Travel & Outdoors
|San Sebastian Tour Offers Much More than History|
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January 23, 2010
My family took a rare winter break recently with a week long holiday to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
It was our first holiday in Mexico, and one we really, really enjoyed. It’s no wonder the country is a vacation favourite amongst Canadians. The weather is fine, people are friendly, and, at least as far as we were concerned, the holiday was a great value.
Puerto Vallarta is a rapidly developing tourist zone in Mexico, receiving international attention in the early 1960’s when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed the movie “Night of the Iguana.”
The Mexican government began realizing the area’s tourist opportunities shortly after the film’s release resulted in a sudden influx of visitors to the region. They dumped some money into the local economy, and kick started a tourist industry that today accounts for 85 per cent of the area’s economy.
Today, there are hundreds of vacation opportunities in the area, from condominium ownership / rentals to five star all inclusive resorts.
The area is very popular with Canadians, witnessed by the number of vehicles with Canadian license plates on them.
Several tour operators operate day trips out of many of the main resorts in the Puerto Vallarta area. You can sign up for them at the tour operator’s desk in your resort, and generally the bus will pick you up at your resort on the morning of your excursion.
Anyone interested in history would be well advised not to miss the tour to San Sebastian de Oeste.
This is an all day bus tour that will take you to a 400 year old silver mining town in the Sierra Madre, about two and a half hours out of Puerto Vallarta.
Founded in 1605, the village sits at roughly 1500 metres above sea level, and as a tour offers several different tourist opportunities to take in, all in one trip.
First and foremost is the 400 year span of Mexican history that reveals itself in the village, from centuries old architecture to bullet holes that remain in the doorframes of almost every building that stood during the Mexican revolution, which began in 1910.
On our tour, the guide was chock full of interesting information about the countryside and the history of Mexico and San Sebastian. Personable, friendly and knowledgeable, he added immensely to the experience.
The journey began with an air conditioned coach winding its way up into the Sierra Madre on a narrow, twisty (but paved) mountain road that has only in the last decade seen improvements to highway status. Even so, rainy season washouts can still shut the road down for days, and rockfall rubble litters the road even in the dry season.
A stop at the San Sebastian Tequila Distillery is a pleasant break in this journey. (Tequila tours seem to be an integral part of the tour business, and after the first one they can be quite annoying, but that’s another story.)
There are some excellent photo opportunities of the mountain road and the local countryside at this point, and if it is your first tequila tour, you should find it interesting.
The journey into the mountains passes through ranching and farming country, where the coveted blue agave plant grows (considered to be best for tequila manufacture) and cattle wander through vegetation that slowly transitions from rain forest growth to cooler climate plant life. Near San Sebastian, for instance, pine, oak, mahogany and other trees suddenly pop into view.
Still, at the entrance to San Sebastian, the climate is still conducive to growing such things as citrus fruits and coffee. A 10 hectare coffee plantation is the next stop on the tour, where visitors are shown around the plantation and the coffee making process is explained. Visitors are then given the opportunity to purchase freshly produced coffee on site.