Not many travellers make it to Campeche. Those who do are mostly long-term travellers doing a loop through the Yucatan, Guatemala, and Belize. Campeche’s walled historical centre is small, only nine blocks long and five blocks wide, so you keep seeing the same tourists again and again. 🙂

What to see

The 7-kilometre long boardwalk (malecón) along the Gulf of Mexico probably accounts for some of the most fit (or at least fitness-motivated) Mexicans I’ve seen! When the heat abates in the late afternoon, people of all ages walk, jog, and cycle along the promenade, which even includes exercise stations. You almost feel like you’ve been transported to southern California or the Costal del Sol.

Cross the wide palm-lined boulevard and pass through the stone gate though, and you now find yourself in the old walled city with block after block of beautifully restored colonial houses in every shade of the rainbow. The wall was built in the second half of the 17th century to withstand pirate attacks. It included eight bastions (seven of which remain) and two gates: Puerta del Mar (sea gate) and Puerta de la Tierra (land gate). Those two gates book-end Calle 59, the pedestrian artery lined with restaurants, shops, and cafés and, during my stay, a temporary exhibition of bronze sculptures.

I spent three and a half days in town, exploring the various churches and small museums, and taking pictures of the whimsical sculptures scattered about. The main square, Plaza Principal, has actually been the most pleasant on this trip so far, with its large gazebo housing a café and tourist office, its cathedral, and its collections of graceful arched colonnades fronting buildings on two sides.

My first couple of days were hot and unpleasantly humid. And then it all turned on a dime and the weather became overcast, windy and cool. I had to leave early from the “Sound and Light show” on the Saturday night because I was freezing without a jacket! (The show was pretty lame anyway and not worth the 50 pesos in my honest opinion). More interesting was the free performance in the main square featuring several troupes of older women in frilly dresses dancing to traditional music. I always enjoy colourful dance shows!

On my last day I took a local bus (called camión here) to the Fuerte de San Miguel, one of the two forts guarding the city’s outskirts. This one also houses the Museo de la Architectura Maya and is pretty impressive in itself with its snaking walled approach path, moat, and canons ringing the upper level.

Where to eat

I had several nice meals here, at restaurants such as Luz de Luna, Marganzo (free tamarind margarita), and Café la Parroquia. These restaurants seemed popular with both locals and visitors. I also made several refueling stops at café Chocol-Ha and Chocolateria de la Mora for coffee and chocolatey snacks.

Campeche has everything Merida lacks: a centre full of beautifully restored colonial houses, a pedestrian street, good food, as well as low traffic and no stinky buses within the walled core.

Accommodation in Campeche

I also stayed in an AirBnB accommodation in Campeche, but it was a hotel, not a private house. Several hotels in Mexico use AirBnB to sell some of their rooms. I don’t know if AirBnB frowns upon this practice, but I don’t mind as I probably wouldn’t have found this place otherwise. The room and bathroom were nothing special but they were spacious and adequate. The owner’s son picked me up from the bus station, and the owner himself drove me to the airport at the end of my stay, for free! How nice is that?

An important decision

While in Campeche, I made the decision to alter my trip in a pretty big way. My initial itinerary had me heading to Palenque for a few nights, then to San Cristobal de las Casas, and into Guatemala. Up until now my bus trips had all been pretty short (2 to 2.5. hours) but now I was looking at a faster pace of travel and longer bus trips (5-8 hours) for at least the next two weeks. And this is not what I felt like doing.

I suddenly realized that I wanted to settle down in a place with sunny days and blue skies, no bugs, good food, and good coffee. I didn’t feel like any more bad surprises and disappointments. I thought about Guanajuato but the nights were too cold. A quick check to the weather forecast for Oaxaca (which I had first visited in 2006) convinced me that this is where I wanted to go! So I booked a flight right there and then.

(To be continued…)

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