Bacalar lagoon: 7 shades of Blue

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

Bacalar lagoon – Bacalar, the name of the town and also of the lagoon whose shore it rests upon – is tucked away towards the south of Quintana Roo, away from the sublime beaches of the Caribbean but well worth the visit for those in search of something that little bit different…


One of this state’s only two “magical villages”  (though how Isla Mujeres can be described as a ¨village¨ we have yet to comprehend), it is found just 40km north of Chetumal, which almost borders with Belize. Our interest for visiting had been aroused on hearing the Bacalar Lagoon referred to as the “Lagoon of Seven Colours”, which just had to be witnessed. However, on eagerly heading down to the water’s edge, we discovered that rather than the 7 whole different colours we had naively envisaged, it was actually the lagoon of 7 shades…of blue.

Breath-taking nonetheless, and rivalling the beauty of the Caribbean Sea, it was actually refreshingly different to take a dip in the freshwater lagoon (which for some reason we kept imagining to taste salty). The freshwater aspect must come in particularly handy during the famous Bacalar Lagoon Open Water Competition (usually sometime between April and June) where swimmers could, in theory, quench their thirst during the race, in the very water they are cutting through.

The tiny town is topped off with the delightful and still largely intact, “San Felipe Fort”, which is now an intriguing museum bursting with history regarding numerous attacks on the area from English, French and Dutch pirates, among other nationalities.

Unknown to the masses, what also got our attention was that Bacalar Lagoon is also home to some of the largest stromatolites (microbialites) in the world. Admittedly (and probably like yourself) we didn’t have a clue what stromatolites were until we checked the encyclopaedia, but they are basically enormous living fossils, or rock-like structures, which apparently provide a glimpse into what the world looked like at the very beginning. We would strongly recommend taking a boat trip to have a look, especially since this is one of the few places on earth where such giant formations can be seen.

Keeping it simple, we then went for the perhaps obvious choice of first cooling off in the closest patch of blue to the shore, and then a visit to one of the simple, yet tasty, seafood restaurants, perched right on the lagoon. There, we were able to gaze out at the vast stretch of water, trying to make out all seven shades, while sipping on homemade, freshly-squeezed lemonade, and dipping tortilla chips into our complimentary appetizer of warm refried beans.

To top it all off, we wandered up to the pretty town square as the evening crept in, which is when this tiny town centre comes to life, especially at the weekend. As in most town squares in the region, you are always going to find various stands offering mouth-watering local snacks, visited by all and sundry, but particularly local families out for a warm evening stroll; kids hanging onto the back of the pram and pestering their parents for a delicious treat.

Rest assured, although you are far away from the seaside, there is so much going on that you won’t regret taking the time out for a visit…

Essential tip: don’t forget to bring your biodegradable repellent!

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