Baja California

Shutterstock/3614553/Jeffery CampbellLaid-back and sunny with all the airs befitting some close-knit island community, the Baja California Peninsula is a distinct and isolated region of Mexico that is simultaneously touristy and desolate. A long, narrow arm of land flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortés on the other, this fabled peninsula reaches southward from the US border for 1300 km. A chain of rugged and barely inhabited mountains splits its tapering length, which has an average width of just 80 km.

Baja's northern reaches are renowned for their high-spirited border culture, with the garish pleasure city of Tijuana at its epicentre - a consistent draw for revellers and day-trippers from the north. Here the old clichés ring as true as ever with strip joints, tequila bars and donkeys painted like zebras in abundance. Conversely, the south is famous for its upmarket resorts of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, home to fine beaches, bars, restaurants and all the amenities you'd expect of well established tourist centres.

But between the tourist hot spots of the far north and south, there is a vast wilderness of untapped potential. Punctuated by empty highways and weird alien landscapes of cacti, vultures and rocks, the interior is popular with free-spirited adventurers who take pleasure in exploring a rambling network of dirt roads and middle-of-nowhere locales. They come to observe whales and dolphins in their natural habitats, explore rugged national parks, discover ancient cave paintings, or merely to enjoy the awe-inspiring and ever-changing desert-scapes. For them, the peninsula, with its hundreds of kilometres of virgin coastline, is a magical place of blue skies, fresh air, solitude and refuge from the rat race north of the border.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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