Discover The Turquoise Gem Of Mexico’s Yucatán

Known as the Lake of Seven Colors, Lake Bacalar, a 26-mile-long, mile-wide body of fresh water on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, mimics the Caribbean Sea in its turquoise color and crystal clarity. It offers visitors an unusual, tranquil, wave-free experience in a freshwater lake. It’s a great spot for a relaxing weekend retreat on the Yucatán, away from the popular beaches of the nearby Riviera Maya.

The entire Yucatán Peninsula is rich in history and culture, influenced by the original Maya inhabitants as well as the Spanish. Even pirates got into the act in the early 1700s and attempted to take Bacalar from the Spanish in a bloody battle. The town’s fort, Fuerte de San Felipe, built of stone in the shape of a four-pointed star and ringed by a now-dry moat, was built shortly after the pirate attack. Now it houses a museum with plaques in both English and Spanish. From the top, you can enjoy magnificent views of the lake.

A public beach club, Balneario Ejidal, provides walk-in access to the lake (for about 50 cents), along with a restaurant, palapa-covered picnic tables, a craft market, and a water slide.

You can also access the lake haven via the boat launch at Kai Pez. Tour operations offer excursions on the lake. These include a visit to the stunning Cenote Azul, an open cenote (sink hole) of dazzling, clear blue water strewn with stalactites and stalagmites, for about $37. A must-visit for divers and snorkelers.

With the favorable exchange rate of U.S. dollars to Mexican pesos, my wife Diane and I got a comfortable room in the town of Bacalar for only about $32 a night. It was at the funky little Casita Carolina guesthouse, with direct lake access. A couple of hundred yards of meticulously maintained, lush lawn gives way to the shimmering aqua-green waters of Lake Bacalar, where a wooden, raised walkway leads out to the dock. A strategically hung hammock invites you to catch a nap over the water rippling below.

When hunger strikes, make the short walk into town. With ample green space, gently swaying palms, and stone sculptures of Maya deities, Bacalar is pleasant to stroll through. We made our way to Pizzeria Beatilla, a small bistro operated by an Italian family. A delicious dinner of pepperoni pizza and veggie lasagna set us back $11, including drinks.

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