland Mexico can come via these airports
Having lived in Loreto since 2004, my husband Rick and I love the Baja California lifestyle and relaxed pace. We have time to enjoy friends and the outdoors. The sunrise on the Sea of Cortes is spectacular, a chance to feel rejuvenated every morning. Rick is a nature photographer (www.soulcatchingimages.com) by trade, and spends his time in the Sierra de la Giganta and the desert, or out in the marine park exploring the islands. We own and operate a small hotel called Las Cabañas de Loreto, which keeps us both busy with activities and entertaining. I also work as a real estate agent for Mision Loreto Properties, and enjoy connecting people and properties. Loreto is a wonderful place to live and to invest. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions regarding the Loreto area.
The following photos courtesy of Richard Jackson