Nayarit and Jalisco Highlands

After a lazy Christmas along the Pacific Coast, we headed inland to Laguna Santa Maria del Oro, a beautiful crater lake. The lake and surrounding area were popular, but had a much more relaxed atmosphere than the coast and was mostly full of vacationing families.

We walked around the lake, read books at our camp site by the lake, and roasted marshmallows with some very friendly guys that wanted to practice speaking English with us. There are many restaurants along the lake specialising in ceviche, so we also tried it out… but we ordered WAY too much and ended up with over half to go. We can’t recommend traveling with ceviche – no matter what you try, the fridge (and vehicle) end up smelling like onions and fish.

After leaving the lake inside the long extinct volcano, we headed off to camp at an active one! Ceboruco last erupted in 1870, but there are still small fumaroles emitting steam from the ground to show it is still alive. At some point a visitor center was built up top, but has long since been abandoned and nature is slowly taking it over again.

After our first night on an active volcano, we headed off to find breakfast in the town of Ixtlán del Rio and visit the ruins of a pre-Hispanic temple nearby. This was our first of many ruins in the region.

The next two archaelogical sites were near the town of Etzatlán. The town of Etzatlán was very charming a surprise to us. The center of town was full of beautiful colonial buildings, and between our camp site and town was a well maintained pedestrian trail along a former railway. The town was also a great starting point for seeing local ruins. The first was an active archaeological dig site we visited on a tip from the RV Park we stayed at. The weekend guard happily showed us around and told us both about the history of the site and a bit about the archaeological process. The second site we visited were Guachimontones (link to Guachimontones). These pyramids are very unique circular structures and the most interesting of all those we visited.

After all that history, archaeology and attached museums, it was nearly New Years time for some fun – Tequila!

Of course, we weren’t the only ones that thought the town of Tequila would be a fun place to hang out around New Years. The old town was packed with visitors, so after a short walk through town, we hopped back in the car and headed up the Volcano Tequila to set up camp. We stayed for two nights, with a trip down the volcano to a Tequila factory, Tres Mujeres. This is a newer distillery, but that meant much cheaper tours than the big name distilleries. Jose Cuervo changes over 300 pesos for a tour, but Tres Mujeres was only 20 pesos, including degustation with 5 different tequilas. Good thing the Landy had a nice shady parking spot so we could hang out and let the tequila burn off after that!

Now one bottle of tequila heavier, we packed the Landy up and headed to the second largest city in Mexico. It may have been our lack of expectations, but Guadalajara was a vibrant and liveable city.  In our two days there we walked all over the city. There are beautiful churches, colonial architecture, art, markets, interesting restaurants and even good beer!

Our last stop in Jalisco was Tlaquepaque. This is still within the urban sprawl of Guadalajara, but it felt like a far removed village.

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