The Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Campeche | Mexico

It seems like I may never run out of places to fall in love with in Mexico. No matter how much time I spend traveling in Mexico, there is always somewhere to new to discover and adore. On my 7th or 8th visit to the country, I finally stumbled upon the gem of Campeche. The quiet city of Campeche falls outside of most travelers’ radars, which is a shame because it’s a pretty cool city. If you’re looking for an alternative to Mexico’s more touristic cities, look no further. Here’s a quick travel guide to the charming town of Campeche.

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Is Campeche Worth Visiting?

The coastal city of Campeche was a pleasant surprise. The full name is San Francisco de Campeche, but it’s often simply referred to as Campeche. It is the capital city of the state it shares its name with, and an up-and-coming tourist destination on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Campeche’s colorful colonial city center is one of the cutest in all of Mexico, and was designated a UNESCO site. Throw in some good food and seaside vibes and you’ve got yourself a must-visit stop on your Mexico itinerary.

I wouldn’t say you need to spend too much time in Campeche, and three days should be plenty to check off everything you’d want to see. However, the vibe here is nice and I got into a good little work flow. Jogs along the sea, work sessions at Origen Cafe, and catching sunset on one of the small piers made for a perfect day. It’s a great destination if you’re looking to work remotely in Mexico, although a bit too quiet on the nightlife side for me.

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How To Get to Campeche

By Bus From Merida

If you’re backpacking in Mexico, odds are, you’re traveling by bus. This area of Mexico is serviced by the ADO bus line. You’ll find frequent departures to Campeche from most of Eastern Mexico’s big cities. Merida, Cancun, Villahermosa, San Cristobal, and Palenque are likely where you’ll be coming from. You can check the online bus schedule at ADO.com.mx, and even purchase your tickets right on the site. I’d recommend that so you don’t have to show up at the bus station until your bus actually leaves.

By Flight

Campeche is serviced by an airport, but it isn’t a major city so flights aren’t too cheap. From Mexico City, it is around $100 one-way to fly to Campeche without any luggage. It might even be cheaper to catch a bus to Merida and fly out of their airport instead.

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Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy whenever you’re out adventuring. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $40 a month.

Where To Stay in Campeche

Campeche has a number of hotels and a couple of hostels. Most of them are located in or around the historic center. As a backpacker, you’ll want to stay in this area as well. It’s where you’ll find most of Campeche’s attractions, restaurants, and nightlife. Plus, you’ll be right on the sea. 

R&R Hostel

This is where I stayed, and the location was perfect. For the price, the value can’t really be beat. The hostel isn’t much, but Campeche isn’t exactly on the backpacker trail quite yet. While the hostel isn’t modern or up-to-date, it does have a cozy vibe to it. R&R Hostel has a charm of its own, partially contributed by the little Chihuahua, Frijol. The owner, Rodrigo, is very kind and welcoming, and will help you with anything you need while you’re here.

There are a few other hostels in town that don’t have an online presence, including one right on the square. Campeche is quiet and low-key enough that I don’t imagine you’d need to book a place in advance. You can definitely just rock up to one of the hostels or hotels in town and shop around for the best rate. However, R&R Hostel only has 10 beds, so if you want to stay there, definitely book in advance.

The Best Things To Do in Campeche

Like I said earlier, you don’t need too much time to see most of what Campeche has to offer. It’s a great city for taking it slow and relaxing, but you have a few options if you’re feeling a little more adventurous.

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Visit the Archaeological Site of Edzna

This is definitely the best thing to do if you’re visiting Campeche. Edzna is located only an hour away from the city center and you can catch a colectivo from outside the local market. The ride costs 45 pesos each way, or a little over $2. The entrance fee is only 85 pesos, or just over $4. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had at any archaeological site in Mexico. There were hardly any other tourists there, and these ruins are stunning. It’s nothing like Chichen-Itza which is overcrowded and 6x more expensive than Edzna.

Even if you aren’t interested in ruins or archaeology, I’d recommend a visit to Edzna while you’re in Campeche. It’s a surreal feeling being able to wander through a city dating back the 7th Century or earlier.

Wander Down Vibrant Calle 59

This colorful street is the main road in the city center for travelers looking to eat or go out. Calle 59 is lined with trendy restaurants offering cuisine from all fares. It’s quite touristy, but if you want a change from Mexican food, you can find sushi, Italian, burgers, pizza, and more down this street. Calle 59 is an all-around vibe. It never hurts to treat yourself to nice lunch or dinner.

Walk Along Campeche’s Boardwalk, The Malecon

Campeche is a coastal city, although it doesn’t have any notable beaches. It does have a long boardwalk, though. You can walk up and down the coast, enjoying the views and refreshing sea breeze. There are some great spots along the way to catch the sunset or a nice photo opportunity.

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Visit the Archaeological Museums of Campeche

Campeche is home to a number of archaeological museums, although they’re all pretty far apart from each other. There is one in the city center, but it was closed to remodeling while I was there. On the opposite ends of the Malecon, you’ll find two other archaeological museums.

Check out the Archaeological Site of Calakmul

The ruins of Calakmul might be among the most impressive in Mexico. Campeche is a good kicking off point for travelers who might be interested in checking out Calakmul. While I didn’t get to visit, there are some tour agencies that offer a trip to Calakmul. If you don’t have your own car, that’s the best way to visit those ruins.

Eat Local at the Mercado

Since I travel on a budget, Mexico’s mercados are usually where I end up for breakfast or lunch. Like most of Mexico’s various states, Campeche has its own take on Mexican cuisine. The market has plenty of offerings local to Campeche and Yucatan. You’ll quickly find out that Mexico is much more than tacos and burritos.

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Shop At the Artisanal Market

Just outside of the fort’s walls, there are cute artisanal market close to the sea. If you’re looking for some souvenirs, this is the best place to do it.

Take A Walking Tour of Campeche

The free walking tour of Campeche stopped running a few years back due to lack of tourism, but there are still some options for paid walking tours. Just stop by one of the tour agencies, and they’ll give you the information you need. Campeche is quite small, so unless you want to get to know the history of Campeche, I don’t think you truly need a walking tour.

Wander the Historic City Center

Of course, Campeche is a wanderer’s paradise. If you don’t feel like taking a guided walking tour, you can make a walking tour of your own. The beautiful streets are just waiting to be explored. You can also take in the views from the walls of the fort surrounding historic Campeche.

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Where To Go After Campeche

The options are limitless of where to go next. Campeche is a crossroads that could take you south to Chiapas, west to Tabasco, north to Yucatan, or all the way to the sparkling waters of Quintana Roo. Heck, you’re not even that far from Guatemala or Belize. Campeche serves as a great layover to grand adventures.

Palenque

how to visit palenque on your own

The pueblo magico and ruins of Palenque are a few hours by bus from Campeche. If you plan on traveling to Chiapas, Palenque is a great entry point. The city itself isn’t much, but the surrounding area boasts stunning waterfalls and a slew of archaeological sites.

Merida

You can’t go wrong with the capital of Yucatan state. This big city is a hub of culture, history, and adventure. It’s a great kick off point for exploring cenotes, ancient ruins, and quiet beaches.

San Cristobal de las Casas

San Cristobal de Las Casas travel guide

If you’re all ruin-ed out, then you might want to skip Palenque and go straight to San Cristobal de las Casas. This is the cultural capital of Chiapas state, and one of my favorite small cities in the world. Do not miss it.

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My Complete Mexico Travel Itinerary

Be sure to check out my complete Mexico backpacking itinerary, a jam-packed 77-page guide covering 33 of my favorite destinations in magical Mexico.

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