Loreto (or Conchó) was the first Spanish settlement on the Baja California Peninsula. It served as the capital of Las Californias from 1697 to 1777, and is the current seat of the municipality of Loreto in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The city of 14,724 people (2010 census) is located on the coast of the Gulf of California, about north of the state capital, La Paz.
The town was founded in 1697 by Jesuit missionaries, who found a steady spring of fresh water on this site, as the Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. The Jesuits were expelled in 1767, and control of the Baja California missions was given to the Franciscans. In 1769, the Franciscans were ordered to turn over the Baja missions to the Dominican order and accompany the expedition of Gaspar de Portola to establish new missions in the unexplored northern frontier that became Alta California. The expedition departed from Loreto on March 24, 1769.
The town served as the capital of the province of Las Californias from its founding until the capital was moved to Monterey on February 3, 1777. In 1768, the province had been split into Alta California (today's U.S. state of California) and Baja California. At first, the two provinces continued with a single governor. Later, the town became the headquarters for the Lieutenant Governor of California Viejo (the province of Baja California).
The city is now a tourist resort, catering mostly to U.S. travelers, with daily flights from the U.S. state of California to Loreto International Airport. Many American tourists enjoy fishing in "pangas" for "dorado" (Mahi-mahi or Dolphin Fish). Local restaurants will willingly prepare the daily catch of the tourists. Loreto has a museum that coexists alongside the historic, but still active, parish. Loreto has active sister city relationships with Hermosa Beach and Cerritos, California, USA.