Campeche – a small fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico with an exciting past. Famous pirates, raids and destruction shaped the history of the city which captivates people nowadays with its location by the sea and colourful colonial architecture. The unspoilt natural environment is also very mysterious and filled with hidden archaeological wonders.
In 1541, Francisco de Montejo founded the Spanish settlement Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico which soon became the most important port in the region. Before Francisco de Montejo, several seafarers had tried to take over the former Mayan settlement, but they had to surrender because the city was very powerful and was an important trading point even before the Spaniards came. Campeche grew quite qiockly after the conquest and the more trade flourished, the more pirates were attracted to the town. They made raids and robbed several ships just off the coast, giving Campeche its reputation as the “City of the Pirates”. After the city was destroyed in a pirate attack in 1663, the Spanish crown decided to do something about it and invest in fortifications. These Forts are still surrounding the city and are popular tourist attractions in the city.
The centro historico of Campeche has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it charming with its colonial buildings and sleepy ambiance. Visit the beautiful Cathedral and the Zócalo as well as the impressive Forts which have been converted into museums and handicraft shops. The Baluarte de San Carlos currently houses the Museo de la ciudad where you can learn about the history of the city. An archaeological museum with interesting finds from the surrounding archaeological zones can be visited in the Baluarte de la Soledad.
Campeche is a real paradise for seafood lovers. Some regional specialties are seafood soup (caldo de marisco) or a kind of fish lasagna with tortilla, bean puree and tomato sauce (pan de cazón). You can also get all types of local grilled or fried fish with delicious side dishes.
In Campeche, like in Mérida, there is a festive carnival every year and it is even said that the carnival in Campeche is one of the oldest. The city fills with life, people in costumes, food stalls and colourful parades. One of the highlights is the crowning of a royal couple. If you are not in the city at carnival time, but maybe you are a pirate fan, there is a pirate show three times a week with special light and sound effects. During the day you can also take a tour out into the bay in a replica pirate ship.
Near the town of Campeche is the archaeological site of Edzná which is one example of the Puuc style and extends over 16 km². Edzná was once an important Mayan city that was part of the city state of Calakmul, but was abandoned before the conquerors arrived. Calakmul is a further away and hidden deep in the jungles of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, but is definitely worth a visit. It was once the most powerful city-state alongside Tikal and has enormous pyramids which you can still climb on today.