California’s Spanish missions are the beginning of the California we know today. They are the settlements where the first people in California who were not native to the area called home. The 21 missions are on the El Camino Real a Royal Highway that runs 600 miles from Sonoma in the north to San Diego in the south. With our easy to get, cheap California auto insurance a road trip down the Royal Highway will introduce you to what the first Spanish settlers called Alta California.

Towards the end of your journey you will find Mission San Juan Capistrano in Orange County and Mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego County. The mission in San Diego was founded in 1769 by Junipero Serra a Spanish friar. It is the first mission in California founded by the Franciscans. It was founded to secure Spain’s claim by right of discovery to the entire Pacific coast and is the site of the first burial with Christian rites in Alta California. It is also the place of the first Christian martyr. Father Luis Jayme died at the hands of Native Americans who resented the Spaniards invasion. The church that stands today is the fourth that has been built on the site, and it is a National Historic Landmark. Mission San Diego de Alcala was declared a minor basilica in 1976 by Pope Paul VI and is still an active parish church.

In 1776, Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded by a Franciscan order. Today, this mission is the site of the oldest building in California that is still being used. The building is a chapel that was constructed in 1782. This mission is also the site of the first wine that was made in Alta California in 1783 from the Criolla grape. The Great Stone Church is a famous architectural ruin, and a new church has been built nearby to resemble the old church, but it is much larger. Every year on Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, the annual Return of the Swallows is observed and hundreds of visitors come to see.

The missions of Orange County and San Diego County established Christianity on the west coast of what would become the United States. They also gave livestock, flowers, grains, fruits and industry to the local people. Some of the Native Americans resented the Spanish intrusion into their culture and some embraced the new religion and lifestyle. With cheap California auto insurance, visitors can travel the El Camino Real with confidence and visit the places where European ideas joined the natural order of the native way of life.