For the past several weeks we’ve been on the road. Doing a sweep of some of our favorite spots in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo and seeing some wonderful new things along the way. A recent second visit to Campeche reconfirmed our love for this Spanish-Colonial, seaside town. Here is a recap of a why it continues to rank high on our list of favorites…
1. It’s surrounded by 16th-Century forts! That you can climb around on! Personally, I think that you’d have to be insane not to love this. All told, there are seven baluartes (fortresses) that ring the city, many with free or cheap access. Some even house museums and employ guides who offer tours.
2. Ocean breezes + cobblestone streets + colorful buildings = nauseating charm. With a cheerful palette that puts Rainbow Brite to shame, Campeche’s centro historico (historic district) is beyond quaint. Staying here is inexpensive (rooms start at $7 US), and the 5-star location provides the visitor with a great vantage point for on-foot exploration.
3. Parque Principal is a great way to start and end the day. Located at the center of the historic district, it is the ideal spot to grab a beer, relax, and enjoy the comings and goings of the people at Campeche’s heart.
4. The city’s beautiful malecon, or seaside walkway, is a few blocks from the city center. People of all ages can be found here, walking, running and biking. It’s a great place to exercise (or enjoy an ice cream cone while you watch other people do it).
5. Exceptional manscaping is available at a bargain price. Gents, for a flawless cut and shave: visit Javier at Peluqueria Lopez, just steps from the Parque Principal on Calle 8. He will do you right, and more importantly: you will feel like a million pesos for the price of 50.
6. Restaurants with great food and ambience are plentiful. You can dine al fresco on the balcony of El Viejo de los Arcos or linger over lunch in air-conditioned El Bastion. If you go on an unavoidable seafood bender at La Palapa del Tio Fitos on the waterfront, be prepared to undo that top button. After which, you can roll yourself over to Chocol-Ha and enjoy a chocolate crepe at one of their tables made from old sewing machine stands. As for “fast food”, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any in the historic district. Instead, order a tasty 65p torta surtida para llevar (to go) at Restaurante Miramar and treat yourself to one of the owner’s hearty handshakes while you wait.
7. The beguiling night markets beckon. Especially the one along the picturesque fountains of Parque de Banderas. Duck beneath the tarp roofs and let your nose lead you through a fragrant labyrinth of pastries, grilled meat, churros, and spiced nuts.
8. The El Lorencillo pirate ship offers daily cruises (100p) from Lerma pier at 12 and 5 pm. Keep in mind that the best part about this activity is being on the water. The “show” is nothing to write home about, but the sail makes for a nice outing and provides unparalleled views of Campeche. And come on, it’s a *pirate* ship.
9. Best place for Baked Baby Shark. This one isn’t a plus for everyone. However, pan de cazon is regional fare much beloved by locals and seafood connoisseurs, alike. If this is a dish that you’ve longed to try, Campeche is as good a place as any to give it a go.
10. The Botanical Garden is small, but stuffed with gorgeous flora and fauna. Tucked away inside Baluarte Santiago, this is a cool, quiet place to snag a bench and watch a flock of bright-colored birds bathe in a tropical pond. All well worth the 20p entrance fee.