This is a travel article I wrote for Livestrong Travel in December on one of my favorite travel destinations, Valle de Bravo, Mexico.
THINGS TO DO IN VALLE DE BRAVO, MEXICO
A two-hour drive north of Mexico City, Valle de Bravo, on the shore of Lake Avándar, is hardly a Mexican tourist hotspot; in fact, it could very well be considered the road less traveled, literately. Those who do make the trek through the winding roads, much of which is unpaved, will find a charming town nestled beneath a panorama of hills dressed with pueblos in various pastels, and that offers a look at both rural Mexico and some outstanding natural beauty. At first glance, the Pueblo Magico (Magic Town), as it is known to locals, might seem just like your typical rural town, but within its borders Valle holds an array of surprises in its tropical forests, archeological sites, cultural center and variety of opportunities for adventure.
Hike Through the Forests of Avandaro
The quiet area of Avandaro doesn’t seem like much when pulling up to the park’s entrance, but follow the path leading you into deep tropical forest, which will lead you on about a two-hour walking tour, to find incredible landscapes consisting of tropical vegetation, lakes, volcanoes and rope bridges leading you to the Velo de Novia Waterfall. With a height of 115 feet, the waterfall and the smaller ones surrounding make for a spectacular spot to rest, swim, fish or take photos and enjoy the view. The trail is free to hike. The ecological reserve has camping-only space, grills, restrooms and cabins for rent.
Go Mountain Biking or Horseback Riding
If you’re seeking an intense workout complete with varying picturesque views along the way, rent a mountain bike and try your hand at the area’s terrain. The region is full of mountains for the advanced biker, or opt for a more casual ride around Valle de Bravo Lake and the cobblestone streets of town. If you’d prefer a little less of a workout, see the sites by horseback. Horse-riding tours are offered that will take you through a variety of scenes from the pine forests to the desert landscape and the tropical forest of Nuevo León’s Huasteca biosphere. History buffs will enjoy a cruise through the valleys of Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte to discover traces of lost Zapotec cities, or take a ride to the top of the hills for amazing sunset views looking over the whole town.
See the Butterflies
During winter, nature lovers can get a unique look at the millions of monarch butterflies that make the migration from eastern Canada to inhabit the forested areas of The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors come to the reserve midday to catch the sights taking place daily around noon when the butterflies come down from the mountains to the reserve en route to a nearby watering hole. The butterflies can been seen making their way in droves along the roads leading from town to the reserve, often bringing traffic to a halt. Visitors making the hike to the observation points must be accompanied by a guide, and there is a fee.
Enjoy Water Sports at the Lake
The centerpiece of the town of Valle de Bravo is the 13-square-mile man-made lake. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax shoreside, rent a boat or try your hand at water sports, you can enjoy it here. The best time for water play is during the rainy season of June to October, when the water levels are best. Tours are available from the municipal pier for boat or yacht rides and rentals nearby for motorboats, water skis, sailboats and kayaks, as well as lessons. During the week when the lake is less crowded, it is also a great spot for fishing for bass and other fish species. The lake is easily found from the main road into town and there is no fee to access.
Pick Up Souvenirs at the Market
Local vendors in the town’s main municipal market sell handmade ceramics, textiles and embroidery in colorful huesthat are unlike anything you will find elsewhere. Visit the Independence Plaza on Sundays when the square comes alive with local bands setting the scene among a handful of unique vendors and offerings of local cuisines like tacos, hand-made ice cream, seafood and specialties such as esquites, boiled corn flavored with chili, limes and other seasonings.
Paraglide Through the Sky
This town might be small, but it is not sleepy. In fact, Valle is a sought-out destination for paragliding enthusiasts and hosts a variety of competitions each year. If you’ve got the guts, more than a dozen vendors in the area are ready to take you up for the bird’s-eye view of the town from many of the lake’s piers. First-timers will go up with an instructor to learn the techniques for safety. The town’s ideal weather, spectacular views and abundance of resident experiences has made it become known as Mexico’s paragliding capital.
Dee Anna David-Ortega is an independent editorial and marketing professional. She has been a writer and editor for more than a decade, working with publications such as “Latina,” “944 Magazine” and the “East Valley Tribune” in Arizona, as well as the Center for Digital Ethics at Loyola University Chicago.