January 5 – 10, 2023.
When we left San Miguel de Allende we had one more stop in the state of Guanajuato, the ruins of a pre-Hispanic settlement called La Cañada de la Virgin.
Of all of the attractions in Mexico, I think the country’s greatest treasure is its archeological sites. Like the US, Mexico has national parks (which in my opinion are the US’s greatest treasure), but they aren’t well organized and developed for tourism. Many other natural features in Mexico are in private hands so getting information on them is often hard and unlike in the US where one roams at will once paying an entrance fee, in Mexico, many places are only accessible with a guide. Mexico’s archeological sites however are set up more like the US National Park Service (NPS) and are managed by a branch of the Mexican federal government called the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH).
The INAH is in charge of over 355 archeological sites and museums which are open to the public at (usually) a low cost. At the ruin sites, there are interpretive signs, museums, and sometimes free tours (and many times guides that offer their services for a fee). The INAH has two websites where you can find information about the sites it manages. Both are well organized with listing by state of its museums and ruins with beautiful pictures, directions to the locations, hours of operation, entry fees, and information about the cultural reference of the sites. You can connect with the INAH on all the popular social media outlets. The https://www.inah.gob.mx/ site is only in Spanish – but with Google Translate installed on Chrome, you can still access all this information in English. This site also has lots of other information about the INAH and what they do. The https://lugares.inah.gob.mx/en/ site has the option to view the site in English. Brochures in English can also be downloaded.
La Cañada de la Virgin
La Cañada de la Virgin was just a short drive from San Miguel de Allende. Unlike most of the archeological sites in Mexico we have visited, here you are not allowed to visit the ruins on your own. From the visitor center, a bus takes you with a guide out to the ruins site. Our guide only spoke Spanish – but from what I gathered Cañada de Virgen is on private land – which is why we needed to be escorted. The guide took us through the grounds. We only understood snippets of what he said, but there are informational signs, and when we had time and felt like we wouldn’t be lagging behind we stopped to read them.
Once we reached the big pyramid, the guide set us free and we were allowed to roam around. We asked the guide some questions but I don’t think he understood our poor Spanish so he didn’t answer them.
Cascada de la Concepción
The next day we visited the Cascada de la Concepción in the State of México. This waterfall was free but parking cost 20 pesos. Unfortunately by this time Greg caught whatever illness I had suffered from on New Year’s Day and spent the morning prone in the van after we arrived. But by the afternoon he was up for a little walk. The falls weren’t little more than a trickle (not at all like the pictures I had seen). But the site was beautiful anyways.
From the falls we were planning on heading to Mexico City to see a friend we had met 4 years ago. Our friend had been seriously ill the previous year and was still recovering. And now since I had given Greg my mystery illness, we didn’t want to risk giving it to her. So we changed our plans and headed in another direction.
I found a campground on iOverlander called La Burbuja (The Bubble) outside of a small town called Jilotepec de Molina Enríquez in the State of Mexico. It looked like it would be a good spot just to rest for a few days. Little did we know that we would have an awesome experience here having dinner with and getting to know the campground owner, Raul, and his family. Check out our January Nomad Report for more on that. Greg recovered quickly and we spent one afternoon hiking through the nearby Las Peñas de Dexcani Alto, a climbing park. Because we were walking we weren’t charged to enter the park. The next day on the recommendation of Raul, we found our way to a pretty dam on the outskirts of the town.
Zona Arqueológica de Tula
The other plus of changing course was that we now had the chance to visit another ruins site and make a stop in a new state, Hidalgo. At the Zona Arqueológica de Tula we found something we’d never seen before at any Méxican ruins, giant statues. And what I didn’t realize until later when I was writing this post, the ruins are included in the Parque Nacional de Tula (National Park of Tula). Upon entering and exiting the park you stroll through a lovely garden of native species.
From the ruins, we would make our way back to urban life and to the fourth largest city in Mexico, Puebla. I’ll tell you all about that after the next monthly Nomad Life & Expense Report.
* Remember, hover over pics to see captions. All pics are click to enlarge. You can view them in a slide show or just enlarge them one by one.