Inland from the Costa Maya and some 35km north of Chetumal, the gorgeous Laguna de Bacalar stretches along the east side of Hwy-307. If you haven’t checked a map, it’s easy to mistake it for the Caribbean, glinting through the trees in flashes of colour from palest aqua to deep indigo. About 45km and 1km wide, it’s the second largest lake in Mexico (after Laguna de Chapala, south of Guadalajara), but still attracts only a small number of Mexican tourists and a small expat community with a bent for ecology and yoga. The birdlife here is exceptionally vibrant.
The small town on the edge of the lake, Bacalar, was once a key point on the pre-Colombian trade route, and unexcavated Maya remains surround the lake. The Chilam Balam of Chumayel, one of the Maya’s sacred books, mentions it as the first settlement of the Itzá, the tribe that occupied Chichén Itzá.