<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> RVing Mexico's Colonial Cities
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.



The Colonial Cities

By David Eidell

With a few exceptions Mexico's colonial cities are located well inland and because most are found in mountainous regions, altitudes can range upwards to nine thousand feet. Many colonial cities are actually remnants of Mexico's "silver-rush" era which by all accounts is only slowly winding down today.

If you draw a line straight down the middle of Mexico from top to bottom a majority of Colonial Cities will be found within a hundred miles to either side. At the bottom, Puebla and Cholula anchor the imaginary line, while to the North, Guanajuato, San Miguel, and Zacatecas occupy the upper reaches of the zone.

For the above reasons, perhaps the most expeditious routes when entering Mexico to visit the colonial cities would be one of several Ports of Entry in the State of Texas. On the West Coast, most RV'ers choose to drive to Guadalajara and then make a decision whether to go south to Morelia (a colonial city), east to Puebla, or northeast to San Miguel and Guanajuato. Perhaps a picture is already forming in your mind that the colonial cities stretch for quite a distance along that imaginary line and you would be correct. Some eight hundred miles separate the most Northerly from the most Southerly city.


Central Mexico can be described as a gigantic high-elevation plateau criss-crossed by several mountain ranges. To the south and southwest of Guadalajara is Mexico's principal volcanic zone, while Mexico's most famous smoking mountain "Popocatepetl" ("popo" for short) is just a stone's thrown from Puebla and Cholula (two Colonial cities Southeast of Mexico City).


Altitude affects the climate of the cities more than the latitude. A typical January day in Zacatecas (8,000 ft.) for instance may bring temperatures in the low sixties, while at the beach directly to the west a couple hundred miles, the mercury would be hovering perhaps fifteen degrees higher. Winter is (more or less) Mexico's dry season. Freakish amounts of snowfall can perhaps close the roads for a day, but the average temperature and precipitation do not allow for road closures much longer than that and then perhaps once per ten years. Expect morning frost and your heater to be required most nights. Summer weather on the other hand is much better here (at altitude) than on the hot and sweaty beaches. Even with occasional rain (widely scattered thundershowers), humidity reading generally remain below forty percent and temperatures seldom exceed the mid eighties.


Because the interior area occupied by the Colonial Cities also happens to be the most populous region in Mexico, the majority of new toll expressways are also found there. With the possible exception of the city of Zacatecas, wherever you find a Colonial City, a multi-lane toll road won't be far away. Four major entry points to Mexico from the USA are connected to the interior by toll expressways. Even the largest and longest pusher diesel RV's in combination with dinghy or dolly with dinghy will find smooth going. This isn't to say that the larger and lowest slung rigs can non-chalantly bounce down any of the region's secondary or side roads. But things have certainly changed in the last ten years where one couldn't even count on a reasonably level approach to a gasoline station.


As I always say "Why not start off with a bang?". Get out your map and trace a line to the city of Zacatecas which is located in the state sharing that name (North Central Mexico). Zacatecas is one of the "hidden jewels" of colonial Mexico and it is a fine way to start things off. From Zacatecas, go southeast to Guanajuato but don't stop there, continue on to San Miguel de Allende, where there are more and better RV parks and twenty five miles gets you to Guanajuato. The two cities are without a doubt the most popular destinations on the Colonial Cities circuit for good reason. "San Miguel" has a huge expatriate community, and with it's stores, markets and restaurants, shined to a high gloss by American savvy merchants, countless internet cafes and coffee houses, San Miguel makes for a fine base of operations.

Guanajuato is perhaps the crown jewel of the colonial cities. It's haphazard anti-design, quirky architecture, and orientation (started in a ravine and then spread up the sides) make Guanajuato a certain hit even if you aren't into the Colonial Cities atmosphere. The word "charming" doesn't do it justice -- a romantic shang-ri-la comes to mind but the city just overwhelms the senses with optical delights. In any event the best way to see Guanajuato is on foot and the best way to get there from the RV park in San Miguel is by intra-city bus.


It's a tall order to perform an extended "Beach Crawl" along the West Coast then go to the "Bajio" (central plateau where Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are located). If your time is limited and the beach crawl is high on your list of priorities, then the following may be for you:

Exit the beach at either Tepic or Manzanillo and then head for Guadalajara. Visit the city if you wish and then take the SOUTHERN "periferico" (bypass highway) and get on Mex 15D eastbound. There are huge freeway size overhead signs that will directly you effortlessly to Morelia the capital of the lush and green state of Michoacan. Morelia has several high-quality RV parks and for the homesick there's even a Wal-Mart and Costco.

Downtown Morelia has several day's worth of sightseeing it's colonial churches and stores and then when you're done you can drive twenty-eight miles to the southwest and visit Patzcuaro, one of the top three driving destinations in Mexico. Patzcuaro may well be the number one RV destination in the entire country. It's a small, ancient town set on the shore of a huge lake and Patzcuaro's authentically attired Indian population with native crafts markets and stores will make even the most hardened beach slug or Colonial Cities zealot forget their primary objective. There are several RV parks to choose from


I singled Alamos out of all of the Colonial Cities because, it by definition, happens to be within a day's drive of one of the most popular "other type of" destination area which is San Carlos / Guaymas Sonora.

Alamos is located a hour or so east of the city of Navojoa on Mexico's West Coast. It is an authentic silver mining colonial city but may not be exactly on a par with the inland cities however few who visit come away disappointed. The best place to stay with a rig longer than 22 feet is the facility about eight miles before you reach town. Frequently running buses stop right at the front entrance of the RV park. There is a downtown park which is usually crowded.