Pueblos Magicos: Explore the Beauty and Culture of Valle de Bravo
It is no secret that I love visiting the small, traditional towns throughout Mexico and that I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to tell about it. When first starting my quest to visit all the Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns) of Mexico, only 35 of them existed. Five years later, the program has exceeded to over 50! This month, the magazine México Desconocido, published their 54 Pueblos Magicos 2012 Edition – the bible that highlights the “magical” experiences these towns have to offer. With inspiration in my hand and only 11 marked off the list, my next venture became Valle de Bravo.
Located in the State of Mexico, Valle de Bravo is approximately 100 miles from Mexico City. Opting to forgo the scenic route, my travel companion and I paved through the highway tolls and made it to Valle de Bravo in just over an hour. As we arrived through the ‘Welcome’ arches, a full rainbow and peeking sun surprisingly greeted us soon after an abrupt rainfall. Feeling like we just entered a live fairy-tale, the ‘magic’ of this place was indeed present and slowly revealing.Valle de Bravo or simply “Valle” situates on a small plateau on the edge of Lake Avandaro. The lake, also known as Presa Valle de Bravo, is the man-made product of accidental flooding. Perfect for boating, kayaking, sailing, fishing, and all other water sports, the lake is what catapulted Valle to the tourist destination it is today. Touristic boat rides offer a view from every vantage point and are available from the main dock. Magnificent scenery of mountains and woodlands hug the shoreline in addition to the impressive mansions and country clubs that adorn the area (Valle also serves as a weekend getaway for Mexico City’s elite).
Once we went through town, we settled in our hotel at Mision Refugio del Salto, which is slightly south of Valle in Avandaro. I chose this hotel specifically for its setting because it is built near El Molino waterfall, secluded and yet centrally near places of interest. While the hotel itself is beautiful, I noticed that it is also its own attraction. The pure natural surroundings and an assortment of superb spa treatments (including traditional temazcal ceremonies) provide a complete holistic experience.
It is in Avandaro where you can really enjoy contact with nature and unworldly environments. It promises scenes of great beauty on lovely horseback strolls through flower-scented forests, up to the beautiful panoramic vistas at La Torre Monte Alto -- or through another course, to the breathtaking waterfall, Cascada Velo de Novia. Nearby are two Buddhist Stupas dedicated to world peace, and offer a tranquil space for anyone to meditate.
The next day we started our exploration around the waterfalls and had the grounds to ourselves to enjoy a picnic breakfast with nature’s best soundtrack playing in the background. As the fog lifted and the sun shined brightly, we then set out to discover the charms that make up the traditional town of Valle. The enchanting zocalo is the ideal place to begin a touristic route because it is within walking distance to all the sites of interests: museums, cultural centers, markets, the boardwalk along the lake, and El Pino, a 700 year old tree. As with most traditional towns in Mexico, the main square is always close to its main church, in this case, Parroquia San Francisco de Asís . However there is one other church nearby, Templo de Santa Maria Ahuacatlán, that definitely caught my attention. In this church, locals and pilgrims venerate a miraculous black Christ statue believed by many as the survivor of a fire, which transformed it into its dark color. Other common touristic activities include recreational sports such as paragliding, mountaineering, or hiking up to one of Valle’s many miradors.
This small town was an incredible blend of past and present. The locals, many of ethnic OtomI, Mazahua, and Mazatlinca descent, offer their handicrafts and regional cuisine mixed among Mexico’s privileged weekend visitors who visit the fine galleries and world-class restaurants. Valle de Bravo is one of the few popular Mexican towns that did not completely succumb to glamorous innovation and continues to preserve its heritage roots and originality.
Though Valle de Bravo marks as number 12 of my Magic Town list, I know it will warrant another visit very soon. Summers are meant for weekends at the shores, which is exactly what Valle provides, but my curiosity will entice me to return in the winter as well. With pleasant temperatures year round, it is home to migrating Monarch butterflies that make their way to Mexico from the US and Canada. Like me, the butterflies know this is the magical place to rest and return whenever time permits.