Almost Fearless

Unexpected: Beyond Puerto Vallarta, the Ruta Del Peregrino



I had driven the road from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara, Mexico twice before, taking the mountain highway that curves along the Sierra Madre Occidental, the mountain range that runs down the length of Mexico and Central America. I noticed the small towns along the highway as I lurched over speed bumps, slowing only enough to not bottom out. We were always going somewhere: Guadalajara for the night, Mexico City beyond that, hours of driving ahead of us, so many exciting things to see and do, it was hard to justify stopping just a few hours into our trip.

This time, we’re writing a guidebook and I’m sopping up Mexico like the last bit of sauce on my plate. We’re traveling overland, our 1984 Volkswagen Westfalia crammed full of books, toys, camping gear and food stuff, not to mention three children ages 7, 4 and 8-months. There’s no rushing. Not when there are bathroom breaks and snacks, short endurance for driving and a lack of AC. All of this is to say, I approached the trip completely differently this time and saw all the things I had missed. While everyone else sped past us, we explored the Ruta del Peregrino, 72 mile camino for the faithful, a 200 year tradition that runs from Ameca to the Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario in Talpa de Allende. Coming from Puerto Vallarta, you drive it reverse:

It’s a significant religious tradition, where pilgrims come to see the Virgen de Talpa, a small statue that was created by Tasacos Indians in Michoacán and brought to Talpa de Allende in 1585. According to the official website, it’s said she’s created countless miracles over the centuries. Beyond the religious significance, the route is dotted with sanctuaries, look out points and shelters, including one created by Ai Wei Wei (the famous Chinese artist). So you have this historic route running through the mountains, interspersed art and architecture and these lovely small towns with cobblestone streets and blooming bougainvilleas spilling over garden walls. It felt a little magical to discover one of the most interesting places in Mexico, in plain sight, just behind the highway I had zoomed down only a few years earlier.

Pilgrims on la ruta

Monumento a La Gratitud (the first stop on the route)

Mirador los Guayabos lookout point

Pilgrims at one of the shelters

A dreamy morning look at Mirador Cerro del Obispo

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Travelers at Mirador Espinazo del Diablo

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Along the way, after a very hot afternoon of driving, we diverted towards a hard-to-find waterfall in Atenguillo. It took asking three separate locals before we were headed in the right direction, through fields and forest, with barbed wire gates we had to open and close ourselves, beneath signs asking us to please keep the gates closed, as there were cattle roaming. At the end of the path, a caretaker collected 10 pesos per adult from us (20 pesos in our case) to enter the falls.

We camped there that night, perfectly tucked away with a babbling creek lulling us to sleep.

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The guidebook comes out in September (both print and digital) at the same times as our first issue (theme: road trips) — when you sign up for a year subscription to the print or digital magazine, you get From Baja to Zipolite: The Complete Guide to Mexico Adventures (For Parents) as our gift! Thank you!

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Christine Gilbert

Christine Gilbert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Almost Fearless. She's a long time traveler, expat and adventurer who is finding her way home to Colorado after nine years on the road. She's one of National Geographic's Travelers of the Year (2014) and author of the book MOTHER TONGUE (2016, Penguin Random House). She has three children: Cole, Stella + Tallulah.

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