The Programa Pueblos Mágicos (“Magical Towns Programme”) was an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism, with the support from other federal agencies, to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts and great hospitality.
The Mexican Ministry or Secretariat of Tourism acknowledges that México´s magical experience is not only in the famous sun and beaches, but it is also much more than that. The success of Mexico is due in part to the great Mexican hospitality and culture, which keeps many tourists coming back.
The Government created the ‘Pueblos Mágicos’ program to recognize places across the country that imbue certain characteristics that make them unique, historically significant, with great traditions, and offer magical experiences to its visitors. A “Magical Village” is a place with symbolism, legends, history, important events, festivals, traditions, great food, and fun interactive shopping, day-to-day life – in other words, “magic” in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism. Every Pueblo Magico offers a special experience to the visitor.
The program was launched in 2001 and by 2012 a total of 83 towns and villages in all 31 states have been awarded the title or nomination of Pueblo Mágico. The program created pride, recognition for its local citizens and it was part of the diversification strategy from Secretary of Tourism to promote culture and Mexican traditions.
The program has offered opportunities to citizens to create a living from tourism, and it has made significant contributions to the economies of not only the pueblos but also the entire regions, as visitors’ spending created important jobs in the towns with the most economic needs. Towns with over 5 thousand citizens are receiving more than 20 thousand visitors during the weekends, which contributes to the economy and the well-being of its residents.
Baja California Sur has two Magical Towns: Todos Santos and Loreto. Let us tell you a little more about them.
Todos Santos is a small coastal town in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, on the Pacific coast side of the Baja California Peninsula, about an hour’s drive north of Cabo San Lucas and an hour’s drive southwest from La Paz. Todos Santos is located very near the Tropic of Cancer in the municipality of La Paz.
This little colonial artist town oozes the charm and charisma of an older, more traditional Mexico. The beautiful, vast beaches right outside town attract surfers who enjoy the relatively uncrowded waves. Todos Santos is unspoiled Baja at its best.
The mission at what is now Todos Santos, Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas was founded by father Jaime Bravo in 1723. In 1724 it was renamed Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz. Located across the street to the southwest from the small town plaza, this mission contains the statue of the Virgin of Pilar, which is the focus of Todos Santos’s main festival in November.
More recently, there has been a gradual increase in tourist activity and a boom in real estate development. Handicraft shops, owner-operated art galleries featuring landscape paintings of local scenes (some artists from Guadalajara and other parts of Mexico also exhibit works in Todos Santos), upscale restaurants, boutique hotels and restored colonial buildings have contributed to the gentrification and redevelopment of the town. There a few annual festivals including the Festival de Cine and the Todos Santos Music Festival.
The Hotel California is a favorite stop because of the name associated with the song made famous by the Eagles, even though the song does not specifically reference this particular hotel, nor any other existing hotel.
There are many beautiful beaches within a 15-minute drive of Todos Santos. Playa Las Palmas and Playa Los Cerritos are great beaches for swimming and shell collecting. San Pedrito Point, Los Cerritos, and other local surf breaks attract surfers from around the world. There are many accommodations both at San Pedrito and at Cerritos beach.
Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, was named a “Pueblo Mágico” in 2006.
Loreto (or Conchó) is a resort town and municipal seat of Loreto Municipality, located on the Gulf of California in eastern Baja California Sur state, Mexico. In 2019, the city of 20,385 inhabitants is located about 350 km (220 mi) north of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state. The city is a tourist resort, catering mostly to American travelers, with daily flights from California to Loreto International Airport.
Loreto is the oldest settlement in Baja. It is home to the first mission of all of California, which was established in 1697. With the quaint little town, the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez, and the Coronado islands right offshore, Loreto draws tourists who come to fish, dive, snorkel and relax.
Loreto was the first Spanish colonial settlement of the Viceroyalty of New Spain on the Baja California Peninsula.
The town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries, who found a steady spring of freshwater on this site, as the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. The Jesuits were expelled in 1767, and control of the Baja California missions was given to the Franciscans. In 1769, the Franciscans were ordered to turn over the Baja missions to the Dominican order and accompany the expedition of Gaspar de Portolà to establish new missions in the unexplored northern frontier that became Alta California. The expedition departed from Loreto on March 24, 1769.
There are seven buildings in Loreto from the 18th to the 20th century that are considered historical monuments by the federal government; the most important is the Mission of our Lady of Loreto, which is at the start of El Camino Real (“The Royal Road”), an historic corridor that follows north along the ancient route of the Spanish missions, to its ending in Sonoma, California, USA. In the neighboring town of San Javier are five historical buildings, most importantly the Mission of Saint Francis Xavier (Misión de San Francisco Javier), the best-preserved mission in the peninsula. The ruins of Mission of San Bruno, the first mission of Baja California, founded in 1683 by Jesuit missionary explorer Padre Eusebio Kino. It was ordered abandoned by the Spanish Crown a mere two years later. It is located twenty kilometers north of Loreto.
The Jesuit Missions Museum (Museo de las Misiones Jesuíticas) is located beside the Mission of our Lady of Loreto. It has a collection of religious art, weapons, and tools from the 17th and 18th centuries that were used in the Spanish missions in Baja California.
In the “La Giganta” Mountain Range (“Sierra de la Giganta”), there are cave paintings in canyons and rock shelters. The nearest sites to Loreto are “Cuevas Pintas” (15 km to the west) and “La Pingüica” (60 km to the North). The cave paintings from the indigenous groups of Baja California are world-famous and some of them have been added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.
These two most than magical places are only a few but important reasons to come to Baja California, and we want to be sure that you get to know them. We have day trips and tours to take you to visit and enjoy them at it most!