Photo of Bacalar

About Bacalar

Bacalar is a small town nestling quietly by the shores of a bright blue lagoon. Inhabited since the Mayans, it is a fascinating historic town full of churches, colonial-era fortifications and a blooming handicrafts scene. From scuba diving in the calm and iridescent waters of the Lake of the Seven Colours, checking out the local markets or exploring the stark and imposing complex of the Fort San Felipe, there's something for everyone. The best places to stay in Bacalar make the most of the town's picturesque positioning.

The waters of the lake are so clear and bright that people travel a long way just to see this site - it’s five hours drive from Cancún via Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is said that the lake itself has seven shades, ranging from the pale, shallow colours to deep and dark cenotes or sinkholes. Surrounding the lake are rickety old fishermen's houses, vendors selling street food, gourmet restaurants and the occasional street musician. Scuba diving is a popular past time: the waters of the lake are clear and warm, and the lake itself teems with underwater caves, some at 300ft deep! The Mayans first inhabited the town, and the name Bacalar attests to this fact, roughly translating as "surrounded by reeds" in Mayan.

It was one of the first Mayan settlements colonised in the 16th century. Standing tall and grand above the town is the Fort of San Felipe, finally completed in the early 18th century, complete with walls and towers. Now it also houses an excellent museum that details the gruesome history of colonisation, boasting pre-colonial artefacts, Spanish maps and a variety of archaeological exhibits. The Church of San Joaquin is also a must-see, but for the real Bacalar experience, you must visit the local markets. The town is famous for its great array of craftsmanship: at the markets, you can find woodcarvings, dyed clothes, hand-embroidered "huipiles" and colourful hammocks.

What not to miss

  • Go for a dip in the iridescent waters of the lake.
  • Check out the local markets and buy some handwoven colourful hammocks or woodcarvings.
  • Explore the imposing structure of the Fort of San Felipe.
  • Find some solace in the Church of San Joaquin.
  • Go scuba diving amongst the sinkholes and underwater caves of the lake.

Bacalar is a fantastic town to visit if you're a history buff, but it also offers calm and respite. Check out our collection of the best places to stay in Bacalar to find out more!

The best places to stay in Bacalar

Lakeside chic

  • Lake Bacalar’s Rancho Encantado is a collection of 12 chic cabins nestled right in against the lake. The terracotta tiles, music-draped beds and white-washed walls give a rustic feel but there’s plenty of luxury, including a beautiful spa.

For an apartment or villa

  • Our partner Booking.com has a wide range of villas and apartments in the nearby area.

Travel information

  • Fly to Cancun and get a bus to Bacalar, which takes roughly 2.5 hours.
  • If you want to rent a car we recommend contacting our partner Rentalcars.
  • Go between January and April, when there is little rain and the temperature ranges between 19 and 33 degrees.

Still not sure?

Best Hotels in Bacalar

  • Rancho Encantado 12 rooms from £117

    Bacalar

    An enchanting eco-lodge nestled amidst thick vegetation and overlooking Lake Bacalar. Chic cabins feature terracotta tiled floors, muslin draped beds, white washed walls and pops of turquoise. Plenty of hammocks, a spa and utter tranquility ensure a restful stay. A glorious hideaway.

    Eco break  -  Rest assured the hotel is taking care of your carbon footprint leaving you free to totally unwind.
    Hideaway  -  Great for couples wanting to get away from the world.
    Remote  -  Off the beaten track.
    Barefoot Luxury  -  For total relaxation.
    Check prices