What to do and see in Campeche
Finally, I stayed two weeks in Campeche, charmed by the tranquility of its old walled city, declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, making it my duty to prove that it deserves more than a day’s visit.
Here is my definitive guide to Campeche, with all the places of interest not to be missed and activities to do, my restaurant suggestions, my hotel recommendations for all budgets and of course my best advice for enjoying it!
The Unmissable Attractions
1. Explore the City Walls
When the Spanish arrived, the ancient Mayan city of “Ah Kin Pech” was destroyed to become the most important port in the Yucatan.
Due to its strategic location, it became the target of numerous pirate attacks. To protect it, a wall was erected around the city.
Today, the best place to walk the wall is the Baluarte San Francisco.
There is a small piracy museum with important historical figures and various objects, but it is above all its access to the walls which makes it a great must-see in Campeche : you can walk between the Baluarte San Francisco and the Baluarte San Juan and observe the pretty, colorful city from above. Moreover, it is interesting to see the colonial city on one side and the one that developed subsequently on the other. Quite a contrast!
- Visit the San Francisco baluarte: entrance 40 pesos, Mon-Sun 1am to 5pm
2. The City Museum
Located in the Baluarte de San Carlos (which was the first city wall to be built), the Museo de la Ciudad showcases the city during the colonial era. Don’t forget to go down the stairs to see the old prison and climb onto the fortification, even if this portion is not very big. Do not hesitate to ask questions!
- Visit the city museum: Tue-Sat from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Corner of Calle 63 and Calle 8, Campeche.
3. The Mayan Architecture Museum
The museum is located in the Baluarte de la Soledad. It offers an introduction to the different Mayan architectural styles (Peten Norte, Río Bec, Chenes and Puuc) by presenting pieces (stelae, columns, sculptures, etc.) from many important sites such as Calakmul and Edzna.
- Visit the Mayan Architecture Museum: entry 90 pesos, Tue-Sun 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
4. Independence Square
Impossible to miss because it is the heart of the city! Here, the Campechanos come to sit on the benches and chat. Here’s what to do and see on the square:
- The cathedral
- The cultural center El Palacio,
- The House no6
- Have a coffee at the center kiosk
- Enjoy live music on weekend evenings
- See the “Celebremos Campeche” projection Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m. on the facade of El Palacio
- Take the tourist tram which offers a 45min-1h journey through the main attractions and neighborhoods of Campeche.
5. The Cathedral
The Catedral de la Purísima Concepción de Campeche is a baroque style building with some neoclassical elements, which was built between 1540 and 1760. Its interior is actually quite simple, but I really liked its interior patio. It’s worth checking out!
6. El Palacio Cultural Center
I passed by several times without realizing that it was a museum, even though it is right in the main square.
It is a museum that presents several aspects of the city of Campeche through 4 thematic rooms and some 200 objects, as well as projections and models that allow you to understand the evolution of the city.
My favorite goes to the boat simulator : an unusual activity, where you find yourself in a boat that crosses the ocean from Campeche to Spain and faces several dangers between storms and pirate attacks. Children might like it!
- Open Tue-Sun 10am-5pm
7. Casa Cultural Center No. 6
We find ourselves here in a typical house of a high society family from the colonial era and we discover the interior as it must have been in the 19th century with the bedroom, the living room, the office, as well as as its interior patio with Moorish arches decorated with pretty colored stained glass windows.
- Visit Casa No. 6 : entry 20 pesos, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I recommend the guided tour (free, optional) to understand the place a little more, even if it is a very quick overview.
8. Strolling through the Streets
Not only is it easy to walk – and frankly impossible to get lost – through the old town of Campeche which has retained its very linear colonial layout , but it is very pleasant to discover its colorful facades which have retained the colors of yesteryear, green, yellow, pink…
Get lost in the random streets, and take the opportunity to see:
- Iglesia del dulce nom de Jesus: the first thing I thought when I saw the church was that it is exactly how you imagine a Mexican church, with its small bell towers and its uniform facade. At the corner of Calle 55 and Calle 12
- Iglesia San Jose: it is easily recognizable thanks to its beautiful facade covered with azulejos (decorated earthenware tiles). Today, the church brings together artisans who come to sell their works. Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On the corner of Calle 10 and Calle 63.
- Iglesia San Roque or San Francisquito : built in the 17th century, it is one of the most beautiful churches in Campeche. It has a simple facade, but the interior is interesting with 5 pretty baroque style altarpieces. Open every day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Corner of Calle 12 and Calle 59
- The Mansion Carvajal : it is a building built at the beginning of the 18th century, with magnificent architecture with Arab influence. Its access is limited because they are now offices, but you can enter the lobby to take photos. On Calle 10 between 51 and 53
- Casa San Pablo : it is a cultural center that offers different temporary exhibitions throughout the year, presenting artists from Campeche. It’s small, but access is free, take advantage of it! Calle 59, between calls 14 and 16.
- Calle 59: this is the pedestrian street that links Puerta de Tierra and Puerta de Mar. It is lined with restaurants, bars and cafes.
- Baluarte Santiago: this is where the Xmuch-Haltun Botanical Garden is located . The term “botanical garden” seemed exaggerated to me because it is very small (it can be done in 5 minutes) but if you are looking for a place to sit on a bench surrounded by plants and trees, why not! Admission 15 pesos, Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
9. Cuauhtémoc Building
This is a beautiful hidden secret of Campeche! Or maybe it’s not so secret, but I discovered it by pure chance and found almost no information about it.
It is a superb building (mid 18th -19th century) located on the corner of Plaza de la Independencia. Upon entering we find a large interior patio occupied by a café, which certainly offers a nice place to take a cool break, but I really recommend going up to the 2nd floor.
Firstly, we find a few premises occupied by businesses, but also – I understand – a small hotel without surveillance. In any case, no one cared about my presence, which allowed me to explore the building a little.
It is a long 3.5km promenade facing the Gulf of Mexico which offers the ideal place to simply walk, cycle or jog with its different reserved lanes.
But it is also, and above all, the best place to see the sunset!
11. Fuerte San Miguel
The Fuerte San Miguel is a fortification built at the end of the 18C on the hill of Buena Vista to counter the possible invasion of England (which ultimately never happened). Today there is the Museum of Mayan Culture which houses magnificent pieces such as the Calakmul jade mask .
Things to see around Campeche
In addition to its historic center, there are several places to see in the Campeche surroundings. Please note that some sites are close and others are several hours away: calculate your route carefully!
Founded in 600 BC, Edzna was the most important Mayan city in eastern Yucatan, as well as a powerful capital.
Indeed, as the buildings are only partially restored and it is very little known to tourists, I found it to be particularly interesting to explore!
In addition, its main pyramid is fascinating with its vaulted landings, very unusual as a Mayan architectural style.
- Visiting Edzna: don’t miss my complete guide to Edzna with all the practical information and details on this must-see in Campeche!
13. Hacienda Uayamon
Hacienda built in the 17th century located very close to Edzna, it became at its time one of the most important in the state of Campeche thanks to the variety of its production (cattle, sugar cane, corn, “palo de tinte” a wood used as a dye, and henequen , an agave).
Today it is a truly magnificent luxury hotel, but if you do not want to stay at Hacienda Uayamon, it is also possible to visit the places which have been very well preserved and imagine life there. colonial era. It’s worth checking out!
14. Rio Bec Route
It is an important archaeological route in Mexico of 270km which links Escarcega and Chetumal in Quintana Roo, and where there are many Mayan sites little known to tourists such as:
-Becan: A must-see in Rio Bec, Becan contains secret passages inside Structure VIII, which were probably used for religious ceremonies. Fun to explore! In addition, the site is surrounded by one of the oldest defense systems in Mesoamerica. Entrance 75 pesos, free for children under 13
-Xpujil: the most important of the site is its large temple with 15m high towers, all in the Calakmul reserve . Besides, staying in Xpujil is the best option to discover the surrounding area!
-Chicanna : “House of the Serpent’s Mouth” in Mayan. The site is characterized by the richness of the details of its structures, which, according to some researchers, makes it a place reserved for the elite. There are 7 structures there, including Structure II which is richly decorated with a huge mask of Itzamna, the creator god. 70 pesos, Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
-Balamku (or Balan Ku): “temple of the jaguar” in Mayan, it is a small site famous for its large frieze 17m long and 2.5m high, which represents the order of the universe. Unforgettable! 70 pesos, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
-Hormiguero: its main attraction is Structure II, with a magnificent mask carved into the facade which represents a jaguar with open jaws, surrounded by two warriors. It is true that the site is quite small, but impressive and free. In addition, the caretaker is happy to discuss the site with visitors! Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day
How to visit the Ruta Rio Bec
As there are no local buses, the ideal is to rent a car! The most practical is undoubtedly to stay in Xpujil where there are some interesting accommodation options.
Calakmul was my big favorite in Mexico!
The site is worth it: located in the biosphere reserve of the same name, on the border with Guatemala, it takes 5 hours one way from Campeche, but it is well worth it!
Along with Tikal and Palenque, Calakmul was one of the largest and most important cities in the Mayan world. Today it is a protected UNESCO site and a huge playground for archeology and even outdoor enthusiasts.
The site is beautifully well preserved, there are very few tourists and the multiple structures are buried throughout the forest which allows you to truly feel like an explorer!
In addition, unlike other archaeological sites which are now restricted, one can climb to the top of the Calakmul pyramids. Among them, Structures 1 and 2 are the big stars of Calakmul and the most imposing on the site.
With its 50m height, Structure 2 is one of the highest pyramids in the Mayan world!
- Visit Calakmul: discover my complete guide to Calakmul with all the practical information and my advice for organizing your visit!
16. Santa Rosa Xtampac
There are more than 30 “ Chenes ” sites, an architectural style similar to Rio Bec. One of the most notable is Santa Rosa Xtampac, “old walls” in Mayan, which was a regional capital for 850 years.
There are several rather unusual elements for the region, such as altars, steles on which important events are engraved with their date, and pyramidal constructions linked by a path.
- Visit Santa Rosa Xtampac : open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon-Sat, entry 75 pesos
It is a Mayan community located 2 hours from Campeche (on the road to Mérida in the Yucatan ) where the majority of the population makes a living from crafts.
The big star here is the “Jipi” hat, woven with fiber from jipijapa, a palm tree that was imported from Guatemala.
These hats are exported throughout Mexico and internationally: today, Becal produces 68% of the Panama hats sold around the world!
18. Aguada Island
It is a small fishing village located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna de Terminos which is a protected area. There are virgin beaches, ideal for enjoying the sun and the sea in complete tranquility.
But we also come to observe dolphins by boat. The tour also takes you to El Arenal, a small island where there are several seabirds such as pelicans, herons, etc. Moreover, there are no less than 279 species of birds in the reserve!
- Visit Isla Aguada : from Campeche, it takes around 2 hours to get there. Fishermen who offer 2-hour boat tours from the quay. Don’t forget glasses and sunscreen.
19. Caves of Xtacumbilxunaán
Traditionally, caves have had great importance for the Mayans, whether as a place of ceremony or a natural water source for example. Among them, one of the most impressive to visit in Campeche is Xtacumbilxunaan.
In reality, it is rather a complex of caves, which represents one of the most important on the Yucatan Peninsula.
You have to go through the entrance, about twenty meters high, and take a ladder for some 350m. Inside, we find a fascinating universe: temples, ceremonial centers, ponds, stalactites, stalagmites, and Mayan remains.
It takes approximately 1h30 to visit the site on 3 floors. To take the exploration further, it is possible to explore other corners of the cave with a guide and even go abseiling or climbing.
- Visit Xtacumbilxunaan : it is located on the border between Campeche and Yucatan, just under two hours from the city of Campeche. The best is to rent a car or take a tour from Campeche as there is no public transport going there.
20. Ich Ha Lol Xaan Ecotourism Center
Just 23km from the city of Campeche is Ich Ha Lol Xaan, an eco-tourism center managed by the Hampolol community with the aim of promoting sustainable tourism and environmental protection.
You can do several activities there, such as observing local species (turtles, fish, iguanas, raccoons), swimming in a cenote, kayaking in its crystal clear water river, exploring the jungle by walking on its suspension bridge or living strong emotions in abseiling and ziplining.
How long in Campeche?
It is true that the attractions of the historic center can be visited in one day, but there are also several places to discover in the region. Here are my suggested itineraries in Campeche to see as much as possible in 1, 2 or 3 days:
1 Day Campeche Itinerary
The advantage is that the center is easy to explore on foot because it is relatively small, but you won’t have to hang around too much if you want to see as much as possible in one day in Campeche.
- In the morning, head to Baluarte San Francisco to walk on the city walls
- Continue to Baluarte San Carlos to visit the city museum
- Visit the Mayan Architecture Museum
- Discover the attractions of the main square: the cathedral, the El Palacio cultural center and Casa no6
- In the afternoon, after eating, discover the archaeological site of Edzna
It’s also easy to visit Campeche from Mérida in 1 day!
2 Days Campeche Itinerary
In two days in Campeche, take the same route as the first day.
For the 2nd day, there would be several possibilities, but I would definitely recommend the excursion to Calakmul : not only is the site of great historical importance, but it is simply mind-blowing!
You will need to calculate a full day, departure is very early in the morning (5 a.m.-6 a.m.) and return in the evening (8 p.m.-9 p.m.).
3 Days Campeche Itinerary
In three days in Campeche, you will have time to have a good panorama of the region. After Calakmul, which presents a busy day, you will certainly be a little tired (but I repeat: it’s worth it!). To the previous itinerary, add this program for the 3rd day:
- Head to Ich Ha Lool Xaan to swim, relax and stroll around the site
- In the afternoon, back in Campeche you can take the opportunity to get lost in the small colorful streets and take photos, without forgetting the Cuauhtemoc building.
- End your walk at the Malecon to see the sunset!
If you have more motivation and are looking for a more active visit, you can also go to Isla Aguada, the caves of Xtacumbilxunaan or Santa Rosa Xtampak.
Accommodation in Campeche
In two weeks, I had the opportunity to try different accommodations on site. Here are my 3 favorite hotels in Campeche for different budgets, which offer excellent value for money:
- Melisa Hostal: hostel very well located in a beautiful typical house in the center of Campeche , very friendly welcome, small swimming pool, access to the kitchen, clean places and comfortable mattresses. Dormitory bed from just 18 euros per night
- Casa Serena Beautiful Colonial Loft: This is a spacious apartment right in the center of Campeche that offers excellent value for money. With air conditioning, living room, kitchen, terrace, good wifi and breakfast included. It can accommodate 2 to 4 people, from 115 euros per night!
- Hotel Boutique Casa Don Gustavo: an elegant, fully restored 18th century mansion on a pedestrian street in central Campeche. A nice mix between modernity and period decoration, comfortable rooms with air conditioning. Wifi, outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi and a very good à la carte breakfast await guests. From 150 euros!
Where to eat in Campeche
- For breakfast : with their varied options, good wifi, electrical outlets and a very pretty colonial setting, Luan (corner of Calle 14 and 59) and Sotavento (corner of Calle 55 and 14) have quickly become my two must-sees in Campeche for eat a good breakfast and take the opportunity to relax with my laptop.
- Chocol’Ha : if you are a chocolate lover , you can’t miss it! Not only is the address really pretty, with its small tables and its typical Mexican atmosphere, but there are a host of chocolate options, bitter chocolate, milk chocolate or with chili, cake, tamal, pancakes, etc. But above all, take the opportunity to taste one of the many Mexican chocolates in the shop. I made some very good discoveries there! Corner calle 59 and 14. Facebook page
- To treat yourself $$$: if you have a little more budget to spare for a good meal, there are two places worth a detour in Campeche. La Parrilla Colonial (calle 59, between 10 and 8) is a very beautiful place, tastefully decorated, with excellent service, perfect for a romantic evening. There are several Mexican classics there, for my part I tasted the Monterrey arrara ($245MXN), a high quality, very tender meat. If you are more into seafood and fish, go to La Pigua (Av. Miguel Alemán #179-A), ideally at lunchtime. The decor is more classic, undoubtedly less touristy, where we tend to find well-off Campechanos. I fell for theGarlic octopus ($230MXN), truly covered in thin slices of crunchy garlic. Their margarita is also very good!
Campeche Tourist Map
Here is a map to help you locate at a glance all the must-see attractions, nice restaurants and cafes, and be able to best organize your visit to Campeche.
How to get to Campeche
- From Mérida : the journey lasts 2h30, departure every hour, I paid $240MXN with ADO, but prices vary depending on the time and there are therefore cheaper ones.
- From Cancun : the journey lasts 6h30, 4 departures per day, the ticket costs around $300MXN
- From Mexico City : the journey takes 17 hours and the price varies between $800 and $950MXN
By plane :
The “Alberto Acuña Ongay” international airport is located just 10 minutes from the center of Campeche. There are several flights to and from Mexico City (1h50) with Aeroméxico, Interjet and Vivaaerobus.
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