World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico

Mexico: Western Mexico in One Week

On this route, you enter Mexico through the LeɃn/Guanajuato International airport and leave from Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. In between, you're treated to a variety of places and scenes -- from the maze of streets and alleyways of the old mining town of Guanajuato, to the stately colonial city of Morelia, to the Indian town of Pȥtzcuaro, to the modern resort hotels of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. From November to March you can add a day trip from Morelia to a magical place in the mountain forests east of the city where millions of monarch butterflies congregate in a yearly ritual that is one of the most intriguing of nature's mysteries.

Day 1: Guanajuato

Take it easy until you get used to the altitude. Contract a taxi to give you a tour of the city by taking you along the panoramic highway that circles the narrow valley where the old city is nestled. Stop to take in the view from the statue of El Pȷpila before descending to the subterranean highway to see the houses cantilevered out over the road. Once you're ready for a stroll, try navigating through the jumble of streets surrounding the city's main plaza, taking time to visit a couple of the downtown museums.

Days 2 & 3: Morelia

Take a taxi or bus for the 2 1/2-hour drive to Morelia. Build in some time to enjoy the cathedral from one of the many vantage points offered by the cafes and restaurants that front Avenida Madero. This is best done in late afternoon/early evening, when it appears to the casual visitor that no one in Morelia is at the office. Take a tour of the city the next day and enjoy coffee, a drink, or dinner on the terrace of the Villa MontaɁa Hotel. In winter you can take a day trip to see the monarch butterflies. Another option is a day trip to the dormant volcano El Paricutȷn.

Days 4 & 5: Pȥtzcuaro & the Lakeside Villages of the Purȳpecha

From Morelia it's only an hour's drive to the picturesque town of Pȥtzcuaro and the heart of the Purȳpecha homeland. This is the Indian version of colonial Mexico. Enjoy a stroll around the two principal plazas of the town and pay a visit to the House of Eleven Patios and the Museo de Artes e Industrias Populares for a fascinating examination of all the different art forms practiced in the region. On your next day, hire a car or guide to take a tour of the lakeside villages and perhaps take a taxi to the town of Santa Clara to watch the coppersmiths at work.

Days 6 & 7: Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo

The new toll highway connecting the central highlands to these resorts will get you there in 4 hours. Relax for a couple of days and then catch a flight back home.

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