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Monarch Butterfly Biosphere: The Real Gem of Mexico

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere: The Real Gem of Mexico

Seeing the butterfly migration should be AT THE TOP of anyone’s bucketlist. It is truly a sight to behold. The monarch butterflies are swarming and flying in masses in the enchanted forest and through the trees. It is something you will never forget and it will find a special place in your heart and stay there forever. They make their way thousands of miles from Canada to Mexico for the winter, and it takes several generations to make this journey. These little bugs are gorgeous yet tough, fending off their predators, such as birds, because they are poisonous to eat.

El Rosario Sanctuary – Take the bus from Ocampo/Zitacuaro to El Rosario Sanctuary. You will come upon a parking lot where afterward you will hike for 30 minutes along many vendors/restaurants until you reach the ticket office. Buy a ticket. Your guide is included and mandatory. You will hike another 40 minutes up a mountain through the woods (or you can rent a horse to take you). Once you reach the top you will come upon a clearing where there are literally thousands of butterflies swarming everywhere. Ten minutes past this, you will hike into the woods and find swarming butterflies in the trees. You will not be sorry you came. GO ON A SUNNY DAY!

Sierra Chincua Sanctuary – Take the bus from Zitacuaro/Ocampo to Angangueo, and from there find another bus to take you to Sierra Chincua. Once you arrive at S.C., you will hike for 40 minutes through the woods until you reach the parking lot. If you drive your own car, you would obviously drive to the parking lot. From the parking lot, there are bathrooms and the ticket booth. Buy a ticket. Your mandatory guide is included. It is a 40 minute hike to the butterflies or you can rent a horse to take you. The hike is through the gorgeous woods up through the mountains and the butterflies reside in the ‘colonia principal’ (main colony). GO ON A SUNNY DAY!

Something to note about Sierra Chinqua: Unfortunately, the Mexicans who oversee this particular area only allow ‘locals’ (other Mexicans) and not foreigners to go to the main colony. This made me extremely angry and I peacefully protested by going to the main colony where I was prohibited from going and sitting under the main colony surrounded by the butterflies for 20 minutes. The Mexican locals kept telling me to leave and I refused. I was unable to tell them why because my Spanish was poor and they just thought I was being rude and disrespectful, but allowing only their own people to see this incredible UNESCO site where people come from all over the world to see maybe once in their lifetime and discriminating against people from other places is really a crime against humanity. I have as much of a right to experience this place as any Mexican, and I exercised my right that day. It would be like telling anyone who is not American they cannot see the Grand Canyon. It is disgusting. I sat there until I had my fill and when I was ready to leave, I left, and I’m glad I did it and would do it again.

DAY TRIPS

Check out Angangueo, a beautiful and charming pueblo magico near the Sierra Chincua monarch butterfly sanctuary. Beautiful churches, good food, friendly people and colorful buildings. Check it out after you finish at Sierra Chinqua.

TIPS

Go on a SUNNY DAY between  12-3PM in LATE FEBRUARY to these sanctuaries to see the butterflies. That is when these beauties are swarming and you stand the best chance of them landing on you! It is also the best picture time! Enjoy this magnificent scene!

Zamora: A small town next to Lake Camecuaro

Zamora: A small town next to Lake Camecuaro

Zamora is a quaint little town and there are some nice things to see here. Go visit the Santuario de Nuestra Sra de Guadalupe and Catedral de Zamora and Plaza de Armas. The zocalos and surrounding parks are nice to walk around and there is shopping, restaurants, street artists and street shows, and it’s a nice place to hang out.

A must-see is Lago de Camecuaro which is really the true highlight of Zamora. Go see it and spend the day there. Rent a boat and paddle around. Snorkel. Bring food. The water is clear and blue with mommy and baby ducks. Really a beautiful place.

Cabo San Lucas: A Beautiful Beach in Mexico

Cabo San Lucas: A Beautiful Beach in Mexico

Cabo San Lucas is a great vacation destination. I happened to be there during the International Film Festival and saw Jared Leto, and that was awesome. You must do the all-inclusive boat tour to El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, Lovers Beach and Divorce Beach. Also snorkeling along the main beach is fun and there is a ton of shopping and lots of restaurants and bars along the marina with night shows and street artists. Pretty cool and worth checking out.

Day Trips

If you just can’t get enough of the ocean, head to La Paz with its gorgeous beach and great snorkeling. It has seasonal snorkeling with whales which is great.

San Miguel Allende: Art, Chocolate & Charm in Mexico

San Miguel Allende: Art, Chocolate & Charm in Mexico

San Miguel Allende is, first of all, beautiful. It is welcoming, filled with art galleries and art schools, chocolate shops, cobble-stone streets, colorful buildings, lovely churches and warm and friendly people. Its eclectic mix of beauty and European charm coupled with its affordability, safety, nice people and Latin culture make it an especially attraction option for retirement. What a lovely place to just stroll and lose yourself for a little while.

Head to the Instituto Allende, an art school with beautiful architecture and painted murals inside the building on the walls. Check out the Parroquia de San Miguel Allende and Jardin Allende and the surrounding shops, restaurants, and street artists. Also head to the Templo de San Francisco & nearby Mercado. There are beautiful churches, art galleries and artisan shops on every corner. I always loved the Mente Cacao shops because they have chocolate ice cream, hot chocolate, chocolate candies, and literally chocolate everything. I got high on their chocolate; it’s strong and it’s amazing and you won’t be disappointed.

While I was in SMA there were art gallery openings and local artists working in clothing shops decorating and painting the clothing themselves. One night in front of the Parroquia was a celebration of dancing and singing around a fire of life, love and peace and I participated and had a great time. SMA is really a beautiful place with peace and serenity built into its atmosphere and I highly recommend going there.

Uruapan: A Green Gem in Mexico

Uruapan: A Green Gem in Mexico

Being in Uruapan is like being in the rainforest. It is sunny in the morning and rains in the afternoon, and the place is like a green gem less than a day’s drive from Mexico City. Go see the Barranca del Cupatitzio National Park, a beautiful lush green national park in the heart of Uuruapan. It’s like walking through a rainforest and is replete with waterfalls, lakes, flowers and butterflies. Also head to Tzararacua which is a beautiful hike through the woods to a waterfall. Also check out Presa de Santa Barbara, which has a nice lake and green area to relax.

DAY TRIPS

If you’re looking for some more adventure, head to Timgambato where you can hike the pre-hispanic pyramids. Take a bus to Paracho, a pueblo magico and the world capital of guitars. Spend a day hiking the Volcan Paricutin, a whole day’s hike across dried black lava to a volcano. Included in the hike is an exploration of some ancient ruins of an old church which is pretty cool. Also head to Tancitaro National Park where you can spend a day hiking in the forest and get back in touch with nature. Be absolutely sure to go see the incredible Chorros de Varal which is an absolutely gorgeous 180 degree waterfall where you have to go down 1000 steps to the falls. Go to via a nearby town called Los Reyes.

Morelia: A Pink Rose in the Heart of Mexico

Morelia: A Pink Rose in the Heart of Mexico

Morelia is like a beautiful pink rose in the center of Mexico. The downtown area is a UNESCO world heritage site known for the colonial pink cantera stone buildings constructed during the 1500’s which have been preserved into present day. Check out the musical conservatory here called the Conservatorio de las Rosas built during the 1700’s which houses a rose garden inside and where musicians still play today.

If you’re lucky you can catch the International Guitar Festival when it visits Morelia. Something not to be missed! Also be sure to see the Catedral de Morelia which is not only beautiful on its own but there is a firework show on saturdays beginning at 8:45PM in front of the cathedral which is a can’t-miss. The nearby Plaza de Armas is lovely and has live dancing and musical shows as well as surrounding shopping, restaurants and street artists and vendors. Grab an ice cream, churro, taco, and whatever else you want super cheap while you stroll this lovely plaza.

Near the downtown area be sure to check out the Mercado de Dulces, the marketplace of sweets. This place has every kind of Mexican candy you can imagine and more. They also sell knick knacks, purses, and clothing. Also head over to the historic hotel Virrey de Mondoza which is a lovely place to stay while in Morelia and which is also like stepping into a museum with a gorgeous mosaic on the ceiling. Near this hotel is the Biblioteca Publica de la Universidad Michoacana, a beautiful library to sit down and relax for a while. The Museo Regional Mexicano is also worth seeing with its pre-hispanic relics of the Michoacan region.

Also head to the Palacio Clavijero which is an architecturally luring building with two stories of artwork. For more art, see the nearby Palacio de Gobierno Estado, the government palace, which houses painted murals on its walls. When you’d like to watch the sun set, head to the Hotel Alameda where you can go to the roof which they have turned into a restaurant, order a coffee and have a panoramic view of the city. It is beautiful both day and night. Also to note to see are the Santuario de Guadalupe and Parroquia del Sagrario Metropolitano which are gorgeous churches. Another place to note is the Museo Casa del Morelia, the museum house of Jose Morelos, the war hero after which the city is named. 

Day Trips

If you’re up for a day of adventure and climbing pyramids check out Tzintzuntzan. Also worth noting is Patzcuaro. Take a bus to this cute and quaint pueblo mágico which is also a great place to go for Day of the Dead because they make candle and flower offerings to the dead and release them onto the lake at night. Day of the Dead is from Oct 31-Nov2.

Guadalajara: Charm, Culture & Chocolate Croissants

Guadalajara: Charm, Culture & Chocolate Croissants

I came to Guadalajara and stuffed my face with chocolate croissants until I couldn’t fit anymore. This place is amazing. You have the Cathedral of Guadalajara at the center of the downtown area and the Plaza de Armas where you can catch local street artists and vendors and there are surrounding shops and restaurants. To note is the pizza restaurant at the corner across from the Cathedral where they sell the most amazing chocolate croissants that I think they fill with nutella.

A must see is the Teatro Degollado where you hopefully have some time to catch a show because the interior of the building is beautiful. Also be sure to check out the Parque Metropolitano and the Instituto Cultural Cabanas where you can gaze upon art for hours and hours. Nearby is the Mercado Reforma which is the large martketplace of the city. A beautiful church worth noting is the Templo de Aranzazu.

Be sure to visit Tlaquepaque which is an eclectic mix of churches, art galleries housing famous works by famous artists, street vendors and artists, shopping, restuarants, a beautiful central square with a kiosko, and good eats on the street. Buy a tamale, some steamed veggies with crema and queso, a few churros, and whoever else you want! Great place to go for the day.

If you have time, head over to the Bosque de la Primavera, a forest area northwest of the city where you can hike for a couple hours and lay in a thermal river. This was really relaxing and a nice place to go for the afternoon.

Day Trips

Guadalajara has a beautiful hacienda nearby called Hacienda Lomajim where I was fortunate enough to watch a live show of Mexican dancing and eat while watching the sun set. Unfortunately it’s not free but worth spending the money on a room to enjoy a serene and tranquil day at this gorgeous place that has a pool, hot tub, and place to relax overlooking the lush green Mexican canyons.

The famous pueblo magico of Tequila is most definitely worth seeing as it is where, you guessed it, Tequila is made! Walk around this colorful, historic town for a day and be sure to take a tour of one of the historic distilleries to learn how Tequila is made.

Take a bus to nearby quaint towns like Tapalpa and Chapala and the charming and beautiful pueblo magico in the mountains, Mazamitla.

Also worth seeing is the beautiful Santa Maria del Oro which is an overnight camping site which an absolutely gorgeous lake view. Rent a kayak and go out for a few hours for a relaxing day on the water and listen to the wild birds along the banks.

Also check out the beautiful archaeological site Guachimontones and go hike the pyramids and check out the accompanying museum.

San Luis Potosi: History, Science & Culture in Mexico

San Luis Potosi: History, Science & Culture in Mexico

San Luis Potosi stole my heart for a little while. I came upon the University near the downtown area where I met some very nice students and befriended them hopefully for life. The city has a very old feel to it and it’s quite lovely. Definitely check out the Museo de Mascaras, Museo Regional de Potosi and stroll the nearby Plaza Aranzazu for Indigenous performances.

Find the Metropolitan Cathedral and step into the many cathedrals and churches of the beautiful downtown area. Find the Plaza de Fundadores and around the corner is the public library where you can get water, charge your phone and use the bathroom at no charge. Come upon the Plaza del Carmen and Porroquia Nuetra Sra del Carmen.

Find the Teatro de Paz and stroll down the Calzada de Guadalupe to the Parroquia Basílica Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe San Luisa, a magnificent cathedral. Also check out the Instituto potosino de Bellas Artes, Hotel Museo Palacio de San Agustin and the Meseo de Ferrocarril if you’re into trains. Also check out the Charles Darwin Museum where I learned about evolution and Charles Darwin’s journey in finding out how life works and his great efforts made to challenge the norm of his time.

DAY TRIPS

Make sure you check out Xilitla, a pueblo magico with a castle you can hike and discover. Find the Manantial Media Luna, Cascada Tamul, Cascada Tamasopo, Puente de dios, Cascada Micos, and Cave of swallows. To the north of the city is Real de catorce, another pueblo magico, where you can try Peyote and come upon many Indigenous people walking through the streets.

Mexico City: The Day of the Dead

Mexico City: The Day of the Dead

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Metropolitan Cathedral before the parade
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Day of the Dead offering, downtown Mexico City

For anyone who saw 007 Spectre, which was thought to be one of the best James Bond movies of all time, they did a fake Day of the Dead parade at the beginning of the movie. As I was watching I thought

‘Oh I want to go to one of those Day of the Dead parades so badly.

I found out recently that Mexico City doesn’t actually do those parades, but this year for the first time ever, they are doing a Day of the Dead parade across the city inspired by the movie. And guess who’s conveniently staying in Mexico City to experience this?! ME. #mexicomagico

Check out the fake SPECTRE 007 PARADE:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbqv1kbsNUY

ACTUAL MEXICO CITY PARADE 2016:

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Metropolitan Cathedral in the square downtown where the parade passed
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People painted and wore masks to look like skeletons
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Skeletons on motorcycles
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Skeleton float
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Skull float
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Face painting
Mexico City: The Heart of Mexico

Mexico City: The Heart of Mexico

Mexico City is an amazing cultural experience. The annual Day of the Dead celebration and offerings are something to see. They did a parade for the first time ever this year, 2016, inspired by the 007 film Spectre. (See my post here about the amazing parade!). At the center of the city is Downtown with the impressive Metropolitan cathedral. Across the street is the zocalo, national palace, and Templo Mayor (rich archaeological site). Between the Angel of Independence, a gorgeous statue on the Reforma de Independencia, and the Metropolitan Cathedral is where the parade was held.

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Metropolitan Cathedral

A stroll from the Metropolitan Cathedral through Avenida 5 de Mayo takes you through a cool shopping plaza (peep into the Templo de San Felipe along the way) to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a lovely performing arts center. Further west you will find the exquisite Chapultapec Castle overlooking the beautiful Bosque Chapultapec (forest) and across the way is the incredible Museo Nacional de Antropologia which houses an incredibly impressive amount of pre-hispanic artifacts. It’s amazing; plan on spending at least 3 hours at this museum.

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Palacio de Bellas Artes
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Street art outside Palacio de Bellas Artes

To the southwest of the city you can find Coyoacan, a pleasant stroll past shopping and restaurants with a Church where you can see weddings and quinceaneras taking place. Find the upper-class and well groomed San Angel area in this region of the city where you can find little artisan shops, restaurants and shopping. Also worth discovering are the Frida Kahlo Museum and Museo Casa Studio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

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Frida Kahlo Casa

To the south is Xochimilco where you can take a colorful gondola-like boat called a trajinera across the river past floating gardens (artificial islands) called chinampas. This particular area is a World Heritage Site and has been around since the pre-hispanic era. Check out pictures of Xochimilco here!

To the northwest of the city is the incredible Soumaya Museo which is famous for its outside architecture and its collection of private art owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

DAY TRIPS

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Teotihuacan, ancient city of the gods

Take a trip to Teotihuacan, the ancient pre-hispanic city of the gods located about 1 hour northeast of the city. Check out the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon and all the littler pyramids in between. The energy of the place is incredible.

Also check out Huasco de Ocampo, an area about 3 hours northeast of the city which includes the cool little towns of Mineral de Chico, Mineral de Monte & San Miguel Regla and the lovely prismas basalticos.

Further northeast is the amazing Pena del Aire which is a breathtaking lush green canyon. Come here to align your spirit with the Universe and gain inner peace and a clear mind. Even further north are the beautiful Grutas Tolontongo, ancient caves with thermal pools inside & waterfalls. Bring your swim suit and waterproof phone case to use your phone as a flashlight and explore the cave!

To the southeast of the city is Grutas Cacahuamilpa, an incredible 80 million year old cave with 2 hour tours inside. Worth seeing! Also in this area is the pueblo magico Taxco. Come here to get a nice view of the beautiful canyons of Mexico and explore the little silver shops and mines and see the white buggies! Beautiful place.

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