Looking for an adventure? Love to shop for crafts and jewelry? Longing to just get away and relax? The Mexican state of San Luis PotosĂ- offers this and much more. Best of all, it can be found at an affordable price and less than a day's drive.
It is no secret that Mexico tourism is struggling in light of the recent H1N1 flu scare and the weak global economy. Consequently, Mexico is boosting its tourism promotion efforts and great deals can be found.
One of the initiatives is the development of a new Web site, www.ofertasvivemexico.com, which offers special travel packages to all the different destinations in the country.
Located in Mexico's Central Highlands, San Luis Potosi is a diverse state with four distinct regions — Central Region, Highland Region, Media Region and Huasteca Region. Which ever area of the state you visit, you are sure to find stunning scenery and friendly people.
"We invite our friends from all over the world to come sample the hospitality of San Luis Potosi," said Patricia Velez Aleman, secretary of tourism for the state. "We are fortunate to have a variety of cultural and blended traditions, beautifully contrasting natural landscapes and elegant and stunning architectural gems."
The City of San Luis Potosi sits in the Central Region and combines both the traditional and modern.
The city streets of the city's central historic district are perfect for an evening stroll. The city is noted for having undertaken an impressive lighting project. During December celebrations, special lighting shows are projected on the historic buildings of downtown, such as Carmen Church, Fundadores Plaza, CompaĂ±ia Church and the Loreto Chapel. (View photos of the light show at www.visitasanluispotosi.com) Even during the times when the special lighting shows are not being offered, the downtown sights are nicely lit.
Rich in history, buildings from the 17th and 18th century feature a variety of architectural styles. Some of the sights not to be missed include Plaza de Armas, the heart of the state capital; the Baroque style Metropolitana Cathedral; San Francisco Church, featuring a great collection of 18th century artwork; San Luis Potosi Regional Museum, a building once part of the Franciscan convent complex; and San Juan de Dios Church, the oldest in the city.
In the mood for shopping, head to Santa MarĂ-a del Rio, about a 45-minute drive, and witness the beautiful silk rebozo shawls the city the is famous for producing. At the Escuela del Rebozo de Santa Maria del Rio (Rebozo de Santa Maria del Rio School). located off the city's main plaza, visitors can see how the shawls are crafted, from raw silk to the final weaving stages. Shawls in a variety of colors and styles are available for sale there and other shops in the city. Visit our Web site, www. valleytowncrier.com, for more on Santa MarĂ-a del Rio and other attractions in the central region.
Ciudad Valles is the largest city in the region and a central location to serve as headquarters for exploration of the Huasteca Region. Located in the eastern part of the state, it features an extensive network of rivers, many waterfalls, and numerous hidden treasures.
Whether you are looking for adventure travel or a relaxing getaway, the lush tropical setting of El Naranjo fits the bill. Located a little over an hour north of Valles, Naranjo features three stunning waterfalls — El Salto, El Meco and Minas Viejas.
Cascada El Meco, a few miles north of Naranjo, can be admired from a viewing spot off the highway, or from beautiful setting offered at the Huasteca Secreta (huastecasecreta.com) restaurant. As the clear, blue water of the Rio Salta rushes down the falls, enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner on the restaurant's patio.
If you have time for a longer state, Huasteca Secreta offers striking accommodations in their bungalows and villas. Since recently being featured in the Mexican telenovella Distilando Amor, the area has seen an increase in tourism, so be sure to make plans in advance. The area offers a variety of adventure experiences, water sports in particular, and ecotourism day trips, which can be arranged through the hotel.
Other nature adventures await to the south of Valles.
Near Aquismon, up in the mountains, is a site that showcases the area's amazing natural beauty, Sotano de Golondrinas (Golondrinas Cellar). From the town square, travel up a winding mountain road to a lookout spot where you can access a steep path to the huge, 1,680-foot-deep cavern where hundreds of green parrots and swifts (swallows) nest in the rocky walls. The hike takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
Plan to visit at sunrise or shortly before sunset when the flocks can best be viewed leaving or returning to their nesting site. Although the birds and cavern are the main attraction, you will also be able to see a variety of tropical plants, such as bromeliads and coffee plants, sharing the mountain side with more familiar small cactus and succulents.
You may have seen this site featured on adventure programs on cable television, but base jumping and scaling down into the cavern is no longer permitted as the government attempts to preserve the site for its winged inhabitants. For a rapelling adventure, try the nearby Sotano de las Huahuas (Huahuas Cellar).
Be advised, the rocky path down and up to the viewing site is steep and can be slippery with mountain mist and the mud of earlier hikers. Dress appropriately. The mountain rode to the overlook is also very steep, and unpaved in sections. A truck or four-wheel drive vehicle is advisable, or hire a ride at the Aquismon town square.
Traveling further south from Aquismon, watch for roadside stands selling the work of local artisans. About an hour south of Aquismon is Xilitla, the site of the architectural wonders and tropical gardens of Jardin Surrealista de Edward James (Edward James Surrealist Garden) and Las Pozas, a waterfall and recreation area. Both these sites were extensively profiled in the Valley Town Crier in 2006 and are again available on our Web site.
Explore the pre-Hispanic history of the region by traveling to TamuĂ-n, less than an hour east of Valles. There sits the remnants of a city dating back to 1150 BC, known as Tamtoc. Read our 2006 report on the site on our Web site.