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Discover the Magic of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos

April 27, 2022

The Travelers Guide to Mexico is an invaluable tourism resource produced in Mexico and available in a bilingual edition. The guide’s description of Pueblos Mágicos, or Magical Towns, is instructive.

“Throughout Mexico, in mountains or valleys, near the jungle or the shore, there are small villages that retain the characteristics they have had for hundreds of years,” the guide states.

For modern travelers, these towns, redolent of legend and magic and tradition, “seem to be trapped in amber or floating in a bubble, making them fascinating.” There are 132 Pueblos Magicos scattered throughout Mexico, places where “foundational constructions are still standing, namely houses, churches, fountains, arches, walkways, alleys and markets.”

There are two Pueblos Magicos in Baja California Sur. A visit to these towns is an opportunity to experience the timeless charm of Mexico.

Todos Santos. Located an hour’s drive north of Cabo San Lucas along a new highway parted through desert foothills along the Pacific coast, Todos Santos (All Saints) checks all the boxes when it comes to offering visitors a "magical" experience. It has cultural richness, natural beauty, traditions, folklore, cuisine, arts and crafts, and great hospitality. Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, this oasis in the desert, set between the Sierra de la Laguna and the sea, has a unique quality of light that has long attracted artists. Surfers, too. Nearby Los Cerritos and San Pedrito are two of the finest surf spots on the Pacific.

Founded as a mission by the Jesuits in 1724, this charming village, accented by colonial-era brick buildings, narrow cobbled streets and numerous effigies of saints, is a former sugar capital. (The settlement had eight mills by 1850 due to its fertile land and ample water supply). This walker’s town is chockablock with art galleries, sidewalk cafes, palm groves, quaint B & B’s, farm-to-table restaurants, eclectic shops and the legendary Hotel California, reputedly the inspiration for the famous song by the Eagles. While painters are the best-known artists in Todos Santos, the historic downtown area also houses numerous studios and galleries that showcase sculpture (metal, wood, stone) and hand-crafted jewelry.

Annual festivals celebrating art, film, music and literature are a fixture in Todos Santos. Among the best-known is Gastrovino, the town’s annual food and wine festival. Slated this year for November 11 – 13, the event’s weekend of festivities culminates in an all-day live music celebration. For premier Mexican wines and the region’s finest fish tacos, Gastrovino is a must.

Loreto. Tucked away in the heart of Baja California Sur far up the East Cape on the Sea of Cortez, Loreto, founded as a Jesuit mission in 1697, is the oldest city in the Californias. A six-hour drive from Los Cabos (3.5 hours from La Paz), Loreto is a cherished center of origin for Spanish culture in this desert region of Mexico. It was from Loreto that the earliest evangelization and civil colonization of Baja California was first undertaken. Notable examples of missionary architecture remain in the town and its surrounding areas.

In addition to its rich history, Loreto offers visitors impressive natural landscapes. Towering mesas, buttes and rock pinnacles in the Sierra de la Giganta dominate the southern outskirts of town, while shimmering islands with a diversity of endemic flora and fauna rise from the turquoise-blue waters of the bay. Marine life in Loreto is rich in contrasts, from the sighting of migrating whales during the winter months to snorkeling and scuba-diving in Loreto Bay National Marine Park. Within the park’s protected boundaries are five large islands: Danzante, Carmen, Coronado, Montserrat, and Santa Catalina. Their shorelines have clear blue waters ideal for snorkeling, while their underwater rocky formations offer some of Mexico’s best dive sites.

In addition to the historic Mission of Our Lady of Loreto, a must-see, the town’s markets carry pretty figurines made from sea shells as well as hand-woven garments. There’s an array of casual seafood restaurants along the Malecon, the town’s seafront walkway, as well as traditional Mexican cantinas sprinkled throughout the 18th-century town.

Loreto is known for its festivals. The Loreto Blues Festival arrives on April 23. The Chocolata Clam Festival, scheduled for June 1–2, features traditional seafood dishes, live music and costumed folk dances.

The Our Lady of Loreto Festivities is the town’s most important religious celebration. It begins at the end of August and continues until September 8. Dating to 1850, the festival honors the town’s maritime heritage and includes parades, floral offerings, and musical performances. Fresh seafood is abundant. A fireworks display over the sea caps the final night of the festival.

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