Inland Travel in Colonial Mexico
Going Ashore - Colonial Central Mexico by Van
Tesoros Coloniales Del Centro Mexico
An Overview of "Two Can Play’s" Eight Week Trip through Central Mexico during February and March, 2005
Suggested Reading Before You Go:
- On Mexican Time, Tony Cohen
- Yesterday’s Train, Terry Pindell
- Good tires and mechanically sound vehicle, recently serviced, including filters.
- Warm Clothes (we were above 5,000 ft. elevation for seven weeks)
- Down Comforters and Pillows
- Comfortable Shoes
- Laundry facilities available almost everywhere
- Guide Books
- Lonely Planet is the bible
- AAA Mexico Tour Book
- Church’s R/V Guide
- Mexican Highway Map
- State Tourism Guides
- No Spanish—No Problem
Getting there from Baja
Ferry to Topolombampo (reserve a seat) (2,275 pesos for car, driver and one passenger, leaves La Paz at 15:00 mas o minos and arrives about 21:00. Return leaves 23:30 and arrives 06:00, allow extra three hours for military inspection on return trip—nothing going to the mainland.)
Auto Importation Permit (300 pesos, plus a credit card deposit, get at Banercito at Pichilingue ferry terminal)
First night could be problematic—we parked the van at the Jardin in Topolobampo, several auto-hotels in Los Mochis, about 20 km from ferry, bus?)
General Itinerary by State:
- Sinaloa (four days)
- Nayarit (two days)
- Jalisco (two days)
- Michoacán (seventeen days)
- Mexico (State) (one day)
- Querétaro (one day)
- Guanajuato (six days)
- Aguascalientes (two days)
- Zacatecas (eighteen days)
- Durango (one day)
- Sinaloa (two days)
- Toll Roads (Cuotas)
- +/- One peso/kilometer
Free Roads (Libres)
- Potholes, narrow roadways, and abrupt drop-offs
- Passing on Blind Curves/Hills
- More Interesting Scenery and Small Villages to Explore
- Fuel does not appear to be a problem, except for a few long stretches between stations. Fill up whenever possible and use Premium at higher altitudes.
- “Central” usually means central bus station, may also be “station or estacion,” however from Morelia to Pátzcuaro, “estacion” meant they dropped you off at a Pemex station at the edge of town.
- Hotels (Expect to pay 150 to 600 pesos per night)
- Hostels (90 to 200 pesos per night dorm/private room)
- Private Homes and Apartments (US$ 250/two weeks)
- R/V Parks (100 to 200 pesos)
- Pemex Station Parking Lots (Free)
- National or State Parks (20 pesos per person)
- Secure Parking is at a premium, especially in central historic districts
Food and Provisions are no problem
- Cicuri Huichol Gallery in Tepic and Huichol artisans in the Square
- Los Toriles archeology site near Ixtlán del Río
- Sampling at La Cofradia distillery in Tequila
- Buying opals from miners around Magdalena’s Jardin
- Uruapan’s Eduardo Ruiz National Park (Don’t miss it—unfortunately we only drove by.)
- Pátzcuaro Area
- Regional Museum
- Casa del Once Patios
- Open air market
- Dancers in the Jardin
- Yacatecharo Archaeological site near Ihuatzio
- Zirahuen Lake and back road to Santa Clara
- Santa Clara del Cobre, don’t miss the museum and side streets
- Archeology site in Tzintzuntzan
- Isla Janitzio—also on the miss next time list
- Bus trip to Morelia
- Artisan’s Market
- Camping at the balneario near Los Azufres
- Monarch Butterfly Reserve—El Campanario (El Rosario) Sanctuary (Once in a lifetime experience, arrange tours from Morelia for about 500 pesos per person)
- Botanical Garden in Toluca – Great stained glass windows.
- Tango dancing in the Park in Celaya
- San Miguel de Allende—great city, many galleries and shops—but too many gringos
- Jardin in evenings
- Callejoneadas (Strolling Minstrels)
- Cervantes Festival (October)
- Mummy Museum (bizarre, but you should do it once.)
- Language schools (Academia Falcon was recommended by a couple that we met.)
- Regional museum
- Murals at state government office building—try to get English-speaking guide.
- Enjoying a private pool at the balneario (hot spring or thermal pool) Baños Termales de Ojocaliente (100 pesos per hour)
- Camping at El Ocote State Archeological Park about 30 miles west of Aguascalientes.
- Cultural Festival, which coincides with Semanta Santa
- El Eden Mine Tour
- Jerez de Garcia Salinas Rodeo (40 miles west, 10 day festival starting on Good Friday, hundred of cowboys decked out in their finest outfits.)
- Sierra del Organos National Park (Zacatecas/Durango State Line)
- Camping in Parque Tecuan (National Park) in Durango State
- Driving the “Devil’s Backbone” from Durango to Mazatlan (valium for passengers)
- Copala—a not to miss quaint town—when the tour buses leave.
Places We Stayed and Would Recommend to Others
- Tepic, Hotel Ibarra (300 pesos, right downtown with inside parking.)
- Tequila, Motel Delicias 29 de Enero (170 pesos, on libre near eastern edge of town, basic but clean.)
- Uruapan, Hotel del Parque (270 pesos, next to national park, owner speaks excellent English, secure parking,)
- Rented casita from owner of Galleria del Archangel, near Cathedral (US$250 for two weeks in 2-bedroom casita up the hill from the Cathedral. Owner, Frida, speaks excellent English.
- La Casa Encantada (US$75, lovely colonial inn (B&B) run by gringos, met a couple staying there, great way to pamper yourselves for a night, did not stay there but would consider short stay next time.
- Balneario in Los Azufres National Park, near Monarch Butterfly Reserve (100 pesos per person for camping, 500 pesos for casitas, including unlimited use of hot springs pools.)
- Toluca, Hotel Colonial (400 pesos, right downtown, off-street parking lot)
- Celaya, Hotel Bajio Inn (300 pesos, manager speaks excellent English, underground parking)
- San Miguel de Allende, Mission del Monjas (old monastery) (450 pesos)
- Hotel Guanajuato (470 pesos, overlooking town, not walk-able.)
- Motel de las Embajadores (450 pesos, quaint hotel with pleasant courtyard about five minute walking time from center of town.)
- Aguascalientes, Hotel Maser (180 pesos, small basic rooms but clean with enclosed parking)
- Hostel Villa Colonial (90 pesos dorm, 200 pesos private room, US$125/week for 2-bedroom apartment and use of Hostel facilities. Right down town. Owner Ernesto, Jr. speaks excellent English. Parked the van in front of the hostel for two weeks with no problems.
- Hostel las Margaritas (90 pesos dorm, 180 pesos private room, shared bathrooms, did not stay there, but met the owner and toured the facility. Up the hill from town behind Felguérez Museum, great views from kitchen/dining room on top floor. Would stay there next time, no parking.
- Motel Zacatecas Courts (450 pesos, between two busy streets near university, ask for interior room facing parking lot.
- Hoteles del Bosque (400 pesos, overlooking town, steep hike uphill.)
- Sierra de Organos (20 pesos per person for camping or casitas for 500 pesos)
- Copala Butter Company (200 pesos, rustic rooms on the Jardin)
- Daniels (famous for banana/coconut cream pie) (200 pesos)
Places we would consider living
if we had to move off the boat—or wanted somewhere to escape to during hurricane season.
- Zacatecas—Great old-world silver mining city with few resident gringos and great cultural environment. State capitol and university town.
- Guanajuato—Great old-world silver mining city with vibrant cultural variety. State capitol and university town. Close to San Miguel de Allende for your gringo fix.
- Pátzcuaro—Great old-world Mexican city that is becoming more popular with Mexican and gringo tourists, though not many full-time residents. Close to big city of Morelia (state capitol) for shopping and cultural activities.
- Aguascalientes—Intriguing mix of old-world and modern cities. State capitol and university town.
Places that were overrated and we would bypass next time.
- Isla Mexicaltitán (Birthplace of the Aztec Nation) – buggy and not very interesting.
- Guadalajara / Tlaquepaque / Tonala – might have liked to see museums and shopping (if we had somewhere to put the stuff.) Too much traffic.
- Isla Janitzio – boat ride generally not very interesting, touristy, steep climb through tourist shops.
- Tacambaro – long drive to see another quaint Mexican town—great shrimp cocktail at a hole-in-the wall, but not worth the trip just for lunch.
- Quiroga – unless you are interested in Mexican crafts.
- Leon – small central historic district—otherwise an industrial town.
- Delores Hidalgo – historic city as birthplace of Mexican independence movement, but not much to see.
This information was derived from recalling memories of the trip, not from a written diary or journal—so please don’t rely on the information without verifying it from other sources. The information represents our personal preferences and opinions—we guarantee you will have a great time exploring the central colonial region of Mexico.
Dennis and Susan Ross