If you are wondering what are the best things to do in Campeche and the best places to visit, this post will answer all your questions about this beautiful and often underrated colonial city of Mexico.
In this Campeche travel guide I will share everything you can do in Campeche city (also called Francisco de Campeche) and state of Campeche, how to move around, and all the practical tips you need to plan your own amazing itinerary in this amazing underrated Mexican State.
When I explored the beautiful city of Campeche I was on a Yucatan road trip, driving from Bacalar, which is also another amazing spot that you shouldn’t miss. More about it at the end of the post.
After Bacalar, I drove all the way north towards Calakmul and obviously explored that part of Mexico for a week to continue all the way through Campeche, including Candelaria, the Laguna de Termino, down to Miguel Colorado until I finally reached the multicolored walled city of Campeche
THINGS TO DO IN CAMPECHE MEXICO – TRAVEL GUIDE
Things to do in Campeche Mexico
Campeche’s historic center with its old city walls is a Unesco World Heritage Site, since 1999 and it still conserves its ancient walls and system of fortifications, designed to defend this Caribbean port against pirate attacks from the sea.
I loved the unique vibe of this city and its historical feel.
I was walking through the chequerboard of the historical center, fascinated by the pastel-colored walls, the baroque architecture of the old buildings the unexpected creativity manifested in the interior design of coffee’ shops and restaurants, and churches.
Here below find all the things you can do in Campeche city and Campeche state.
1. Take a walking tour and learn about Campeche history
Its historic Fortified Town has been built by the Spanish founders when they realized that it needed extra protection from the pirates’ attacks.
In fact, being a harbor town and the second most important commercial center in the Gulf of Mexico, after Merida, made Campeche one of the most haunted cities by the aggressive pirates and corsairs in the Caribbean sea.
Later on, at the beginning of the 18th century, in order to reinforce the protection, another two forts were built in addition to the hexagonal walls, the redoubt of San Jose on the East Hill of the village and the fuerte San Miguel on the West Hill, as well as the batteries of San Lucas, San Matias and San Luis, examples of the military architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. (SOURCE – UNESCO SITE)
Among other historical buildings, you must visit, Plaza Mayor, overseen by the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and several other churches, scattered around the historical center, the Toro theatre and the municipal archives.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is, in fact, one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is baroque in style, with two large towers, and was built in 1705.
The Museum of Sacred Art is also located here. Entrance to the cathedral is free.
A walk around downtown Campeche
A 2-hour walk around the city with a local guide. Starting from Parque Principal, we will walk through downtown streets, discovering and learning about Campeche’s history. The sites include House No. 6, Cathedral of Campeche, San Francisquito Curch, Sea Gate, San Carlos Fort, Soledad Fort, Tukulna, and Land Gate.
2. Sit in one of the cafes on the popular street 59
The historical center is brimming with pretty colorful streets and beautiful buildings, small restaurants, churches, and museums.
In particular, called 59 which connects the 2 main doors of the city, Puerta de Mar y Puerta de Tierra.
On the side of Puerta de Mar, you will see also the tourist office where you can get information on local events and things to do.
On the Puerta de Tierra, they normally have a night show on the weekend around 7 pm where local actors will narrate their history.
But make sure you check with the tourist office as they may change the schedule according to season.
3. Enjoy the sunset from the Malecon, the seaside road that runs across the city.
Beautifully designed to favor runners and bikers, the Malecon (sea promenade) is a great place where to hang out at sunset, both because the temperature is bearable and you can enjoy amazing views over the Gulf of Mexico.
4. Browse around the local market
That was an experience, full of colors. The market is very crowded so watch the purse, but you will enjoy watching the locals chatting singing, dancing, and making deals over products of any different types.
The fruit and veggie stalls were my favorites, so nicely organized in many different patterns of shapes and colors and precise order. If you need anything…just go to the Market and you will find it.
5. Stay in one of the charming haciendas
Right in town, by the “Puerta de Tierra” in Calle 59 is located the Hacienda Puerta Campeche, a Starwood Luxury collection signature.
It is a cute little jewel in the historical city, to make your stay even more enjoyable with a full immersion in history and luxury.
If you haven’t heard about the haciendas in the Yucatan peninsula, I have got you covered as well.
Similar to that within the same group of Haciendas of the Luxury Collection is the stunning and elegant Hacienda Uayamon located at 30 minutes distance from the city.
6. Visit Fuerte de San Miguel
If you are not joining a guided tour, the Fuerte de San Miguel would be a great place to start your self-guided itinerary of the City. It’s in fact one of the most emblematic buildings in the city.
It was built in the 18th century with the purpose to reinforce the defense of the city against the pirates’ attack since the fortified walls were not enough.
Its rooftop used to have 20 cannons some of which are still there for visitors to see.
You can also enjoy an amazing view of the bay.
Inside the Fuerte de San Miguel, you will now find a small museum of archeology where you can admire a few stelae and other vestiges found in the Calakmul and Becan archeological sites.
7. Visit Xmuch’haltún Botanical Garden
Xmuch’haltún means, “water that springs from the earth” in Mayan language.
You will be able to admire a central fountain that feeds several canals leading to the plants throughout the garden for watering purposes.
The garden includes a large variety of tropical species and Mayan herbal medicine.
The most interesting part is the information about the kinds of herbs and plants that were used in the past for dying fabrics and thatching homes and other interesting functions.
The botanical garden is located in the city center where originally the Baluarte de Santiago was situated.
It’s open every day from 9 am to 4 pm and the entrance fee is 20 MXN (1USD)
8. Visit the Centro Cultural Casa no. 6
Despite the odd name, this building is definitely worth passing by as it’s a great example of Campeche architecture in colonial times.
It’s now home to a library, coffee shop, artisan shops, and tourist information
Address: Calle 57, centro histórico, 24000 San Francisco de Campeche, Campeche.
Opening hours: from 8 am to 9 pm from Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sundays from 9 am to 9 pm
Entry fees: 20.00 MXN
9. Visit Mansión Carvajal
Another significant building that deserves a visit while you are walking around Campeche.
Mansion Carvajal is a beautiful house probably built in the 18th-century home of the landowner Fernando Carvajal Estrada and his wife María Lavalle de Carvajal.
He was also the owner of the largest hacienda in the peninsula, Uayamón, which is now one of the best luxury haciendas in the Yucatan Peninsula
On the second level you can admire its balconies with wrought iron windows and the letters “FCI”, which are the initials of the father of the great landowner.
Opening hours: from 9:00 am to 6 pm
Location: Calle 10 s/n Campeche City
10. Take TRAM tour of Campeche
This fun tour is a ride on old trams that have been refurbished to take tourists aroun Campeche and show them all the historical landmarks of the city while a knowlegdeable guide shares some interesting facts about the history and culture.
There are different itineraries that you can chose from and they all leave from the Plaza Mayor.
The tour costs 100 MXN per person but they need at least 10 participants in order for the tour to take off.
THINGS TO DO IN CAMPECHE MEXICO – TRAVEL GUIDE
Day trips from Campeche
11. Visit the magnificent Archaeological Site of Edzna’
I believe the Edzna ruins are one of the most fascinating and mind-blowing of all, for the dimension and the logistics of their structures most of all.
Walking around those huge perfect buildings you will feel like being taken back in time. Try it and let me know. Sit on the first stairs looking at the main square and shout.
Hear the eco talking back to you. That’s the way they used to communicate with one another. Through perfect architecture tricks.
What is the meaning of Edznà?
Itzá is the name of one population, the Chontal who were living in the city.
For this reason, the neighboring inhabitants were referring to them as the “Itzaes” and Edzna means Casa de los Itzaes (Itzae’s home). This site has been populated from 400 ad to 1450 ad. when it was abandoned.
The archaeological discovery brought to light numerous painted facades that represented gods and mythological creatures in various colors, which reflects a typical architectural characteristic of the “Peten”.
Also, you can find hints of the Chenes, Puuc, and Tardios, all different lineages of the Mayan civilization. (SOURCE – INAH)
How to reach Edzna’ archeological site
The best way is by rental car and drive from Campeche to Edzna, which will give you the freedom to check out other sites in the surroundings.
It’s located 55 km south of Campeche you can get there by car through Route 180 and 261. It is well indicated.
Or you can get there by public transportation either from Champoton or Campeche.
The other option would be by joining a tour from Campeche. The advantage would be that you have a guide and transportation included and you don’t have to worry about the organization.
Also, it’s always a great idea to have a guide when you visit an archeological site since they will be able to share some interesting facts about the site that you wouldn’t know otherwise.
Join a tour to Edzna ruins
4 hour tour from your hotel to Edznà archeological site accompained by a certified guide!
12. Take a tour to Calakmul and Balamku from Campeche
Calakmul archaeological site and biosphere is one of the most magnificent and extensive to see while Balamku, located right in front is one of the most unique for it’s well preserved large frieze.
Both are quite far away from Campeche and if you don’t have a car it’s impossible to visit them in only one day.
This tour is the solution. I need to warn you it’s not for everyone. It’s a 15 hours tour starting from the 5 am pick up. But if you really want to visit Calakmul and you don’t have much time, it’s a great opportunity to do it.
13. Visit Isla Arena
If you are interested in exploring a little off the beaten path, where locals go, Isla Arena could be a great destination.
Located at about 2 hrs and 30 minutes from Campeche on the way to Merida, Isla Arena is a small laidback fishermen’s town where you can relax on a beachfront cabaña and take boat tours to see the flamingos.
In fact, it’s only 40 minutes boat ride from the more popular Celestun home of pink flamingoes colonies.
In Isla Arena, you can also visit the museum of the Mexican Actor Pedro Infante and then relax on the beach.
You can check out Wotoch Ayin: La Casa del Cocodrilo for some kayak tours in the mangrove areas
On the way to Isla Arena or on the way back stop at El Remate, a natural pool with crystal clear spring waters surrounded by lush tropical vegetation where to relax or enjoy some of the activities offered.
It’s quite a popular place among locals so try to get there early on weekdays only to avoid crowds.
14. Visit Champoton
Champoton is one of the biggest towns close to Campeche situated on the Coast on the way to Ciudad del Carmen. There you can visit the spectacular Hacienda San Luis Carpizo if it is still open to the public.
It belonged to Don José María Carpizo, an agricultural producer and it has been restored in 1999 by the Mexican Navy to house the Marine infantry school there.
When I was there I managed to get a tour from some of the militaries who were happy to show me around and share the history of the place.
Then you can enjoy a local dish in one of the seafood restaurants on the beach or if you love fishing you can book a fishing tour.
15. Spend some time on Playa Sabancuy
Campeche is not exactly a place that you go for the beaches. However, if you want to spend some beach time, Sabancuy has one of the best beaches in the area, with white sand and pristine waters.
You can also find some interesting snorkeling boat trips and other activities as the area is becoming more and more prepared for tourism.
Here you can also find nice hotels and posadas where to stay along the coast.
16. See the dolphins in Isla Aguada
On the way to Ciudad del Carmen, before the long bridge across the Laguna de Termino, you will find a small town called Isla Aguada, which translates to “watered island”. Odd, I know!
You wouldn’t have any reason to visit here if it was not for the awesome boat tour that local fishermen offers from the Malecon (seafront promenade).
It’s a 2-hour tour that takes you around the Laguna de Termino, a huge bay where a cute family of dolphins lives freely.
You will stop by a bank of sand in the middle of the lagoon to spot some birds as well and you can swim if you wish.
17. Visit the cenote of Miguel Colorado
Miguel Colorado is a surreal place located only a 2-hour drive from Campeche that is worth visiting if you love nature.
I visited Miguel Colorado during a road trip around the Yucatan Peninsula and I had a blast. I arrived in the small town of Miguel Colorado in the evening and I was lucky to find the only place to stay available at that time.
It was a nice cabaña with external bathrooms and it was kind of creepy at night because I was the only guest.
I arrived just on time for the sunset and I was offered a tour by a local girl to visit a bat cave. I was curious and I accepted.
She took me on her motorbike in the middle of a field and then we walked up to a hill at the edge of a huge cave waiting for the bat to come out.
When the night had come it was fascinating to see all the bats coming out and the owls trying to catch them for their dinner.
During the night I had a cat visiting me and spending the night with me which was nice but odd.
When I talked to the lady who was managing the cabañas the following morning and I told her about the cat, she smiled and told me that it was there to protect me from the snakes.
That freaked me out for a moment but I was happy to learn about that the following day and grateful for my random guardian angel.
Early morning I drove up to the Cenote and was happy to learn that I arrived right before two coach busses full of people.
I enjoyed visiting the cenote in tranquillity, swimming, and kayaking around by myself.
You can easily spend the entire day in Miguel Colorado cenote, and enjoy all the available activities, from the zipline, hiking, bird watching, biking, and more.
Opening hours – from 8 am to 5 pm every day
Entry fee – it depends on the package you choose and the activities you prefer. Starting from 200 MXN (10 USD)
18. Visit the Mayan Ruins of Xtampak
Located in the north of Campeche, Xtampak is the ancient city of the Chenes region. Its name means “In front of the wall” and it’s considered one of the largest and most important cities in this region.
It hasn’t been excavated as much as the other popular sites of Campeche like Calakmul and Edzna, but visiting it is still a remarkable experience.
Xtampak entrance fees
- Entrance fee: $65 MXN (US$3.5).
Mexican nationals and foreign residents of Mexico get free admittance on Sundays.
Xtampak opening hours
- Opening hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily.
19. Learn how to make the famous jipi japa straw hats
I am sure you know the famous Panama hats, right? the one that is not made in Panaman but in Ecuador! I bed you didn’t know! Well there is also the Mexican version of it and it’s called jipi japa And the true original one is made in a small town of Santa Cruz in Campeche.
The art of making straw hats by hand has been transferred from generation to generation and they are still doing it the old way sitting in low chairs in caves. If you get there in the moring you may have the chance to see how they do it.
It’s on your way to Isla Arena so you can combine the two sites in one day.
➢ Do I need travel insurance in Mexico? Yes, you do! I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens, I am covered. I have been using Safety Wing, and I find it quite fair, covering a lot for its pricing level. Depending on your needs or you can compare different insurance companies on this useful site, TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase. If you are undecided yet, you can read my post on the best travel insurance for Mexico for more clarity.
THINGS TO DO IN CAMPECHE MEXICO – TRAVEL GUIDE
How to get to Campeche
Now that you know all the reasons why you should visit Campeche let’s talk about how to get there.
Getting to Campeche by plane
There is an airport in Campeche but no international flights get there.
You will be able to connect in Mexico city though if you want to fly into Campeche.
Getting to Campeche by bus
You can get to Campeche by bus from Cancun, Merida, Tulum, Bacalar, and Chetumal among others, depending on your itinerary and where you are coming from.
Check on the ADO bus website for schedule and price. And you can also book your bus ticket online.
Getting to Campeche by car
Getting to Campeche by car is the best option if you have plenty of time on your hand and you love to explore.
You can book the car to be picked up at the airport where you are landing whether it’s in Cancun or Merida, and start your road trip itinerary from there.
I would just make sure you drop off the car in the same location where you pick it up in order to avoid high drop-off surcharges.
You could check car rental prices on Discover Cars platform where you can compare prices among different car rentals and find the best deals.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
THINGS TO DO IN CAMPECHE MEXICO – TRAVEL GUIDE
The Best Mayan Sites to Visit in Campeche
Besides Edzna, situated only 1 hour from the city Campeche and the lesser known but very intriguing Xtampak there are many other incredible archeological sites in Campeche that are worth mentioning.
Since I have talked about them in another post I am just linking to the other page in case you want to learn more.
Keep in mind though that you will definitely need a car if you want to explore those places as they are located in remote areas that are not always well connected by local transportation.
I will also include the distance from Campeche for your convenience.
Balamku Archeological Site – 242 km / 150 miles
Calakmul archeological site and Biosphere – 242 km / 150 miles
Chicanna’ ruins – 288 km/ 178 miles
Hormiguero – 318 km / 197 miles
Xpuhil – 297 km / 184miles
THINGS TO DO IN CAMPECHE MEXICO – TRAVEL GUIDE
Things to do in Campeche: final thoughts
As you can see there are so many interesting places to visit in Campeche even though it’s lesser talked about compared to other regions in the Yucatan Peninsula.
So make sure you keep it in your mind when you are planning your Yucatan intinerary, especially if you are coming during the day of the dead celebration.
Make sure you don’t miss a stop to Pomuch in that time of the year.
✨ Mexico Travel Planning Guide ✨
👉 Do I Need Travel Insurance to Travel to Mexico?
I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.
🚰 Can I Drink Tap Water in Mexico?
No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.
🚗 Is It Safe to Drive in Mexico?
The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I recommend Discover Cars because the site offers the option to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.
Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.
📱 Will My Phone Work in Mexico?
It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!
🤕 Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico Right Now?
The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around.
Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping a low profile.
Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:
💉 Do I Need Any Vaccine to Travel to Mexico?
No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico
🇲🇽 Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Mexico?
If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.
Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.
It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa
💸 Where Do I Find the Best Travel Deals for Mexico? 💸
A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:
👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals