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Despite an arid climate the desert islands in the Sea of Cortés play host to a remarkable biological diversity. Also known as the Gulf of California, this natural barrier between the Baja California peninsula and the Mexican mainland is the home of almost 900 species of fish, 10% of which are endemic. Nearly 700 plant species have been identified on the islands, including 150 types of cacti. 50 endemic reptile species can be found, as well as many birds and mammals unique to the area. For this reason 244 islands, islets and coastal areas in the Cortés were inscribed in 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fortunately most of the major islands lie near the commercial flightpath from Tijuana in the north to La Paz in the south, so on a recent flight I was able to capture some spectacular views of "Mexico's Galapagos".

The extension southwards of the Mex 5 highway is making the Cortés coast beyond San Felipe far easier to access in conventional vehicles, and hitherto isolated places are now within daily reach. We took a drive down there to see for ourselves how far we could get and return on the same day. We set off in a VW Golf (with a tent, just in case we needed it!) one morning from San Felipe......

Just fifteen kilometres south of San Felipe you can find one of the Baja California peninsula's most interesting yet under visited locations: El Valle de los Gigantes. 

The northernmost settlement of any size on Baja California's Cortés coast, San Felipe just might be the peninsula's most under-rated resort. Easily accessible via the border crossings at Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali, this fishing village sitting at the end of the Mex 5 highway has up to now been relatively isolated, with access south restricted to those with a lot of patience and a high clearance vehicle. This situation is due to change, however, with the highway being extended south to eventually connect with the Mex 1 transpeninsular route, meaning San Felipe can more easily be integrated into a tour of the whole peninsula. What then does San Felipe have to offer its visitors?

Some of the guide books refer to it as the Cantú Grade, after an ex governor, but the spectacular mountain road which connects Mexicali to Tecate and Tijuana is known locally as La Rumorosa.

Here's our recipe for this Baja Californian classic. This version comes from my sister-in-law from San Felipe and demonstrated by Norma.

After the surprise success of the Xolos of Tijuana in the LigaMX it was the turn of the Águilas of Mexicali to represent Baja California in challenging for a sporting title of national importance.

Located half way down the Baja California peninsula, Guerrero Negro lacks the palm tree picture postcard appeal of San Ignacio to the south,  but it does have its own attractions which make it an interesting place to visit.

La Paz may share its name with the world's highest capital, but this city's attractions are all at sea level or below...

Most attention on the southern part of the Baja California peninsula goes to Los Cabos, the burgeoning tourist enclave at the peninsula's southern tip, which is becoming a serious challenger to Cancún as Mexico's top resort. For the more discerning traveller, however, La Paz has at least as much to offer, particularly if history, culture and nature are amongst your interests.

A peaceful oasis town of barely 700 inhabitants in an area of otherwise parched desert, San Ignacio makes for an excellent stopover on any peninsular tour. Best known as a jumping off point for whale watching and visits to the nearby cave paintings, what of the town itself?
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