3080 Rio Road
Carmel, California 93923
Properly known as the Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Río Carmelo (or the Mission of Saint Charles Borromeo of the Carmel River), this historic Mission is much more than just a mouthful. It functions as a parish church, museum, school, and—most importantly—a terra cotta monument ready and waiting for you and your camera.
Originally founded in 1771 by Father Junípero Serra, father of the California missions, Mission Carmel served as headquarters of the California mission chain until 1803. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-1800s and then restored in the early 20th century, and Father Serra himself is interred here, along with several other mission pioneers.
Set in lush and lovely Carmel, among tranquil courtyards and gardens of olive trees, bougainvillea and Mexican sage, the Moorish-style structure is nothing short of stunning, from its sandstone walls to its arched ceilings. Of particular note are the facade’s star-shaped window, the Moorish dome and the various original artifacts in the church and surrounding small museums. The quadrangle also boasts a large wooden cross recreated on the site where fragment’s of the original cross erected by Father Serra were discovered.
In addition to religious ceremonies, the mission also hosts concerts,lectures, and contemporary art exhibits.
The mission is open from 9:30 a.m until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission fees to visit the Mission grounds, Basilica and Museums cost $6.50 (adults), $4 (seniors), and $2 (kids ages 7 and up).
Read more about the best places to take a photo in the Bay Area
Take Caltrain south to the San Jose Diridon Station. Then hop on an Amtrak bus down to Carmel, transferring buses at Salinas. The trip will take about 5 hours, so you may rather drive to this one (about 2.5 hours).