The small town of Bacalar sits close to the Belize border in Mexico's popular Quintana Roo region. On the banks of Lake Bacalar, it's made up of little fishermen's houses and has an 18th-century fort that once protected the town against pirates. Swim and kayak in the tranquil lake that's also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours because of its idyllic turquoise and azure tones. Its white limestone bed helps to make the water amazingly clear and it's the ideal spot for snorkelling and diving.
Make the most of the beautiful lagoon in a Bacalar hostel that's right by the shoreline. Stay in a lake house that sits on the water and has a private deck for swimming off in the day – and its own bar for partying into the night. For truly chilled-out vibes, there's also a grass-roofed hostel by the water, where you can laze in a hammock or find your zen with yoga classes. These low-key Bacalar hostels have modern comforts like Wi-Fi and air con.
The compact town of Bacalar is dotted with fishermen's houses and colonial architecture, like the arched San Joaquín Parish Church. By the edge of the lake is the 270-year-old stone Fort of San Felipe, a historic defence against piracy. From here, you can look across the lagoon to the pirates' channel opposite. The town is surrounded by dense jungle where you'll find Mayan ruins, including the ancient sites of Kohunlich, Becan, Chicanná, Dzibanche and Chacchoben.
During your stay in Bacalar, explore the nearby Mayan Ruins, which are less than a 2-hour drive away. You could spend a day at the large site at Kohunlich to see temples, palaces and some of the best-preserved stucco masks representing sun god Kinich Ahau. The Cenote Azul, an underwater lake, is the place to go for keen divers. Measuring 90m to the bottom, it's one of the deepest cenotes in the Yucatán, and contains illuminated caverns and lots of hidden nooks.
The closest airport is Chetumal International Airport, a 40-minute journey by car. Bacalar is right by the 307 highway, so it's easy to reach by car or bus from other cities in Mexico. Drive along the scenic route by the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and arrive from Cancun in four hours, Playa del Carmen in around three hours and Tulum in two and a half hours. Bacalar is a small town so you can easily explore on foot.