Loreto Attractions | Things to do in Loreto
Loreto is a place full of contrasts, featuring great natural beauty and majestic landscapes made up of the sea, islands, desert, and the imposing Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. Loreto forms part of the largest marine nature reserve in the country called the Loreto Bay National Marine Park, where the waters are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife, including more than 30 different species of marine mammals. Without a shadow of a doubt, nature has gifted the local people and frequent visitors with an exceptional place to try fun recreational activities, which range from tours of the historic downtown area and mountain bike tours to scuba diving, sport fishing, and golf.
Our Lady of Loreto Concho Mission
Founded in 1697 and considered to be the head of all the missions in Upper and Lower California, the Our Lady of Loreto Concho Mission was the first successful Jesuit mission in the peninsula. The priests then expanded from here and founded the rest of the missions in Las Californias. There are a number of relics that you can still find here, including liturgical artifacts, oil paintings, the main churrigueresque-style Baroque altarpiece, and the original sculpture of the Virgin Our Lady of Loreto.
Jesuit Missions Museum
This museum is located next to the parish church and contains a vast cultural legacy, divided into seven permanent rooms and one temporary display. Inside them you'll see collections that tell the history of the Californian missions, covering everything from the period pertaining to the discovery of the Americas to that of the Mexican Conquest. You'll also find antique religious artifacts, paintings and sacred sculptures from the 17th and 18th century, bells, and many historic documents.
San Francisco Javier Mission
The San Francisco Javier Mission is located about 20 miles to the southwest of Loreto, in an imposing setting formed by the wild peaks and sheer ravines of the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. Considered to be the second mission on the peninsula built by the Jesuits, it was founded in 1699, by Father Francisco Maria Piccolo. The mission is made from limestone and is still in its original state, which is why it is seen as an authentic gem of Californian architecture.
This is a spring fed by the run offs from the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains, discovered by the Spanish in the time of the Jesuit missionaries, who passed by it on their evangelization route. The freshness of its fruit trees and its natural pools fed by the spring make this oasis in the middle of the desert heat well worth visiting.
This charming square is located in the historic downtown area of Loreto and is dedicated to the Jesuit that founded the first mission: Father Juan Maria de Salvatierra. Inside the square and in the surrounding area you can admire cobbled streets and the city's colonial architecture, including antique buildings that have been converted into hotels, houses, and stores, as well as Palacio de Gobierno (City Hall), which is also known as the "House of Stone".
The main tourist activity in Loreto is definitely sport fishing, as its coast is home to an abundance of species, including mackerel, sailfish, dorado, yellowtail tuna, and wahoo. You can go fishing here all year round, but the best time to do so is in summer. Loreto has a pier with all the necessary services for people that want to bring their own boat, while boat hire services are also available in any of the marinas along the coast, and include a captain and crew.
Loreto Bay National Marine Park and Whale Watching
The Loreto Bay National Marine Park makes up a large part of the coast from the north of Coronado Island to the south of Santa Catalina Island, and was classified as a Protected Natural Area in 1996. This has allowed visitors to see grey, humpback, and fin whales during the months of February, March, and April, and if you're lucky, you might even see a blue whale, the largest animal on the planet.
You can take a grey whale watching tour from Loreto. These whales are known for their sociability and for approaching boats and letting themselves be touched. You can also see other species during the five-hour tour, and there are numerous stops throughout the day where you'll have the chance to snorkel or scuba dive.
There are also tours available to Coronado Island, which is really the top of a volcano that has emerged from the sea. The island has a beautiful beach perfect for swimming and lots of rock formations. It is home to fish eagles and many other species of birds, as well as to sea lions, dolphins and some whales. Subject to weather conditions you can snorkel with the sea lions, which are normally very curious and playful creatures.
Those that like to be outside will have the chance to enjoy one of the most original and beautiful golf courses in the world: Loreto Bay Golf Course in Nopolo, which is about 5 miles south of Loreto. It is a par 72, 18-hole championship golf course and is challenging, as it is located in a semi-desert area, where each of the holes is surrounded by sand and cacti. Many of the fairways have been designed to be difficult, as they are very narrow, making it a challenge even for expert golfers. At the site there is a clubhouse and restaurant, as well as a terrace, a swimming pool, sun loungers, and changing rooms with bathrooms.
Climbing the peaks around Loreto is a fantastic adventure for those that love hiking and outdoor activities. This is the location of the Painted Caves of the Sierra de la Giganta, where you can see the spectacular cave paintings, which include human figures and gigantic animals. Most of them have been painted in red and black, and date back more than 7,500 years. Currently they are protected by UNESCO.
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