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Campeche, Mexico: Pirates and Pastels

AHOY, matey! AARRRGGHHHH you looking for a colonial town full of rich history unlike anywhere else in Mexico? Set your course for Campeche!

Channel your inner buccaneer while wandering the cobblestone streets lined with pastel buildings that dazzle in the sunlight. Peek inside the stone turrets of the forts and look out towards the horizon of the Gulf of Mexico.

Although Brad and I spent two weeks in Campeche, a few days is all you need to check out this one-of-a-kind city and its nearby Maya ruins. Staying in Merida? Consider Campeche for a fun day trip; it's only a two-hour drive by car.

Below I cover an itinerary for two days in Campeche. It's by no means jam-packed since the best way to enjoy the city is to slow down and appreciate the charming atmosphere.


Centro Histórico

Jumpstart your morning with a coffee and take a leisurely stroll in the picturesque historic center. Admire rows of buildings painted with pastel hues of pink, green, blue, purple, and yellow. The architecture is visually stunning with churches, colonnades, and wrought iron balconies.

Rest your feet at the Plaza de la Independencia and mingle with the locals. The Baroque twin towers of the Catedral de la Immaculada Concepción are a sight to behold. Along the spacious plaza are several trolleys that give tours for $100 pesos ($5 USD) per person. Hop on to enjoy a ride around the center and traditional neighborhoods of Campeche.

Campeche was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1540. The town's strategic location on the Yucatán Peninsula made it an important trade port. The economic prosperity attracted not only immigrants, but pirates as well. Laurens de Graaf, Henry Morgan, and Jean David Nau were among the most famous buccaneers to dock at Campeche.

Following two devastating pirate attacks in 1633 and 1663, the Spanish monarchy ordered the construction of a 1.5 mi (2.5 km) long, 26.2 ft (8 m) high stone wall to surround the entire city. Nine polygonal military baluartes (bastions), eight of which survive today, were equipped with powerful cannons to protect Campeche from any future raids.

The Baluarte de San Carlos on the west side is a must-see. Access to the historical landmark and small museum inside is free. Ring the bell and warn the townspeople if you see any suspicious frigates approaching shore!

Calle 59

Ready for a bite to eat? Check out Calle 59, a pedestrian-only street full of restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The street bisects the historic center and is especially popular at night after the heat of the day subsides.

I highly recommend Santo Taquito y Otros Milagritos for a fresh, flavorful, and affordable lunch. Pull up a teal chair in the middle of the street and handpick a trio of tacos from their diverse menu. The shrimp ceviche taco was my favorite.

Afterward, pop inside a few stores to browse souvenirs, exquisite dresses, and handicrafts. The weather in Campeche can be excruciatingly hot between March and October, so a dose of air conditioning is a welcomed relief. We were practically melting during our visit in May!

Be sure to return at night for dinner and cocktails. Warm string lights zigzag high above providing a delightful al fresco experience. Patroni's is a great choice for juicy burgers and artisanal pizzas. Brad and I devoured the Aspen which included toppings of garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, and Italian sausage. It was one of the best pizzas we had in Mexico.

Fuerte San Miguel

The largest fort in Campeche, Fuerte San Miguel, is an impressive attraction 3.1 mi (5 km) southwest of the historic center. Completed in 1801, the fort features a pentagonal floor plan with turrets, iron cannons, and a wooden drawbridge across the moat.

A ticket to the fort also includes access to the Archaeological Museum of Campeche. Various Maya artifacts including painted pottery, stone-carved stelae, and elaborate jewelry are on display. The most exquisite items of the collection are the intricate jade masks discovered at Calakmul.

TIP: The fort and museum are open Tuesday-Sunday, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM. Tickets are $65 pesos ($3.33 USD) per person. The museum does not have air conditioning, but powerful fans help to circulate air.


The 4.3 mi (7 km) embankment along the waterfront is the ideal place to go for a bike ride. There is a designated walking and bike path that weaves between several sculptures including El Ángel Maya. Rent a cruiser for an hour or two at Pirata Aventurero just a few blocks away from the Malecón.

TIP: Always check over your bike with scrutiny, especially the tire pressure, brakes, and chain!

The Malecón is also a great place to take a stroll and watch a cotton candy sunset. Snap a picture by the Campeche sign and meander between the swaying palm trees. The scenery is breathtaking!

Every evening at 8:00 PM, a free fountain light show with music begins at Fuentes Marinas Poesía del Mar. It reminded me of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino's fountains in Las Vegas, Nevada. Grab a tasty snack from a vendor and watch the mesmerizing display of dancing water.



Ready for an epic adventure to a grand Maya complex full of climbable ruins and relaxed iguanas? Edzna is a hidden gem that many tourists overlook. You'll probably share the site with only a handful of other visitors!

The cheapest way to get here without a tour is via colectivos (shared transportation). Make your way to the corner of Calle Nicaragua and Calle Chihuahua where lines of vans await passengers throughout the day. Ask around to find out which colectivo is departing for Edzna and take a seat.

Colectivos leave when full, so be prepared to wait anywhere from 15-60 minutes. Stock up on snacks and drinks because Ednza does not have any vendors or food options.

The journey takes about an hour and the driver will drop you off at the main entrance. The fare costs $45 pesos ($2.30 USD) each way, or $90 pesos ($4.60 USD) roundtrip, per person. Don't forget to ask the driver about the approximate scheduled pick up times.

TIP: Edzna is open every day, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM. Admission is $85 pesos ($4.35 USD) per person. Cash only. Bathrooms are available nearby the ticket office. Skip a tour guide and save some doubloons because Edzna is DIY friendly.

The ruins of Edzna date from 400 BC to 1500 AD. Many architectural elements reflect the Puuc and Chenes styles. Edzna functioned as a regional capital during the height of its power in the 6th Century.

The first stop is the Grand Plaza. Climb the stairs of the massive structure known as Nohoch Na on the west side. A well-preserved ball court is to the south and the Platform of the Knives is to the north. Behind the ball court is the Temple of the Masks which has two depictions of the sun god, Kinich Ahau, surrounded by astronomical elements.

Head east towards the Acropolis and marvel at the Pyramid of the Five Floors. A magnificent staircase is flanked by multiple rooms with corbeled arches. Atop the pyramid is a latticed roof-comb. Along the base are 86 blocks with carved Maya glyphs. Curved sections of stone are visible on the north side.

The south end of the Acropolis contains the Temple of the Moon with columns leading to interior chambers. Directly across is the North Temple with an array of various architectural styles. Exploring all of the vantage points is a great way to capture amazing photos of this beautiful site.

TIP: Plan to spend at least a few hours at Edzna. Bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of water. The heat is intense!

Final Thoughts

Campeche is an underrated destination in Mexico. The forts, pastel hues, and pirate history make up an idyllic environment worthy of a visit. The laid-back seaside city offers travelers unique attractions and nightlife.

Edzna was one of my favorite Maya sites in Mexico. Although smaller than Palenque, Chichén Itzá, and Uxmal, the climbable ruins provide an immersive experience. Plus you don't have to contend with swarms of tour groups, just easygoing lizards.

Yo ho ho, matey! AKA pirate slang for "have a great time my friend!"