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Self-drive Mexico: Discover Baja California and the Sea of Cortez

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The skeletal Baja Peninsula, separated from the Mexican mainland by the narrow Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) consists of the bare bones of crinkled mountains sliced through by parched canyons. This pitiless landscape, infused with an ethereal beauty, has always been a challenge to human settlement, from the indian hunters of millennia ago to the Jesuit colonists of the Spanish era. Farmers still scratch a living in miniscule oases and fishermen scour the seas off the bays and cliffs of the craggy coast.

In modern times development has centred on the southern coast which attracts millions of visitors every year lured by the luxury resorts of Cabo. However, away from the fleshpots, you can explore the real Baja, its exquisite, other-worldly interior, its quiet colonial towns, the uninhabited flour-white beaches and aquamarine bays. What better way than in by self-drive car-hire: travel the trans-peninsula Highway 1, completed only in 1973, and discover along it or within easy reach the lesser-known delights of Baja. You’ll find prehistoric cave paintings, abandoned missions and national parks - home to a surprisingly robust wildlife. Stop off at the slow-paced towns San Ignacio and Loreto, both recalling the style and elegance of the Spanish era and from where, January to April, you can view whales and dolphins up close.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Mexico City, transfer to hotel in historic core.

Day 2

Guided tour of Mexico City and Teotihuacan Pyramids.

Day 3

Fly to La Paz, collect car, drive to Loreto.

Day 4

At leisure in Loreto, optional blue-whale watching expedition.

Day 5

Drive from Loreto to San Ignacio.

Day 6

Grey whale-watching expedition.

Day 7

Day at leisure, optional visits to cave paintings and El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve.

Day 8

Drive back to Loreto.

Day 9

Drop off your car and fly to La Paz.

Day 10

Day at leisure to enjoy beach club.

Day 11

Optional kayaking or visit to Todos Santos.

Day 12

Fly from La Paz to Mexico City to transfer to your international flight.

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Places visited on this holiday

Self-drive Mexico: Discover Baja California and the Sea of Cortez

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Mexico City
Mexico City Street

It’s mind-bogglingly huge. Seen from the air, Mexico City, embracing over 20 million people, is a drained lake full of urban sprawl, located at 2,250m. But at ground level it exposes all the different aspects of its centuries of history dating back to the Aztecs: wander the secretive lanes around the city’s heart, the vast zócalo, dominated by its monumental cathedral; turn off a 4-lane highway into the arty colonial quarter of Coyoacán; or take a bus past silvery sky-scrapers down the noble Paseo Reforma – inspired by the Champs Elysées - to shady Chapultepec Park, to appreciate the contrasts. A metropolis with a burgeoning economy, it’s a city that demands attention, and admiration.

When to go
It’s a year-round destination. Most rain falls between Jun and Sep.

Language

Spanish.

Getting local currency

Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are limited to about £100.

Time difference

GMT -6 hours.  

Combines with

A visit to almost anywhere else in Mexico: the domestic flight network is comprehensive and roads are good. Close to the city you might visit the silverwork town of Taxco (170 kms); a bit further afield but accessible by car is a necklet of divine colonial towns, including the artists’ Mecca San Miguel de Allende (234 kms).

Getting there

There are direct flights from London taking around 12 hours.

Key events
Independence Day, 16 Sept, celebrations throughout the city
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 12 Dec: Not a public holiday, but it is Mexico's biggest religious festival of the year. The day is celebrated with a mass ceremony and a traditional fair in her honour. The day is packed with free concerts on the plaza of Basilica de Guadalupe, in a suburb of the city. 
Day of the Dead, Nov 1st - 2nd, celebrated throughout the country.

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Baja California
Kayaking in Baja California
Baja is that knobbly finger of desert stretching 1,300km south from California, separated from the Mexican mainland by the Sea of Cortés. Arid, sun-scorched and cut through by canyons, it is sparsely populated: the interior is peppered with colonial Jesuit missions and cave paintings, but it’s the southern coast, with its chalk-white sand beaches and translucent aquamarine seas, which attracts most of the visitors. The attractive Gulf coast colonial town of Loreto is unspoilt and a great holiday base, as is La Paz.

With between 300-360 days of sunshine per year it’s a magnet for winter holidays. It’s during this season too that grey and humpback whales congregate to breed in the lagoons here.
 
When to go

Baja is a very attractive winter sun destination, with temperatures in the 20s: comfortable on the beach and for energetic pursuits such horse riding, hiking, golf and kayaking.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Mexican pesos. Notes can be withdrawn from the ATMs in La Paz and Loreto using a UK credit or debit card (limit about £100 per day. Tell your bank in advance you are going to Mexico).

Time difference

GMT -7 hours.

Combines with
A visit to Mexico City (2.5hrs by air), Mexico’s colonial cities (Guadalajara  1hr 45 mins by air) and the Copper Canyon (flight or ferry to Los Mochis across the gulf).
Getting there

The flight time from Mexico City is 2.5 hrs. You can also fly to Baja (La Paz, Loreto or Los Cabos) via the USA: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.

Key events

Whale-watching season Jan-Mar.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Self-drive Mexico: Discover Baja California and the Sea of Cortez

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Self-drive Mexico: Discover Baja California and the Sea of Cortez

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