Loreto Baja California Sur
Loreto, Baja California Sur
Weather – Desert. Little rainfall.
Daily average temperature: January 23.5 C/74.3F, April 28.9C/84F, July 35.8C/96.4F, October 33.1C/91.6F
Rainy season: Not much rain in the desert. High humidity June to October. Windy in fall and winter. Hurricane season June to November 30.
High Tourist Season – Fall to Late Spring
Loreto is a small tourist town featuring many historic buildings including the mission church Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. It was one of the first areas to be settled on the Baja due to the springs found close by. It continues to attract visitors with the warm winter weather, fantastic fishing, sea sports and golf. It is a favorite stopping point for drivers as they travel down the peninsula on Highway 1.
Before the arrival of the first Spanish in 1533, indigenous peoples lived around Loreto as witnessed by the numerous pinturas rupestres or cave paintings in the area. The civilizations that created the art are believed to have resided here and in the mountains to the west between 1000 BC to 1300 AD. The paintings are beautifully preserved due to the dry climate and inaccessibility of the mountain locations. The black and red drawings show hunters with weapons and reptiles, birds and animals. (They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
In 1535 Cortez tried unsuccessfully to found a colony in La Paz. More unsuccessful attempts were made by the Spanish but failed primarily due to native unrest and the harsh desert climate.
October 19, 1697, the Jesuit missionary Juan María de Salvatierra, disembarked from the “Santa Elvira” with a few soldiers and followers at the Monqui settlement known as Conchó. The Monqui were nomatic hunter-gatherers who lived on resources provided in the Sea of Cortez. They had small autonomous communities that often fought each other for location and resources. They lacked agricultural skills and did not produce pottery or metal work.
The Spanish built a small chapel and wooden cross and a few days later on October 25, they formed a procession and carried an image of our Lady of Loreto brought from Spain to the chapel and dedicated it to her. Salvatierra is credited with founding the first mission of the Californias, the “Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto” The stone mission church bears a title over a door of “mother of the “Cabeza y Madre de las Misiones Baja y Alta California (“Head and Mother of the Missions of Lower and Upper California.)
The mission and area became the base for the Jesuit missions throughout the Californias – first in the vicinity and then moving northward – each approximately a day’s travel apart from one another. In 1768 after the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico, the mission was taken over by the Franciscans and then the Dominicans in 1773. The system ended in 1829 mainly due to the extinction of the native communities through epidemic disease.
The Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821) was a non-event for the scarcely populated and remote area.
Loreto was the capital of the Californias from 1697 to 1829. The capital then moved to La Paz because of an extreme flood and has remained there since.
After the Mexican American War in 1847, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States forced Mexico to sell their land in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. The US acknowledged Mexico’s ownership of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Regardless, in 1853 William Walker led an attack on La Paz but was quickly driven out of Mexico.
Tourism started to flourish much later. In the 1970’s the Trans-peninsular highway, Highway 1 – was completed from Tijuana to the tip at Cabo San Lucas. Baja California Sur achieved statehood in 1974. Tourism began to increase as adventurers began to discover the Baja and the desert paradises it provides.
Small scale tourism drives Loreto’s economy. Sports fishing and other water sports are key drawing cards for tourists from the north. Unlike other small communities such as Mulege to the North, Loreto has an international airport that can attract large number of tourists. 2 hour direct flights link Loreto (LTO) to Los Angeles (LAX) on AeroCalifornia and to Ontario, CA (ONT) on Aeromexico.. Aeromexico also flies into Loreto from Hermosillo (HMO) which is their hub to many US and Mexican cities.
Attractions and Activities
The mission continues to provide religious services and has a small museum associated with the early history. It is the start of what is known as the Camino Royal or Royal Road which follows north to Sonoma California along the Spanish Mission corridor – linking one mission to another.
Loreto is considered a Baja California’s hot spot for fishing – especially just east of Isla Carmen. Dorado (Mahi Mahi or dolphin fish) snapper and tuna are plentiful.
Kayaking is a great way to explore the nearby islands and there are many rental firms in town as well as organized guides. Scuba diving is spectacular and there are many interesting caves and fish to discover nearby.
A key draw for many tourists is inexpensive golf. Loreto offers a championship golf course – renovated in 2007 – is located just to the south of town.
Loreto whale watching is offered by many tour companies that provide guided tours to watch the migration of the giants.
Guided tours are required to visit the ancient petroglyphs. Some go by 4×4, some by mule.
Loreto is also a great place to hang, read a book, dance to all kinds of rhythms and enjoy life on the Baja.
Major Events Festivals
May – Governors Cup Fishing Tournament
July – Fishing Charity Tournament that started in 1993
July Loreto Dorado International Fishing Tournament.
September – Dorado Cup Fishing Tournament
September 8 The Our Lady of Loreto Festivities
September – Loreto 400 off road race linking mountain towns including Comondú and San Javier
October 19 – 25 Fiestas de la Fundación de Loreto – celebrating the Founding of the city.
December – Loreto 300 Off road race.