Loreto, Mexico

The dramatic desert landscape of the Baja California Sur peninsula is particularly vivid where Loreto huddles on the shore of the Sea of Cortez. The town centers around the 17th century Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the first station of the famous string of Spanish missions called the Camino Real. The harbor is also central, where boats wait to take visitors to the islands and waters of the Bahia de Loreto National Park, teeming with game fish and fascinating marine life of all sorts. Turning from the sea, drive to the inland Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó, or ascend the slopes of the reddish Sierra Giganta to seek cave paintings left by the native Monqui people.