Mexico/Baja Sur: Mission San Javier
Spanish Jesuits arrived to Loreto in Baja in 1697 and established a mission there to turn local Indians into Christians, but Loreto didn’t have any land to maintain a sustainable agriculture, so they crossed the mountains of Sierra de la Gigante and found a plateau in the head of Baja peninsula where they built a massive and spectacular Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó. The setting is truly stunning – surrounded by mountain ranges that are all covered with cordon cactuses, the 1699 mission stone complex looks like a fortress, and is especially majestic at sunset. The mission is considered to be the most spectacular of all Spanish missions in Baja. It lasted until 1817, when it was abandoned. Today, it’s mostly restored with some of the orchards and citrus trees planted hundreds of years ago still remaining.