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About Ashley Curtin

Ashley Curtin is a freelance writer who left the corporate world to pursue a nomadic lifestyle. Now a way of life, she has traveled extensively through North America, Mexico and Europe and parts of Africa. She shares her personal travel stories about people, places and food on her blog, Fun As We Go..

Baja’s Magic Towns: Pueblos Magicos Combine Charm and Tradition

The magic of travel is that it changes how we perceive the past and the present, and how we shape the future.  A visit to any one of Baja’s Magic Towns, Pueblos Magicos, is a wonderful, mind-altering experience!

by Ashley Curtin

Baja’s Magic Towns are more than just a concept in a travel guide:  They are actual places that have been designated by the government as magical.  The Pueblos Magicos (or Magic Towns) are villages or cities throughout Mexico that have been characterized as historic, beautiful and culturally symbolic. Currently, there are more than 80 Magic Towns that have been identified, and three of those are in Baja California and Baja California Sur.

The Ministry of Tourism of Mexico originally created the program as a way to highlight towns that represent the nation’s indigenous past, and that feature the dramatic visual legacy of Spanish colonial influence as well as the cultural traditions of Mexico. To be considered Pueblos Magicos, each town must have a population of at least 20,000 residents, be located — by ground transportation — no further than 124 miles from a major tourist attraction, and retain beautiful architecture. The program is also being used as a way to honor citizens in the towns for carrying the rich historic culture though the generations.

Have a Baja Moment (or several) and visit Tecate, Todos Santos and Loreto to witness the natural and cultural beauty these Magic Towns offer to travelers.

One of Baja's Magic Towns, Pueblos Magicos, is Tecate, on the border with the United States.

Tecate

Right at the US/Mexico border, Tecate is a small town — easy to navigate — bursting with Mexican charm and traditions. This quiet but growing pueblo was once home to the Kumiai people and boasts strong indigenous origins. From traditionally made Kumiai houses constructed with twigs to designed Mexican ranchos, the Museo Comunitario de Tecate (Tecate Community Museum) offers tourists a true understanding of the town’s history. And Tecate has stayed true to its origins with its traditional infrastructure:  The main plaza (zocalo) is located in the center of town, and from there churches and the town hall are alllocated within walking distance. Within this plaza is Parque Hidalgo that is alive with vendors selling typical Mexican arts and crafts. Tourists and locals alike relax on benches and under large trees in the park area of the plaza taking in the town’s happenings — or even playingcheckers.

Mount Cuchumá, with supposed magical powers, stands watch over Tecate. Photo courtesy of Wikicommons.

Tecate is nestled in a valley and rolling hills and mountains surround the town. Cuchumá Mountain is a prominent place, with supposed mystical powers, where people hike or bike. Because Tecate is at an elevation of 1,775 feet, the climate is typically dry and warm during the summer and cool and windy in the winter.  Olives, grapes and grains are staple crops of the town. Green vegetation and wild flowers bring distinction and beauty to the region, as well. And, the Magic Town is home to coffee processing plants and the famous Tecate Brewery. Although a border town, this peaceful colonial place will ‘transport’  tourists to another kind of Baja with its serene environment bustling with traditional Mexican culture.

 

Magical Todos Santos

Todos Santos

 Located on the Pacific Coast of Baja near the Tropic of Cancer, Todos Santos is the sight of the Festival del Dia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a major festival that is held in October. The mission, which houses the statue of the Virgin Pilar, is the primary focal point of the event and celebrates the founding of Todos Santos and its patron saint. The traditional Mexican festival takes place over a course of five days and also includes a parade, along with dancing, the arts and a representation of traditional Mexican cuisines. Todos Santos attracts tourists from around the world to its pristine beaches to swim, surf and even stand-up paddle board.   The warm climate of the coastal town nurtures orchards of papayas, avocados and mangos. It is also home to many artists who have migrated from other parts of Mexico to paint the luscious landscapes and natural beauty of the town. Maintaining its customs and traditions, Todos Santos is a magical destination.

 

Loreto, one of Baja's Magic Towns, glows in beauty.

Loreto

 The first capital of Baja and situated on the Sea of Cortez, Loreto provides a peaceful environment — but with an adventurous side! This magical town features many historic monuments, the Mission of Our Lady of Loreto being the most important. There are several beaches that tourists flock to year round because of the tropical climate and azure waters but, even more alluring are Loreto’s water activities, such as kayaking, sailing and diving. World-class fishing and golfing are also a major tourist attraction. The town remains largely undeveloped, preserving its beautiful desert and mountain landscapes.  Within the La Giganta Mountain Range, there are many prehistoric cave paintings done by the indigenous groups of Baja. These remarkable depictions have been named a UNESCO world heritage sites. Cuevas Pintas and La Pinguica are two of the most famous caves where paintings can still be viewed.  Once a Spanish settlement, Loreto has a collection of religious artwork along with weapons and tools from the Spanish missions dating back to the 18th century.  With its natural beauty, location on the sapphire Sea of Cortez and its cultural richness, Loreto is a must-visit in Baja California Sur!

As the Pueblos Magicos program continues to expand, identifying more charming towns throughout Mexico to add to the list of Magic Towns, Baja California and Baja California Sur proudly claim the jewels of Tecate, Loreto and Todos Santos as part of Mexico’s national treasure.

Visit all of the Magic Towns in Baja and send us photos of what you think makes them magical!  

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com

 

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Top 5 Places for a Long Holiday Weekend in Baja

Top 5 Places for a Long Holiday Weekend in Baja

By Ashley Curtin

It’s a new year, which brings a new opportunity to travel and what better destination than Mexico.  With warm tropical temperatures, pristine beaches, historic landmarks and cultural entertainment filling the area, various Baja destinations make for the perfect long holiday weekend get-away.  A short distance from California, these featured destinations in Mexico offer travelers tips, insights and recommendations to help plan your trip’s itinerary.

Tijuana

 

A quick drive south from the U.S. Mexico border in San Diego, Calif., Tijuana is a great shopping and entertainment destination for travelers to escape and immerse themselves into Mexican culture for the weekend. Fine leather products, cigars, handmade crafts and other souvenirs  can be found in markets throughout Tijuana, however, Mercado El Popo, located downtown, is the most colorful of them all. Traditional Mexican fare, spices and produce will have you walking away with numerous bags. To continue shopping, stroll down Avenida Revolucion, a street filled with souvenir shops and restaurants alike. Tijuana is also bustling with traditional Mexican entertainment and historically cultural activities. For entertainment, attend a Lucha Libre spectacle, which takes place at Auditorio Municipal Fausto Gutierrez Moreno every Friday night. Masked men dramatically throw each other around a boxing ring performing free-form wrestling. Another entertaining experience is to watch a greyhound race at Agua Caliente Race Track. Tijuana supports local artists and musicians with various art galleries and music venues spotting the town. For a very unique experience, El Lugar del Nopal, or cultural cafe, is a cozy enchanting place to experience art and listen to live music performances Wednesday through Saturday nights. The café also provides travelers a delicious authentic food experience.

 

Valle de Guadalupe

 

Just 10 miles from Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe is Baja’s wine country. Situated 13 miles from the coast at 1,300 feet, this town boasts dozens of wineries, mostly accessible by country dirt roads, with tasting rooms open to the public. The various vineyards situated in the valley of Valle de Guadalupe grow a variety of tasty red grapes to make distinct Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah to hearty white grapes for the production of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Blanc de Blanc. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Valle de Guadalupe accounts for 90 percent of Mexico’s wine supply.  Depending on preference, boutique and small hotels can be found right outside the wine country closer to Ensenada, while large five-star resorts with oceanfront views just a short ride from Valle de Guadalupe line the coast. The cuisine ranges from delicious steaks to plenty of lobster and seafood along the coast.

 

Loreto

Surrounded by the Sea of Cortez, Loreto is a tranquil warm beach destination filled with world famous sports fishing. The Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, a park located within the marina is a great place to sign up for all water sports imaginable. Though there is a charge to enter the park, the staff’s attentiveness to travelers’ needs is worth it. Some of the activities include sailing, kayaking and diving excursions. But Loreto also offers many land activities such as golfing on world-renowned golf courses or hiking and mountain biking in the mountains surrounding the town. And while high in the mountains, touring Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto, a restored mission, provides magical sights both inside and outside. The history and culture of Loreto, and its role as the first capital to the Californias, is evident from the inscription at the entrance of the mission; Cabeza y Madre de las Misiones de Baja y Alta California (Head and Mother of the Missions of Upper and Lower California). To learn more about traveling to Loreto, visit Baja.com.

Todos Santos

Knows as a “desert oasis,” Todos Santos is situated between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz and is a favorable destination among travelers for its year round tropical climate. Todos Santos sits on top of a mesa at the Tropic of Cancer. It is surrounded by the Sierra de la Laguna Mountain Range and has beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Known for its ancient mango orchards and palms, the area is very popular among artists. World-renowned galleries fill the area and one not to miss is Stewart Gallery, an artist’s colony. Named after Charles Stewart, the creator of Todos Santos’ art scene, the gallery compiles different forms of art for everyone’s taste. Another gallery to get lost in is Galeria de Todos Santos, which is filled with unique boutique shops in and among a range of artwork. Todos Santos is also known for its fresh, authentic dining experience. Restaurants cooking up traditional Mexican dishes to organic cuisine made from local fresh food; there is a place for everyone to eat. Tequila’s Sunrise, an acclaimed feature in “Hotel California,” serves the freshest seafood, prime steaks and a tequila bar serving all the premium tequilas.

 

San Jose del Cabo

A quieter retreat from its sister town and party destination of Cabo San Lucas sits San Jose del Cabo. Surrounded by white sand beaches and bright green vegetation, the year round warm temperatures make it a popular place to escape for some rest and relaxation. Walk the entire coastline of San Jose del Cabo via Paseo del Estero, a pedestrian trail that is lined with palm trees and the sights of crashing waves. Follow it all the way to Plaza Mijares, a small historic square and the sights of a small mission church, a few stores and authentic Mexican restaurants. Hiking is an acclaimed activity in San Jose del Cabo. Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra de la Laguna is a large uninhibited remote area with rugged trails, sometimes unmarked, for the experienced hiker. The reserve is also loaded with animals and plants only found in San Jose del Cabo and protected by Unesco. Beach-goers will love the fine white sandy beaches and turquoise water that line the coast. Playa Santa Maria is a clean beach to catch the sun’s rays. It also provides snorkelers great sights under the water.  After a day at the beach, Fruitlandia, a specialty market, is the place to fill up on traditional Mexican sweets such as milk fudge and candied cactus.

Beaches, adventurous activities, cultural exhibits and authentic cuisine make Baja the perfect destination for just about every traveler. For the people looking to relax while discovering all that Mexico has to offer, book a trip to one of the featured destinations and experience it all for yourself.

Want to find out about tours, events and more throughout Baja?  Visit Baja.com!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com

 

 

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