Ba­calar’s La­goon

The Playa Times Riviera Maya's English Newspaper - - Discover Mexico - BY GEMA GAR­CÍA

Ba­calar is a pic­turesque com­mu­nity lo­cated in the south of Quin­tana Roo, 274 km (170 miles) south from Playa del Car­men to­ward Chetu­mal. The town has a pop­u­la­tion of 11,000 in­hab­i­tants and in 2007 the Min­istry of Tourism de­cided to name it a Pue­blo Mágico due to its unique nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, history and tourist po­ten­tial.

The pro­gram Pue­b­los Mági­cos, or Mag­i­cal Vil­lages, was cre­ated by the Min­istry of Tourism in 2001 and rec­og­nizes the cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage of Mex­i­can vil­lages. The term Mag­i­cal Vil­lage de­scribes a place which has not only an ex­cep­tional iden­tity, history and lo­ca­tion, but is also a place that will at­tract visi­tors. Huasca de Ocampo in the state of Hidalgo was the first Mag­i­cal Vil­lage and cur­rently there are a to­tal of 82 through­out the coun­try.

The name of Ba­calar dates back to Pre His­panic times and comes from Mayan Bak­jalal or “sur­rounded by reed”. Af­ter the Span­ish con­querors came to this area, Ba­calar was the most im­por­tant com­mu­nity of Uaymil, one of the 16 re­gions within the Yu­catan Penin­sula. It was a com­mer­cial cen­ter where mer­chan­dise from Cen­tral Amer­ica, par­tic­u­larly Honduras, ar­rived.

Ba­calar’s main at­trac­tion is the fresh­wa­ter seven col­ors la­goon which refers to the tonal­ity of the wa­ter at dawn and dusk. The la­goon is the sec­ond largest fresh­wa­ter lake in Mexico, ap­prox­i­mately 80.5 km (50 miles) long and con­nects with the bay of Chetu­mal. Its shal­low crys­tal clear wa­ters al­lows one to see the bot­tom, which is cov­ered in pure white sand. These el­e­ments make it a per­fect place to swim and is vis­ually spec­tac­u­lar.

Another of Ba­calar´s nat­u­ral at­trac­tions is Cenote Azul, which is around 152 m (500 feet) deep. Its clean turquoise wa­ters at­tracts thou­sands of swim­mers, snorkel­ers and divers ev­ery year and has sev­eral un­der­wa­ter caves. Cenotes were con­sid­ered by the Maya to be the sa­cred en­trance to the Un­der­world or Xibalbá.

The ADO bus com­pany con­nects Playa del Car­men di­rectly with Ba­calar, or if you choose to drive there, you just need to take the Fed­eral High­way 307 south and is ap­prox­i­mately a three hour drive.

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