Bacalar wasn’t part of our original planned route for Mexico, but after a few people in Valladolid recommended it to us we decided to swing by on our way to Chetumal. Bacalar is a town of Mayan decent in the south of Quintana Roo, and the main attraction is the stunning “seven coloured lagoon” along which the town is built.
We stayed in Magic Hostel, which is situated about a fifteen minute walk from the bus stop and right on the edge of the lagoon itself. It’s a little pricier than the other hostels we’ve stayed in so far – $210 pesos/£8.50 per night for a dorm bed – and it is a little jungle basic, with outdoor toilets and showers and a pretty cramped dorm. But all of that is totally worth it for the location, as it sits right on the edge of the lagoon. It even has a private jetty with sun loungers and hammocks where you can relax and simply enjoy the beautiful view.
The lagoon itself was heaven for me – I’m a little squeamish about getting into the sea because of sting rays, jellyfish and other unknown stinging/biting sea creatures (you can imagine how much I loved the mosquito infested outdoor toilets at this hostel), but because of the high levels of calcium in the lake the only inhabitants are a few curious silver fish. The water is incredibly clear and a fair bit of it is shallow, meaning you can swim out quite a way from the shore but still be able to touch the bottom.
On our first night, having finally grown a little tired of tacos, we decided to try a vegan restaurant called Mango y Chile on the main square. The menu is quite simple, with just three different kinds of vegan burger accompanied by fries, but the food is delicious and the staff are really friendly.
Magic Hostel offers kayak rentals, so on our second day there we went kayaking with Phil, a fellow Brit who was staying in our dorm, and Sivan, an Israeli girl who had bagged one of the private rooms (for $580 pesos/£23.40 per night). We covered up in long sleeves, hats and – in my case – trousers to ward off the sun, but as standard I still managed to get sunburnt! The first hour or so we alternated between rowing and taking dips in the lake before deciding to head over to a cenote that was apparently a little way down the shore from our hostel. On arriving at the cenote however, we were a little disappointed to discover that it wasn’t quite like our experience at Cenote Oxman – rather, it was just a bit of the lake that was deeper than the rest. We didn’t even realise that we had arrived there at first! The kayaking trip was an incredible experience though, and even with the torrential downpour and thunderstorm that suddenly hit us on our way back it was definitely worth it.
Back on dry land we went for lunch at Kai Pez, a seafood restaurant on the waterfront where we had our first taste of ceviche – which, incidentally, is awesome. Afterwards we went along to visit Fuerte de San Felipe, Bacalar’s small but impressive fort that was built in 1733, mainly to try and deter pirates. You can now walk across to the fort via a stone footbridge, but in the original structure the fort had a wooden drawbridge across a deep moat. We then went out for dinner with our kayaking compadres to Savora Grill, a Mexican/Italian restaurant in the main town square. The food was superb, but the service not so much – my pizza arrived after everyone else at the table had already eaten their food and had it cleared away. But the pizza was well worth the wait – which you would expect from a restaurant owned and run by an Italian!