Chiapas is the Southern Mexican Sate bordering Guatemala. Mountains, Rainforests, Mayan Archeological sites, Indigenous Culture, Waterfalls, Rivers with clear blue water, Lakes, Canyons, colonial towns… Chiapas has it all if you appreciate nature and culture!
El Aguacero (downpour)
Our first stop in Chiapas was the Centro Ecoturistico Cascada El Aguacero. Once again, we arrived at the end of the day when the visitors were leaving and we camped in the parking lot, and had the place almost to ourselves the next day. This waterfall is one of our favorite site we visited in all of Mexico. Well worth the 724 steps you have to climb down into the canyon.
Sumidero Canyon – National Park
The guide books recommended this attraction on the way to San Cristobal de Las Casas, so we left the waterfalls early in the morning to get a 2 hour boat ride on the Grijalva River. It was a hot and hazy day and we were not to impressed by the site but it was still something interesting to see.
San Cristobal de Las Casas
“Set in a gorgeous highland valley surrounded by pine forest, the colonial city of San Cristóbal has been a popular travelers’ destination for decades. It’s a pleasure to explore San Cristóbal’s cobbled streets and markets, soaking up the unique ambience and the wonderfully clear highland light. This medium-sized city also boasts a comfortable blend of city and countryside, with restored century-old houses giving way to grazing animals and fields of corn.
Surrounded by dozens of traditional Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages, San Cristóbal is at the heart of one of the most deeply rooted indigenous areas in Mexico. A great base for local and regional exploration, it’s a place where ancient customs coexist with modern luxuries.
The city is a hot spot for sympathizers (and some opponents) of the Zapatista rebels, and a central location for organizations working with Chiapas’ indigenous people . In addition to a solid tourist infrastructure and a dynamic population of artsy and politically progressive foreigners and Mexicans, San Cristóbal also has a great selection of accommodations and a cosmopolitan array of cafes, bars and restaurants.
After a very stressful drive we were happy to arrive at this incredibly beautiful cascading river with turquoise water! The natural beauty of this site is just unbelievable but the surroundings was a bit overwhelming with all the vendors constantly hassling you and the questionable security. We swam for a while, walked around and found a place in the parking lot to spend the night. We were happy to meet another couple of Overlanders from France who also camped there.
From Agua Azul we drove to another Natural site called Misol-Ha. It was less spectacular then Agua Azul but so much more peaceful.
The Archaeological Site of Palenque is one of the most outstanding Classic site of the Maya area, known for its exceptional and well conserved architectural and cultural remains. It was at its height between AD 500 and 700. We perticularly liked it because of the setting, you can walk on a nice path through a lush Jungle.
Oaxaca is a Mexican State located in the Southwest. It is becoming more and more popular with travelers because of the many great attractions it offers. Indigenous cultures, colonial towns, archeological and natural sites, savory cuisine, vibrant arts & craft scene, history, Spanish and cooking schools, great beaches with world renowned surf spots…and Mezcal.
City of Oaxaca
Our first stop after the state of Puebla was the City of Oaxaca. We had big expectations but the heat was taking a toll on us. We visited the historic part of the city and decided to continue our journey…
Santa Maria del Tule
We camped in Santa Maria del Tule, a small town just outside of the city of Oaxaca. It’s claim to fame is a 2,000 year old Montezuma cypress tree known as the Tule Tree, which is one of the oldest, largest and widest trees in the world! It also has a beautiful central Plaza with manicured lawn.
The real reason Overlanders come to Santa Maria del Tule is for the Overlander Oasis. It is kind of an iconic place to stay where you meet other travelers and the owners are very hospitable and helpful. Calvin has a well equipped workshop and can help with any kind of work you need done on your rig or find someone than wil.
Caminos del Mezcal
Hierve El Agua
A natural attraction in the central valley of Oaxaca, is Hierve El Agua (the water boils) one of those off-the-beaten-path travel experience! The site can get busy during the day with tour buses but we arrived later in the afternoon when everyone was leaving, we camped in the “parking lot” and had the place all to ourselves the next morning before the visitors arrived and by then we were ready to leave.
Lake Benito Juarez, Santa Maria Jalapa del Marques
We could not make it to the coast in one day and Matt and Saskia told us that they were going to overnight at the Lake Benito Juarez so we made it there as well. Another VERY HOT spot. The lake turned out to be an old quarry and even though it was hot we did not feel like swimming. We had a few cocktails with Matt, Saskia and the kids and called it a night.
We left Teotihuacan to go meet our friends Kevin and Dani (British/Swiss couple who have been on the road in Europe and Africa for many years) in the small coastal town of Casitas near Nautla in the State of Veracruz. We had spent time with them in Baja so it was nice to see them again and catch up on their travels. We camped a few days with them at the Hotel Coco Loco on the Emerald Coast along the Gulf of Mexico. After almost two months inland, being back on the ocean was a nice change but it also meant HEAT!
Martin the Swiss owner of the Hotel Coco Loco took us on a tour of the surrounding area. He has been living in Mexico for over 30 years so he knows the area quite well, and everybody knows him! We stopped in different villages for bananas, cheese, ice-cream, vanilla and ended the day by eating street hotdogs in the small town of San Rafael! Thanks Martin for being such a great host!
Zapotitlan Salinas, Puebla
On our way to Oaxaca we had to cross the state of Puebla through some pretty steep mountain roads. We made a small detour to the village of Zapotitlan Salinas to spend the night at the Botanical Garden Helia Bravo located inside the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve. It houses 200 types of cacti (plural for cactus ha! ha!) most of them endangered species and some more than 800 years old! In the desert the nights are cooler so it was a welcomed change from the heat of the coast. The area is also known for its salt production dating back to pre-Hispanic times. You can also find a multitude of road side stores selling all kinds of things made of the local Onyx and Marble.
After a wonderful week in San Miguel de Allende, we headed South to San JuanTeotihuacan located about an hours drive before Mexico City, to visit the Mayan Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon. We then left our rig securely parked at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park and took the bus to Mexico City for a few days of sightseeing.
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and one of the most populated city in the world with 20+ million urban inhabitants and sits at 7,380 feet (2,250 m) of elevation. A lot of people skip the City when visiting Mexico but we had heard such good things about it, that we wanted to see it for ourselves. We were not disappointed.
Where Mexico city now sits, the Aztec built the City of Tenochtitlán in 1325. It was almost completely destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1521 and Mexico City was later built over the Aztec ruins by the Spaniards. After independence from Spain was achieved, the federal district was created in 1824.
Now Mexico is a vibrant and happening city with a perfect mix of old and new. Colonial, modern and Mayan architecture, a thriving Artistic and Cultural scene, all the museums you can imagine, ancient ruins, fabulous restaurants, neighborhoods waiting to be explored …
We took the bus from Teotihuacan and got dropped off at the Metro Station. We got a couple transfers and emerged in the historic center where we spent a lot of our time walking and visiting the main attractions. We felt safe and were impressed by the ease of going from one place to another either by walking, taxi or metro. We only spent four days but could have stayed a lot longer, there is so much to see and do.
Edgar Degas , Ballerina 1876 and Alexander Calder, Evelyn 1970
The Voladores is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony up a 30 meter pole
We stayed at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park for a total of 8 night before and after visiting Mexico City. It was the perfect location to visit the Pyramids, meet other ovrlanders and leave our rig while we visited Mexico City. The owner Mina was so accommodating and helpful. I even got some dental work (two crowns) done by her dentist/daughter and one of her dentist colleague from the City.
We visited the Historical Cultural Center in the town of Otumba and made a quick stop in the town of Axapusco
Angie and Pedro made us taste Escamoles (Ant eggs) considered a delicacy and Jumiles (dried crispy worms) both are harvested from the Maguey (Agave) plant.
At the local market we discovered these tiny salty fresh water shrimps and Chicken Barbacoa cooked in Maguey (Agave) leaves.
Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon
“Teotihuacan was Mexico’s biggest ancient city and the capital of what was probably Mexico’s largest pre-Hispanic empire.The city’s grid plan was plotted in the early part of the 1st century AD, and the Pirámide del Sol was completed – over an earlier cave shrine – by AD 150. The rest of the city was developed between about AD 250 and 600. Social, environmental and economic factors hastened its decline and eventual collapse in the 8th century.”
Our next stop after the state of Jalisco, was the state of Guanajuato where we spent time in the town of Guanajuato (same name as the state), a brief stop in Dolores Hidalgo and a week in San Miguel de Allende where we visited a friend.
The Unesco World Heritage city of Guanajuato was founded in 1559. It was definitely one of our favorite cities in Mexico because of it’s colonial buildings, stunning plazas, brightly colored houses and the presence of Art everywhere.
The tunnel system in the center of town is quite impressive! In our research we had read that “what ever you do, don’t get into the tunnels because it’s a maze and you will never found your way out”. So what is the first thing we do? We get in a tunnel!! Thank God, our GPS led us directly to the campground through tiny tiny steep streets. Not to toot our own horn but Joe is a great driver and I am a pretty good navigator so besides the occasional arguing,screaming,wrong turns, bad directions, u-turns, application failures, backing up, we seem to always make it to our destination!
San Miguel de Allende
Like the town of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was one of the first item on the list of places we wanted to see in Mexico. San Miguel’s main attraction is it’s well preserved historic center, filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some say it’s the prettiest town in Mexico and we may have to agree. Walking down the cobblestone streets admiring the striking Baroque and Neo-Gothic Architecture, the warm earthy colors, stoping for cocktails on a rooftop terrace or sipping coffee in one of the many courtyards filled with plants, is what San Miguel is all about.
As early as the 1930’s, expatriates have moved to San Miguel to reinvent their lives. Now 15,000 of the city’s population of 80,000 are expatriates, roughly 70% of them are from the United States. Thanks to its somewhat remote location San Miguel has remained intimate and welcoming. With it’s vibrant Art and Cultural scene, incredible climate, great restaurants, shops, bakeries, cafés, boutique hotels, language schools, cooking and art classes, yoga, who would not want to live here? And for a fraction of the price it would cost in the US or Canada.
And to make our visit even more memorable, we had our own private tour guide. My friend Louise moved to San Miguel about 2 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Thanks to Facebook we had reconnected just before we started our journey. I had not seen her in close to 20 years but it felt like we had seen each other the week before. She is just that kind of a person! On our first night in San Miguel, Louise invited us to her beautiful apartment in one of the historic buildings with thick stone walls. We had cocktails on her incredible rooftop terrace overlooking the famous Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel and blooming Jacaranda trees, followed by homemade Chiles Relllenos and lots of wine! Louise and I caught up while Joe was lounging and watching Tennis on TV with his new friend Coco. Throughout the week, Louise took us along a few of her social outings around town, introduced us to some great restaurants, let us use her washer and dryer, found a technician to repair Joe’s cell phone screen and cooked us a great pasta dinner. Thank you Louise for your hospitality, your are still the hostess with the mostest and a wonderful friend!
After celebrating our birthdays in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta we drove through the mountains and crossed into the state of Jalisco on February 25, 2016.
When we started planning our trip to Mexico we contacted our friend John who is originally from Scotland but has been living in Guadalajara, Mexico for more than 15 years. We had made tentative plans to visit with them during the holidays. We ended up enjoying the Baja more than anticitpated and being “Overlanders”this was becoming the norm never knowing how long or short your journey would take you.
Pinar de la Venta…3 weeks with friends
Our friends John and Andrea live in the beautiful neighborhood of Pinar de la Venta located about 25km from the center of Guadalajara. They welcomed us into their amazing house like we were family and we immediately felt at home even though we had not seen John for more than 15 years and had just met Andi. We ended up spending 3 weeks with them and their pups Oxxo and Nina.
We took this opportunity to have some maintenance done on the truck. We had the cracked windshield replaced and oil changed at the Dodge dealer, double layers of security film installed on all 4 windows, some guards welded to our front and rear lights…We received a part for the grey water sump pump being mailed from California by XPCamper.
But mostly we spent our days just lounging, cooking, reading, catching up on the blog, taking day trips by ourselves or with John and Andi. We love our life on the road but this was a very nice break thanks to John and Andi, we still miss Andi’s Moms brownies which she brought every week on Tuesday, to die for.
Andi showed me how to make Chile Rellenos, stuffed poblano peppers, accompanied by Agua de Jamaica, hibiscus water and Requeson, kind of like Ricotta cheese. Yummy!
Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco and the second most populous city after Mexico City with 4,4 million people (2010) in the metropolitan area. It is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila, but also one of the country’s industrial and business centers, sometimes referred to as Mexico’s Silicon Valley.
The historic center is dotted with colonial plazas and many beautiful buildings, we were lucky to have our own tour guides.
On Sundays it’s nice to walk around the historic center and take in the culture. There is so much life in the plazas with street performers, souvenir vendors, food stalls … Fruits and chips are the favorite snacks. Hard choice to make sometimes.
The Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is now a Cultural Institute where you can admirer the impressive frescoes painted in the 1930’s by Jose Clemente Orozco and many expositions by local and international artists.
Tortas Toño is known to have the best Tortas Ahogadas in Guadalajara! It is a typical dish, sandwich of chopped fried pork on a baguette and drenched in a chili sauce and topped with onions, cabbage and cilantro! On Sunday morning you have to wait in line! Great for hangovers!
A suburb of Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque has narrow cobblestone streets with old mansions housing wonderful stores and galleries offering wood carvings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, jewelry and so many neat restaurants.
If you like interior design like I do, this place is heaven! Now that we live in our truck, it was just fun window shopping. But if we ever have a house again I would seriously consider coming back here to furnish it.
There is a multitude of furniture stores offering unbelievably nice furniture and home accessories.
Ok enough with the chi-chi stores time to eat some Chapulines, grasshoppers!
The town of Tequila is located about 60 km from Guadalajara, so we decided to take a day trip with our truck, you can also take a train tour from the city. The drive through the Blue Agave fields was very scenic.
Many distilleries welcome visitors, we decided to visit the Jose Cuervo distillery, because they were the first to produce this fine beverage in 1795! Best selling tequila in the world with 35% market share!
The production of tequila is divided into seven steps: harvesting, cooking, fermentation, distillation, aging and botteling.
After three weeks in Guadalajara it was time to move on, but not to far, only 35 miles (55 km) away. We made it to Lake Chapala on March 16, 2016 to visit Josée’s aunt and uncle who also, like John, had been waiting for us for a while.
The town of Chapala is located on the shore of Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and is a favorite weekend and holiday destination for Tapatios, as the people of Guadalajara are known. Unfortunately the lake seems to have issues with its water levels and pollution.
The town of Ajijic located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, about 3 miles from the town of Chapala, it is a haven for retired expats from the US and Canada. Boutiques, galleries and restaurant galore, much of the town retained its charming colonial vibe with cobblestone streets but its far from the typical Mexico. English is almost has common as Spanish and the prices are relatively high.
The area is considered to have one of the best climate in the world. Cool nights and mornings, warm afternoons and no humidity. It also benefits from good medical care at extremely reasonable costs.
Beautiful Tante Pierrette in front of one of the many murals of Ajijic.
Josée’s aunt and uncle have been coming to the area for more than 10 years and have a very busy social life. We met a few of their many friends and were able to get a glimpse at the expat lifestyle. Not sure its our thing but it was a lot of fun for a few days!
We also took the opportunity to get our teeth cleaned for a whopping 150 pesos (about $9.00 USD) and get a tire fixed and a rotation done on the truck (which Joe ended up doing himself) after they noticed our rig and tire size no biggy Joe’s tools worked better all he really wanted was their lift.
Spending time with my aunt was such a treat, she reminds me so much of my mother who left us way to young.
We left Mazatlan on February 12th, 2016 and drove along the Pacific Coast into the state of Nayarit. We stayed on the coast also called Riviera Nayarit in Santa Cruz de Miramar, Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta. Mexico has 31 States plus Mexico City’s Federal District. Nayarit is our fifth state after Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Chihuahua.
Santa Cruz de Miramar
Our first stop in Nayarit was the village of Santa Cruz de Miramar located on the Pacific coast just south of San Blas. We found a little slice of heaven at the Paraiso Miramar Hotel & RV Park. We stayed four nights, the first couple of days were a bit busy because it was the weekend but the last two days we had the place to our selves and enjoyed the pools, the restaurant and the incredible views of the ocean, the sunsets and the magnificent gardens throughout the property. Perfect setting to celebrate Valentine’s Day ♥. We paid $250 Mexican pesos (about $14 USD) per night.
We find ourselves so lucky to be able to experience an ocean front “resort” in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature and kind, discrete people and be able to sleep in our comfortable bed every night and cook our own food for $14 a night! This is why we chose this lifestyle and love it so much!
On the road
From Santa Cruz we continued down the coast, stopped for lunch at a Taco Stand where they had handmade tortillas and freshly squeezed orange juice all prepared by a husband and wife team, right there on the street. We drove through the small town of La Peñita then stopped along the road to buy some fruits and continued on to San Francisco aka San Pancho where we thought we would be camping. The town had a great artistic vibe but we did not really like the camping option so we decided to continue to Sayulita a few miles South.
Sayulita, beach life!
We had heard a lot about Sayulita and were afraid to find it overcrowded and touristy but the campground was located on the North Beach which is a bit more quiet and we ended up loving the vibe and stayed six nights. Free yoga classes every morning and the rest of the day was spend enjoying beach life: walking, swimming, sunbathing, watching the surfers, getting food from the vendors or just day dreaming! Everything was walking distance: the many restaurants options, arts and crafts, farmers market…
Next was the big Resort town of Puerto Vallarta where we celebrated our birthdays touring the city. We strolled down the Malecon (oceanfront promenade) then had an amazing lunch in an authentic, kind of upscale, Mexican Restaurant next to the Cathedral, then walked around exploring the different neighborhoods until we found a nice bar on the beach for happy hour, walked some more and had dinner in a little Italian restaurant, walked some more and finally jumped on the bus back to our campground completely exhausted but happy and full!