photo of Loreto

Skyline in Loreto, Czech Republic. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Loreto

Located 300 miles north of Los Cabos on the Sea of Cortez, Loreto is the oldest town in Baja California. Its inviting beaches and clear, warm waters have drawn fishermen for years, but Loreto's historical significance dates back to 1697, when it first served as the capital of Las Californias. The town's official slogan, "300 Years Old and Still Undiscovered," was recently put in jeopardy when developers began a huge project. It didn't have much support from local residents and, as of this writing, building and tourism operations on the project have stopped. For now, at least, Loreto retains its quiet demeanor and largely undiscovered status—a good reason to visit in the near future.

The water is still the major draw here, and there are excellent outfitters in town if you want to fish, dive, snorkel, kayak, or come close to some of the area's most welcomed part-time residents—whales (from January to March). Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, the marine park established in 1996, ensures that the sea and its biologically rich and diverse flora and fauna will continue to thrive.

There are a couple of land attractions in town, too, including the 18th-century Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto, considered one of the most important of the region's missions, and the Museo de los Misiones, which interprets the history of Baja and its indigenous people. But you don't have to book up all your time with activities to experience low-key Loreto. What keeps many visitors coming back is simply the stark and compelling beauty that surrounds it, that mesmerizing landscape of red mountains and desert rising from the deep blue sea.

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