Dating back nearly 12,000 years, Loreto is considered the oldest human settlement on the Peninsula of Baja California. To this day, you can view some extraordinary cave paintings and petroglyphs. These paintings are spectacular murals done on rocks, representing larger-than-life animal and human-like forms in scenes that could be ritual ceremonies, pilgrimages, hunting or battles. These are truly fascinating displays of early man's communication style. In 1697, the Jesuit priest/explorer - Juan Maria de Salvatierra and a small group of loyal followers founded Loreto with its sweet water oasis and arid climate.
It was here that he built the first mission of Baja - Our Lady of Loreto. It was from this mission that Christianity was peacefully introduced to the Californias, functioning as a catalyst for a land-sea expedition headed by the Franciscan priest, Father Junipero Serra. And, it was from Loreto that he launched the 18th century expedition that led to a string of 17 now-famous California missions - stretching as far north as San Francisco, California.
Besides Father Serra's expansion northward, Father Salvatierra also founded pueblos to the south and west that were the antecedents of population centers such as La Paz , San Jose de Commondu, Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, San Ignacio and others. In 1744, the Mission of San Javier - only 26 miles from the heart of Loreto, was built by Father Francisco Maria Piccolo. The achievements of these missionaries were impressive, given the difficult geographical environment. Their peaceful work on the peninsula lasted seven decades, until 1768, when they were expelled by Carlos III.
Loreto was the capital of the California for more than 133 years until the capital was moved to La Paz . And today, over 300 years after its founding, Loreto remains rich in history and full of undiscovered natural wonders. Today Loreto is the seat of government for the municipality bearing its name and an exciting tourist destination with state of the art touristic infrastructure, and its prestigious past gives Loreto another, deeper dimension - the Mission of Our Lady of Loreto and adjacent museum are a testament to this legacy.
As an oasis on the shore of the Sea of Cortez, near to Nopolo, Puerto Escondido, the Carmen and Coronado Islands, modern Loreto is a mini-Shangri La. Both those who live in and visit Loreto can appreciate how, 300 years after its founding, its unique blend of history, culture and nature continue to make life there interesting and pleasurable.