Driving along The Sierra Madre

On our trip to Puerto Vallarta, my “parcero” (Colombian Spanish slang for bff) and I decided to rent a car to visit Mexican pueblos (little towns) located on the Sierra Madre Occidental (West Sierra Madre). It would be our first time driving in Mexico and driving on mountain roads.

Our plan is considered ambitious. We decided to visit three pueblos, each with its own beauty, and made it back to Puerto Vallarta while there was still light around 6.30pm.

  1. We left Puerto Vallarta (where the big sign is on a roundabout) at about 8.45am.
  2. Our first stop was be San Sebastian del Oeste.  The trip took about 1h 40min.  A stretch to the town had to be retraced back to reach the main highway.
  3. Then we continued on to Mascota where we had to pass many curves and slopes for about 50 minutes before reaching the valley where the town in located. Total trip was 1h 10min. To me, this was the most unnerving stretch of the drive and on the way back, there was some fog in this stretch (around 4.30-5.00pm).
  4. From Mascota to our last stop, Talpa de Allende took about 35-40 minutes on a much nicer drive (fewer tricky curves and a couple lookout points to enjoy the view).  We stopped at both on the way back.
  5. The trip back to Puerto Vallarta (to the same roundabout) from Talpa took about 3h 10min (there was less traffic and I had to admit I probably went a bit faster than I should, even with fog in the stretch between Talpa and Mascota).

Overall, we felt the long drive was worth it.  We saw very beautiful sights, chatted with friendly locals, and enjoyed delicious local food. The three towns we visited carry the designation “pueblos mágicos” given by the Ministry of Tourism of Mexico. This designation is given to cities/towns that uphold and promote its heritage and status as tourist destination.

Here is the run down of what we did in every town:


San Sebastian del Oeste

We had chilaquiles for breakfast at Los Arcos de Sol, overlooking the main square.


The charming main square of San Sebastian del Oeste


After that, we strolled around this former mining town.  A guy in front of the health centre pointed out a small trail for us to explore between the small adobe houses. It was worth it! What a beautiful walk!


Strolling along the cobble-stoned streets of San Sebastian del Oeste.


We also went to the Barroque-style Church of San Sebastian and the museum next door which houses artifacts (statues, ceramics) from an ancient civilization called Texoquinos.  San Sebastian is very charming to stroll around, and with a population of 700, it is very tranquile. Due to our ambitious schedule, we had to pass on going up La Bufa hill, the old mines, and Hacienda Jalisco.


The colonial church in San Sebastian del Oeste.



Mascota is the largest town in between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara on the Sierra Madre mountain range.  We love the colors of the Church tower (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores), which are mainly white and red.


The main facade of Mascota’s Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.


The same white and red combination is also painted on the rest of the buildings around the main plaza.  Pretty!  It was great for a self-diagnosed OCD like me where everything has to match. We made only a quick stop here to visit the Church, peeked into the City Hall, and refilled our stomach with hot chocolates and cookies.


White and red colonial style buildings in Mascota’s main square.


Talpa de Allende

Talpa is known for its Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa. The celebration for this Santa is every May.  Talpa and a small chapel called Cruz del Romero outside town are on the Jalisco state’s Pilgrims’ route.  The route ends at the Basilica.


View from the Cruz del Romero Chapel towards the town of Talpa de Allende.


The plaza is very pretty with its amphitheater and flower plants.  And the basilica stands imposingly.


Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa in Talpa de Allende.


As we walked around, we could smell guava and sugar being cooked to make the Guayaba roll. I found them too sweet, but the smell was nice.  We had birria for lunch in the market.  Birria is a goat or pig stew (or mixed of both) eaten with tortilla and topped with onion, cilantro, and lime.  It was delicious and not too heavy.  Birria is typical to the city of Guadalajara and the Jalisco state.   The place which serves birria is called birrieria.


Birria! Sin commentarios!


After lunch, we decided to walk up the hill to the Christ statue (Monumento a Cristo Rey) and a lookout point. Unfortunately, the trees are left to grow high and we could not see much of the town from there.


View of the town of Talpa de Allende from up the hill.


We enjoyed our time in Talpa and glad that we decided to visit all three towns, despite being told it was too ambitious.

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