Snow is starting to fall throughout the U.S. and Canada and with it interest quickly peaks in warmer climates. While the economy has made it less attractive to board a flight to the Mediterranean or other far-flung exotic destinations, Mexico remains tangible for even the most frugal and depending on your location could be just minutes away.
Located on the Northwest corner of Mexico is the Baja Peninsula, over 700 miles in length from the U.S. border to its southern terminus in Cabo San Lucas. Highly diverse, the peninsula contains forests, deserts, agricultural valleys, and a vast coastline with rugged cliffs, protected coves, and hundreds of miles of unmolested sand beaches.
Baja offers a variey of experiences for travelers. Those seeking luxury resorts will find the Los Cabos resort corridor with its Nicklaus designed golf courses and lavish resorts an ideal destination. The Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) at San Jose del Cabo is located just a few miles north of Cabo san Lucas and is serviced with direct flights from Frontier, Alaska Airlines, America West, Continental, Delta, and Mexicana Airlines.
Those seeking a more adventurous, off-the-beaten path experience need only hit the road on MX-1 the main highway which runs the length of the peninsula. This is a drive of a lifetime and is not the typical American road trip. You can easily bridge hours and hundreds of miles in the central portions of the peninsula without seeing a convenience store, let alone a place to stop for gas. With it though comes incredible beauty and the rare opportunity to explore a region of the Earth that is still virgin to over commercialization.
Surfers consider Baja one of the premier destinations in the Western Hemisphere. The Seven Sisters a stretch of seven right point breaks from Punta Cono to Punta Rosarito just north of the Baja California / Baja California Sur state line offer incredible surfing in the winter months with strong west or northwest swells. One of the best things about surfing in Baja is the quantity of great locations and the ability to break free of the crowds with just a little exploration.
Baja is of worldwide importance to marine wildlife as well. Surrounding the peninsula on both the Pacific Ocean side as well as the Gulf of California are a series of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and protected areas. Most notably the El Vizcaino Gray Whale Sanctuary on the western coast of Baja California Sur (mid-peninsula) contains two lagoons, Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio, which serve as key wintering and reproduction areas for Gray Whales, Harbour Seals, Elephant Seals, Blue Whales, and four species of endangered sea turtles.
For the past several months National Geographic cartographers in cooperation with local government, the Nature Conservancy of Mexico, UNESCO, and local experts have been carefully researching and developing a series of two new Adventure Maps for Baja California, which are now available. The two maps, Baja California and Baja California Sur, combine highly detailed topography with up-to-date roads and the locations of key points of interest. Unlike other maps of the peninsula, each of our new Baja maps contain extensive place and feature names, backroads, historical places , and important service features (such as gas and diesel stations). Mexicali, Tijuana, Ensenada, La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose' Del Cabo, and the Los Cabos Resort Corridor are detailed in inset maps that pinpoint post offices, churches, government facilities, and popular tourist destinations.
Having traveled to Baja on several occasions via car, cruise ship, and plane I recall using a variety of guide books and the now out-of-print AAA map. Obviously I'm a bit biased, but these maps are amazing and are perfect examples of National Geographic quality. Should you be one of the 200,ooo expected in Baja next week for the Baja 1000, be sure to look for our friends at Too Much Fun Promotions (Armando Carrasco) in Ensenada or in the pits at race mile 108.
Our new Baja maps are available at the National Geographic Online store and at retailers in Mexico and of course closer to home.
:: Learn More About Baja ::
Looking for a bit more on Baja? Check out these articles from our Adventure and Traveler magazines:
Preserving Baja's Coastal Treasures from National Geographic Traveler's award-winning Intelligent Travel Blog. "Is Baja on the Block?" looks at how the spread of tourism and development is threatening the integrity of Baja California in Mexico. Here, he introduces some of the people trying to help sustain the marine heritage of the region. See the original article in this month's issue of National Geographic Traveler.
The Baja Blueprint from National Geographic Adventure