Take other traveler’s opinions with a grain of salt. I heard that Campeche was boring and a mistake to go there. But a friend of mine, Juan-Carlos grew up there and I wanted to see the city.
While Juan Carlos had given me a list of what to see, do and eat. I also looked at the guidebooks and discovered the city was a UNESCO World Heritage site and used to be a walled city to defend against pirates.
As it’s a smaller town, it isn’t much of a tourist attraction and nearly no English is spoken. The climate is tempered with hot days and cool nights, which was welcomed after baking in Merida.
I arrived in the city with a hostel in mind and found myself in a beautiful cobblestone, colonial area in front of a magnificent cathedral. The streets were impeccably clean with no litter and police regularly patrolled the streets.
Normally you would think this would be due to crime but people here are incredibly nice. Everyone smiles and when I had no idea what I was trying to order to eat they patiently helped me understand what was available (note: no water in the market, it’s tea, cola or orange juice).
But what struck me the most was the city at night. My hostel looked onto the Plaza Principale and at night the city is aglow. While many of the places I’ve been so far have the colourful colonial pastels, none of them look so brilliant at night.
Campeche: A State and a City
A port city on the gulf of Mexico, with beautiful colonial architecture, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Campeche is two hours from Merida, which is much more popular with travelers. Oddly enough there seems to be a rivalry with nearby Merida that was so bad politically Campeche was once in the Yucatan but split into its own state because of issues.
You can walk nearly everywhere, although it’s so hot many people take the bus and taxis. Things are more expensive within the historic centre. I stayed at the Monkey Hostel which overlooked the city square although sadly I heard it changed ownership and is getting horrific reviews on TripAdvisor, which is sad.
What to See in Campeche
Most of the tourism efforts are within the historic centre so understandably prices are higher here at restaurants and shops.
There aren’t a lot of significant sites in Campeche other than the fortified walled historic centre which was created to ward off pirates. For me this is the perfect city, instead of feeling like you need to go see monuments you can just relax, hang out in cafes, walk down to the docks to see fishermen or go to a market that is actually used by locals instead of selling tourists trinkets.
Take a walk along the malacon (boardwalk) and you’ll hit most of the major things you want to see. If you’d like to see more you can find the Maya ruins of Ednza less than an hour away. While they are smaller than those in the Yucatan like Chichen Itza or Tulum in the Mayan Riviera, they are much less crowded.
Where to Eat in Campeche
I highly recommend Potros taqueria, a family run restaurant packed with locals. Get the potrada feliz, you won’t regret it.
Being on the water, Campeche is known for great seafood and especially shrimp. There is no beach but there is a great waterfront with plenty of seafood restaurants. As tourism isn’t a focus for the city prices are very reasonable.
How to Get to Campeche
The ADO bus has routes to Campeche from several cities. Merida is a two hour bus ride for 264 pesos ($14 USD). Although Cancun is much farther away, the six hour bus ride costs 724 pesos ($38 USD).