A visit to the remote village of San Javier is one of the most popular side-trips in southern Baja. Visiting the village, and mission of San Javier, has become much easier since they finished paving the road up into the mountains just below Loreto. The drive to San Javier, from Loreto, can now be made in less than an hour in almost any type of vehicle. There are also tour operators in Loreto that will take you to San Javier.
The mission, which is officially named Misión San Francisco Xavier de Viggé-Biaundó, is one of the best-preserved missions in Baja. The present mission dates back to 1758 and has survived the years so well that it is still in use as a church.
The village that surrounds the mission is small, even by Baja standards, with a population of less than 150. San Javier can easily make you think that time machines really do exist. If it weren’t for the vehicles in the village, you could easily imagine that you set the date on your time machine for 1875.
This charming village has a few very basic accommodations, one small restaurant and a small store, with limited supplies. The main street, that leads to the mission is cobblestone and many of the modest homes display a huge variety of colorful flowers and different types of fruit trees, that grow so well in this semi-oasis environment.
The mission is the centerpiece of the village and is visited frequently by tourists on day trips from Loreto. Residents from all over southern Baja also visit this tranquil village on a regular basis. Especially busy is the week leading up to December 3rd every year, when the village celebrates its patron saint. There are all kinds of games for the kids, carnival rides, horse races. Locally cooked dishes and delicacies are abundant during the celebration and a pleasantly unique experience is pretty much guaranteed to anyone who visits.
Ranches in the vicinity raise cattle, sheep and goats. The residents grow a variety of fruits and other edible crops. Mangos, papayas, figs, guavas, chilies, and citrus are common. Onions, corn and dates are also grown in the fertile soil. A few of the local families make yummy candies out of the various crops and you will also find some incredibly delicious, locally-made, empanadas available frequently.
The above mentioned sweets may be displayed very inconspicuously on an old table on somebody’s front porch, maybe in a wooden box in a front yard or even in a wheelbarrow on the street. You might find yourself having to look pretty hard in order to find out who you are supposed to pay for the treat you have chosen. It is that very kind of thing that lets you know you have found another part of “The Real Baja”.
You can also get to San Javier from the Pacific side, but it is a much more difficult trip. Too difficult for someone not prepared for an adventurous journey into Baja. There are a couple of iffy roads (check locally before attempting this route) that lead west toward the Pacific. One takes you to San José Comondu and the other takes you to Hwy 53, very close to Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos.
Motorcyclists, ATV and buggy fanatics love to play in the hills and valleys around San Javier. There are many dirt roads, trails and sand washes to enjoy. Sections of the original Baja 1000 race course are located in the hills and valleys to the north of San Javier.