On our way out of Guerrero Negro we drove for hours through the desert. Eventually we descended towards the town of San Ignacio, and the desert gave way to an actual palm oasis. San Ignacio has a population of about 700 people and grew from a Cochimí settlement of Kadakaamán. In 1728, Juan Bautista Luyando founded a Jesuit Mission here, and the Mission Church is a tourist site for the town.
In the downtown there is a small square which is dominated by the enormous church built completely from volcanic rock. The church, like most missions in Baja California, is open to visitors and remains mostly unchanged since the 1700s. Many parts of the mission, such as former living quarters, looked permanently closed to the public. There were also offices with clergy members offering tours, and a local band practicing in another room.
San Ignacio also has the opportunity for whale watching in the Sea of Cortez, which is one of the few places in the area that hasn’t yet been fully developed for tourism. Tours can be arranged by an eco-tourism company in the plaza.
The same company will be happy to arrange a tour and excursion to see the nearby cave paintings in the mountains of the San Francisco de la Sierra. Although there is a one-day option to see some paintings, it is recommended that you take the four day tour further into the mountains, which requires that mules and donkeys take you, your food, a guide, and provisions. Though tempted, we left our cave painting expedition for another day.
San Ignacio is also the halfway point down the Baja Peninsula, between Tinjuana and Cabo San Lucas. It was marked by a Gray Whale skeleton on the side of the highway. We stopped for a quick photo and continued on our way down the peninsula! We got back onto Highway 1 and took it the rest of the way south-east to where it meets the Sea of Cortez. Soon we came to the quaint little town of Heroica Mulegé, another green date palm oasis.
The town of Heroica Mulegé is much larger than San Ignacio and has about 3,500 residents. It has beautiful views from the coast, a relaxed atmosphere, a tourist and ex-pat scene, and very friendly locals.
We carefully maneuvered our bus through some tight small town roads (once having to wait for a large pickup truck parked on the side of the road to move) and made our way to where the river meets the Sea of Cortez, where there is a large RV Park called Hurta Don Chano. We settled into the RV Park which had electrical hookups, running water, bathrooms, hot showers and a fun, communal group of travelers in RVs, tents, and cabins.