Campeche Tourist Attractions
How to get thereFrom Mexico City, by air in about 1.5 hours; by rail a 32 hour journey via Coatzacoalcos (16 hours); by bus in about 17 hours.
Campeche, capital of the Mexican state of that name, is situated on the Gulf of Mexico, on the west side of the Yucatán peninsula. The city is a mixture of ancient and modern, romantic relics of the colonial period mingling with the modern districts which have arisen in recent years. The current oil boom has unfortunately blighted both the city and the countryside around.History The first European to land here was the Spanish conquistador Hernández de Córdoba in 1517. The settlement from which the city later grew was founded by Francisco de Montejo the Younger ("El Mozo") in October 1540. As the 16th c. progressed Campeche (from the Mayan Ah-kin-pech, "place of the snake and the tick") developed into the principal port on the Yucatán peninsula. In both 16th and 17th centuries it suffered repeated attack by pirates, of which the assaults by William Park (1697), Diego El Mulato (1631), Laurent van Graff ("Lorencillo", 1672 and 1685) and L'Olonois ("El Olonés) were the most devastating. Over and over again sections of the town were destroyed and its people decimated (underground passages in which the women and children took refuge can still be seen today). Between 1686 and 1704, a defensive wall 2.5km/1.6mi long, 2.5 m (8 ft) wide and up to 8 m (26 ft) high, together with eight forts, was built around the town, finally rendering it safe from further pirate attack. In 1777 Charles III of Spain granted Campeche full civic status. In 1807 a cyclone destroyed many of its buildings. In 1867 the city became the capital of the Republic's new state of Campeche.
The cathedral church of La Concepción stands on the Plaza Principal (Plaza de Independencia) which is also graced by beautiful old colonial houses. The cathedral was begun in 1540 but only completed in 1705. It has a plain Baroque façade.
This magnificent villa (Calle 10 No. 584) houses government offices.
Baluarte de la Soledad
Situated not far from the plaza is one of the bastions (baluartes) of the still largely intact Campeche city wall. The fort, known as the Baluarte de la Soledad, now houses the local history museum (Museo de Historia) with pictures and drawings chronicling Campeche's history, also a collection of weaponry and, in a special room, 22 Mayan sculptures.On leaving the museum, turn right into Calle 8 and proceed past the Puerta de Mar (city gate) and the modern government building (the Palacio de Gobierno, also known as the Edificio de Poderes) to the Cámara de Diputados, the State parliament. Between the latter two buildings and the road along the waterfront lies an artificial lake surrounded by modern buildings, one of which is a theatre.
Fuerte San Carlos
Calle 8 leads to Fuerte San Carlos, one of the oldest and best preserved of the city's ancient bastions, now occupied by a craft centre.
A new Museo Regional (Regional Museum) has been established in the Casa del Teniente del Rey near the Puerta de Tierra. It houses archaeological finds related to the history of Campeche. They include grave goods from Calakmul, among them a superb mosaic mask.
Church of San Francisco
Situated at the intersection of Calle 59 and Calle 18, the 16th c. church of San Francisco contains five carved wooden altars painted in vermilion and white. The San Francisco monastery, somewhat further north on Miguel Alemán (Malecón) quay, is thought to stand on the site where, in 1517, the first Christian mass was held on Mexican soil. Here also Hernán Cortés' grandson Jerónimo, born in 1562, is believed to have been christened. The font is still in use.
Much the best time to visit the market (mercado) is during the fiesta. Souvenirs on sale include "jipis" (Panama-style hats) and handcrafted items made from tortoise-shell, seashells and hardwoods.
Fuerte de San Miguel
A detour from the coast road on the southern outskirts of the city leads to the Fuerte de San Miguel, attractively situated overlooking Campeche. Access to the bastion - still furnished with its old cannon - is by way of a drawbridge.The interior houses a small but very interesting archaeological museum (Museo de Arqueología) with artefacts from a wide range of Mayan cultures. Especially noteworthy are the terracotta figurines from Jaína and the museum's excellent synoptic presentation of pre-Columbian civilisations.
Iglesia de San Román
Puerta de Tierra
This gate has an arch and is surrounded by Baluarte San Francisco on the north and by Baluarte San Juan on the southwest.
Reducto de San José (El Alto)
Campeche is an ideal base to visit its surroundings which include archaeological sites and beaches.