Winter is the most anticipated season for Mexico-bound travelers.
It’s when humidity is under acceptable levels, sargassum isn’t lambasting the pristine Caribbean coast, and several low-cost flights are landing daily in Cancun – and soon enough, the newly-inaugurated Tulum Airport.
One of the huge complaints, however, is how incredibly hard it is to get around the region.
Be it the lack of public transportation, or public transportation that is lacking, unless you rent a car, or you know someone who drives one, you’re left at the mercy of cripplingly expensive private transfers, or costly guided tours to get you to all of those amazing hidden spots.
Fortunately for you, this troubling era of intra-Yucatan travel is nearing its end, as from December, it will become a lot easier to take trips from Cancun due to the new Maya Train – including to this gorgeous city, that is not only hugely underrated, but also one of Mexico’s safest:
Campeche Is One Of Mexico’s Most Beautiful Colonial Cities
San Francisco de Campeche, most commonly known as simply Campeche, is one of the oldest, and most historically-charged cities in Mexico.
Founded by the ‘conquistadores’ – colonizers from Spain – atop a pre-existing native city called Can Pech, after which it was name, it is unique in the sense that it is rich both in post-colonial heritage, and ancient Mayan treasures.
Many of Campeche’s gorgeous 16th century churches and Spanish-era civic buildings were built with stones disassembled from earlier Mayan structures, and though very few traces of the 3,000 dwellings and temples remain, Campeche’s cultural weight remains unmatched.
Back in 1999, it earned UNESCO World Heritage status due to the near-perfect state of preservation of its fortifications and city walls, added by the Spaniards, as well as the traditional architecture.
In fact, Campeche is distinguished for being the only city in North America other than Quebec City, in Canada, to have retained most of its protective walls and ramparts, behind which the colonizers lived, while the Mayan natives were forced to live outside.
Why Should You Visit Campeche?
Strolling Campeche, tourists will be marvelled by the Historic Center, or Centro Viejo, which comprises the walled part of town and concentrates a majority of the colonial monuments, including the Baroque-style cathedral.
Other landmarks include The Mayan Angel, a winged sculpture erected in homage to the mistreated indigenous population, the Monument to Hispanidad, which celebrates Campeche’s standing in the wider Hispanic World, and the imposing Fort of San Miguel.
A little known fact about Campeche is that, much like other Yucatan spots, it straddles the coastline. Not the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, but it still boasts a beautiful Malecón, lined with restaurants, bars, and gift shops, and easy access to beautiful sandy beaches and other pristine swimming areas.
Well-frequented beach zones near Campeche include Playa Caracol, a long stretch of golden sand bounded by a bright-blue ocean, Playa Norte, best known for its extensive row of tall palm trees and youthful atmosphere, and the twin islas of Aguada and Carmen.
Xpicob, described as a rustic place with unparalleled natural beauty, is also a short 10 km drive from the city.
Campeche Is Extremely Safe
Besides being an untarnished colonial gem, Campeche is one of only two Mexican destinations included in the U.S. State Department’s Level 1 Travel Advisory listing. Believe it or not, it is considered as safe as Iceland, Finland, and the like.
Violent crime in downtown Campeche is close to non-existent, and rates of petty crime are far lower when compared to Cancun’s or Tulum’s. This is due to the absence of strong gang activity in the area, as they are mostly centered on Yucatan’s Eastern coast.
In a way, Campeche is the safest destination South of the border, alongside Merida.
How Exactly Will Campeche Get Any Easier To Visit?
The nearest airport to Campeche is Campeche International, which serves both the capital and the entire state, but only hosts flights from Mexico City.
For that reason, reaching Campeche has always been more difficult for American travelers, who must either land in Cancun, in Eastern Yucatan, over 5 hours by car, or Merida International, a smaller airport located in a neighboring state, 2 hours away.
Transportation options have always been limited, and taxi companies have been known to inflate fares at their own will, as private transfers are often the most reliable, and usually only available option. That is, unless you’re willing to overcome fears of driving in a foreign country and renting a car.
Soon enough, however, this will change.
The Maya Train Is Launching This December
From December 1, the long-awaited Maya Train will set off on its inaugural journey from Cancun Terminal, making travel across the Yucatan Peninsula, and into and out of Campeche, a lot easier and more affordable.
The scenic train will serve as many as five states in Southeastern Mexico, including the state of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan, and will greatly improve connectivity in the region, as well as promote safer means of commuting.
From Cancun, travelers will be able to board the Cancun-Merida line, which calls at some of the peninsula’s most popular tourist attractions, including the Chichén Itzá complex and the yellow-tinged city of Izamal, and then continue journeying towards Campeche from Merida.
While the total travel time is yet to be confirmed, we suspect it may be shorter than the five hours it takes to drive there, as train timetables are not affected by road congestion, a major issue across all of Mexico, nor road closures resulting from accidents.
From Cancun, it’s only 5 stops until you reach San Francisco de Campeche.
Find out how much tickets could cost, and what amazing destinations you could discover traveling on the Maya Train on this link.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com