Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé -- Founded in 1706 by Father Juan de Ugarte and Juan María Basaldúa, the original mission building was completed in 1766 to serve a local Indian population of about 2,000. In 1770, a flood destroyed nearly all the common buildings, and the mission was rebuilt on the site it occupies today, on a bluff overlooking the river. Built of stone, it is notable for its "L" formation. Its tower is several meters behind the main building. Although not the most architecturally interesting of Baja's missions, it remains in excellent condition and still functions as a Catholic church, although mission operations halted in 1828. Inside is a perfectly preserved statue of Santa Rosalía and a bell, both from the 18th century.
The mission is also a popular tour site. A lookout point 30m (98 ft.) behind the mission provides a spectacular vantage point for taking in the view of a date palm oasis backed by the Sea of Cortez.
Museo Regional de Historía (Regional Museum of History) -- In 1907, a state penitentiary was built on a hill overlooking the town of Mulegé. It was known as a "prison without doors" because it operated on an honor system -- inmates were allowed to leave every morning to work in town, on the condition that they return when the afternoon horn sounded. Apparently, the honor system worked -- few escaped, and when they did, the other prisoners joined the chase to keep from losing their own privileges. It functioned that way until the mid-1970s. About 20 years ago, a local historian and citizen's group established this small museum inside.
The museum (no phone) details the prison's operations and houses an eclectic collection of local historical artifacts. Admission is by donation, and hours are supposed to be Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm, but have been known to vary. The museum is at the end of Calle Cananea.
Baja's Cave Paintings: A Window in Time
The mountains that run through the Baja peninsula are dotted with ancient rock painting sites, at least 1,500 years old and some perhaps as old as 7,500, tucked into caves and under rock overhangs in steep, inaccessible canyons. A visit to them is a trip back into an unknown past, and a connection with the universe of Baja's earliest inhabitants. The spectacular murals, with representations of larger-than-life humanlike and animal forms, are the only paintings of this kind in North America, and one site, a grouping of over 300 paintings known as the Great Mural Region, is the largest concentration of ancient rock art in the world.
The entire region where these paintings are located covers almost 19,000 sq. km (7,500 sq. miles) in the central part of the Baja peninsula, concentrated in the San Francisco de la Sierra and Santa Martha mountain ranges. It is believed that thousands of years ago, the shallow pools and oases that existed in this region allowed groups of people to survive here. The paintings were "discovered" in the modern era by Jesuit missionary Francisco Javier Clavjjero in 1789. Since then, scholars around the world have attempted to date and interpret the images. The paintings, in ocher, red, white, yellow, and black, show scenes that could be ritual ceremonies, pilgrimages, hunting, or battle. Faceless humanlike figures painted in red and black stand with their arms extended and are often depicted with unusual headpieces above their heads; other figures appear to be jaguars, reptiles, deer-headed snakes, and human hands. Often the figures appear overlaid on one another, meaning they were likely painted by various artists at different periods of time.
The Great Mural Region has been designated by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site. Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology (INAH) oversees the sites now and opens only selected sites for public viewing; entry to most is allowed only with authorized guides.
In mid-Baja, you can visit sites near Mulegé, Loreto, and San Ignacio. San Ignacio's sites, in the Sierra de San Francisco, are the most spectacular, but they require camping overnight, and as such are less accessible than the Sierra de Guadalupe paintings near Mulegé, which can be seen on a challenging day hike. Due to the summer rains and heat, it is recommended that you visit between October and May.
If you're driving through San Ignacio, you can find guides to take you to La Cueva del Ratón, La Cueva de las Flechas, and La Cueva Pintada; it's a long and difficult trek. Near Mulegé, drive and hike to La Trinidad, Piedras Pintas, or San Borjita.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.