Mexico is the number one destination for Americans going abroad. Famous for its pristine beaches, turquoise-colored oceans, and well-developed resort zones, it attracts millions of tourists every year who are in search of a sunny break.
Not all of those who cross the Southern border are keen on lounging by the poolside all day, though: Mexico is indeed best-known as a tropical getaway, but it is also one of the world’s top cultural destinations, what with its host of UNESCO-listed ancient sites and rich Hispanic heritage.
If it’s culture you seek, then you should consider adding a visit to this lesser-known spot as well:
Why You Should Add Campeche To Your Mexico Bucket List
Campeche is one of Mexico’s 31 federal entities, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, where it is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico and borders the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo.
Unbeknownst to most vacationers, who flock instead to the neighboring provinces, where the likes of Merida, Cancun, and Tulum are located, Campeche is perhaps Mexico’s most promising cultural destination, largely due to its stately capital.
San Francisco de Campeche, more commonly known simply as Campeche, stands among the oldest European colonies in the Americas, having been founded by the Conquistadores as early as 1540, almost seven decades prior to the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia.
Before the Europeans came, Campeche was the site of a Mayan port called Can Pech, from which it derives its name, though very few traces of the original town remain.
The modern city is a trove of inestimable colonial-era treasures, so much so that it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Campeche Is A Colonial Gem Waiting To Be Discovered
The designation recognizes Campeche’s well-preserved historic core, built by the Spanish in accord with Iberian customs of the time and later fortified amid the threat of pirates in the Gulf and the wider Caribbean region.
Campeche’s fortifications are one of the city’s main points of interest, enclosing beautiful Spanish-era landmarks like the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción, and the colorful baroque buildings that surround the Plaza de la Independencia.
History buffs might want to check out Campeche’s defensive bulwarks, specifically Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, no longer a military stronghold, and now the house of the Museum of City History instead, and the San Carlos section, attached to the Sea Gate, now converted into a smaller city museum.
Even if it’s culture you’re after exclusively, and a more authentic Mexican experience, you should definitely take a day to simply relax and enjoy the oceanic vibes.
Beautiful Beaches Within Driving Distance Of Campeche City
Campeche is a coastal destination, after all, and its abundance of swimming spots rival even that of the Riviera Maya.
The city’s modern seafront promenade, the Malecón de Campeche, draws in thousands of visitors due to its collection of historical monuments straddling the coast and the breathtaking sunset views it offers, as do the golden sand beaches around Campeche.
Playa Caracol is perhaps the most frequented beach due to its proximity to the city, the crystalline hue of the waters, and the shallow depths.
A bit further out, Manigua is also not to be missed, with its coconut palms, bright blue ocean, and traditional seafood eateries.
A Safe Cultural Hotspot
Although Campeche (city) is not yet a Magical Town itself, as defined by Mexican tourism and culture authorities – though it is certainly a strong contender – the wider state has two pueblos magicos within driving distance of the capital you might want to add to your bucket list.
These are Isla Aguada, an island in the Gulf of Mexico famous for its historic lighthouse, underwater archaeology museum, and unspoiled beaches, and Palizada, a European-style small town with colorful houses and French-inspired architecture.
Other than being a unique cultural hotspot, Campeche is Mexico’s safest tourist destination alongside the neighboring state of Yucatan.
Both are included in the U.S. State Department’s Level 1 Travel Advisory listing, meaning ‘normal precautions’ apply when traveling.
How To Get To Campeche
The closest airport to Campeche (city) is Alberto Acuña Ongay International Airport, which serves both the capital region and the entire state, though it only hosts flights from Mexico City.
There is a bigger airport in Merida, in the neighboring state of Yucatan, a short 2h17 drive away.
The hub in Merida is more well-connected, hosting nonstop flights from a number of U.S. and Canadian cities such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, and Toronto (seasonally).
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com