Loreto was founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1697 and was the oldest Spanish settlement of whole California. It is the only town in an area of more than 300 kilometers and has about 12000 inhabitants. This is one of the best places in the world to watch the gigantic blue whale, the largest animal that has ever lived on our planet. Loreto bay is a naturally protected area with several pristine islands and reefs. Hundreds of dolphins can be seen on a regular basis. In the nearby mountains one can visit the hidden mission of San Javier and the area makes for exceptionally good bird watching.