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Dec 30: Valle de Bravo, Mexico

[View Photos of Valle de Bravo]

Tucked away in the hillsides, just a couple of hours outside of Mexico City, is a great, weekend getaway town called Valle de Bravo. There is a big beautiful lake for boating, wakeboarding, sailing and jet skiing. For the more adventurous, there is also paragliding. There are wonderful homes that line the hillsides and a market that comes to life on the weekends and lines the center of town. The central market is a great place to people watch and pick up some local treats.

Be careful on the road from Valle de Bravo to Mexico City...there is a stretch of road that requires you to slow down to 15mph (which you should obey as there are police that patrol the road). The reason for the caution is to protect the Monarch Butterflies as they make there way from the hills to the lake for an afternoon drink and swim in the pool. Make sure you pull of the road and take a few minutes to enjoy as the swarm of butterflies as they flutter by. [View Photos or Valle de Bravo]

How to get to Valle de Bravo: There are a few different routes to get to Valle de Bravo from Mexico City. For a map, click here.

Best places to eat in Valle de Bravo:

    Alma Edith *****: For breakfast, I highly recommend Alma Edith located just outside of the church of San Francisco de Asis which has world class food that ranks this as one of my all time best breakfast spots. The chilaquiles verde were some of the best I've ever had. The scrambled eggs would make Martha Stewart proud and included nice, thick chunks of bacon. They also had some very tasty French Toast (which they simply call pan de frances so don't confuse it with a French baguette). To top it off, the coffee was extremely flavorful and robust (this could explain why they have managed to keep Starbucks out of town). The food was top notch, however the service was a little slow... which could just be due to that they were extremely busy at the time.

    Restaurant Bar "Paraiso" ***.5: This place does not have the best food, but it is well located and has nice view over the lake. It is located on La Costera in front of the Embarcadero (which is Spanish for "Embark-Over-There-O" to let people know where the boats are). I ordered the trout expecting to have a nice fresh fish caught that day...what I got was a tiny fish that tasted like he had been hanging around the kitchen for a couple of was still good, but not exceptional. The soups were good however, both corn chowder and the carrot soup. Overall, it is a nice spot to catch the sunset and watch the people go by, and on some nights catch one of the local bands.

    Club de Vela Santa Maria ****: The Club de Vela Santa Maria is located in a beautiful location on the lake's edge with a view of the paragliders coming in for a landing and the boaters, sailors and wake boarders heading out for the day. The food is well above average...the caprese salad was made with nice, fresh, thick slices of tomatoes and tasty buffalo cheese (not the flavorless rubber cheese that you get in some places). In addition to that, the spaghetti with salmon was very pleasant, made with nice, large, fresh chunks of salmon. The club is located at the end of Marina Nacional road (#201), and it is only open to the public Friday through Sunday.

Best things to do around Valle de Bravo:

    A Must-See/Must-Do activity if you visit from November to March is to go to the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly sanctuary to see millions of Monarch butterflies that migrate 1,000's of kilometers from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico for the winter. The butterflies cover the trees to the point that you cannot even see the tree trunks or the branches. The hike to the sanctuary is very steep and challenging with the high altitude. On foot, it will take 30-40 minutes if you are in great shape; 40-50 minutes for the average person and at least an hour if you are out of shape (RangerCris hiking time is omitted to avoid embarrassment to RangerCris or others). Butterflies may not be at the top of everyone's list, but this is truly one of those amazing natural wonders that you have to see and I'm sure you'll be happy you did. During the 2010-2011 season, there were 10,456,201 Monarch butterflies that came to the Piedra Herrara Sanctuary (this figure was obtained using the typical, highest of standards, RangerCris calculations and is accurate to within +/- 1,000%).

    Paragliding is one of the wildest things to do in Valle de Bravo, however you won't catch me up there. I saw a couple of guys that had to be about 3,000 to 4,000 feet above the lake...from that height, your helmet is going to be glad it has you to protect it in case of a fall.

    Other activities include: horseback riding, mountain biking, sailing, boating, wakeboarding, windsurfing, jet skiing, golf and hiking. For an easy hike, I recommend seeing the Velo de Novia waterfall located in the town of Avandaro. It is about a 15 minute hike from the road to the bottom of the falls...5 minutes if you just want to see them from the top.

    Or, if you are not the adventurous type, there is always sightseeing and shopping. There are some very nice shops along J. Arcadio Pagaza with a great selection of furniture and other original items.

Best bars and clubs in Valle de Bravo:

    Clubbing is a very popular activity in Valle de Bravo. There are dozens of clubs located around the town, (most on Francisco G. Bocanegra), that are open until the early morning.

    Scala Canta Bar: Scala is a great karaoke bar located on Francisco G. Bocanegra. Seating is limited so they may not let you in, but the atmosphere is great, the staff is very friendly and it is common for the entire bar to start singing along when a popular song comes on.

    El 1080: El 1080 is located at 16 de Septiembre #301...good music, and a nice atmosphere. Scala is a great karaoke bar located on Francisco G. Bocanegra. Seating is limited so they may not let you in, but the atmosphere is great, the staff is very friendly and it is common for the entire bar to start singing along when a popular song comes on.

Best hotels, posadas and places to stay in Valle de Bravo:

    Meson del Viento: The Meson del Viento hotel is a beautiful property located at 5 de Mayo #111. There is a nice yard with a pool and the rooms are very comfortable and well maintained. It is well located just a short walk to the shopping district, embarcadero and church plaza.

    Los Arcos: Los Arcos is an older hotel, but it is clean, well maintained and very nicely located. Most rooms include a fireplace and a bundle of wood is 40 pesos. The rooms on the upper floors have a balcony wiith a view of the lake and the garden and pool. On the weekend, a room with a fireplace is about 900 pesos, during the week, Sunday through Thursday, the prices are lower (prices are as of Jan, 2011).

    Posada Centrica: Posada Centrica is located at Francisco G. Bocanegra #104, in the heart of the bar and club district. Eight sister own and manage a group of rooms at this location. Suit-Ce which is managed by Osbelia includes a number of rooms that include a kitchen and can sleep about 4 people...these run about 500 pesos/night on the weekend. There is also a master suite on the top floor with 360 degree views of the chapel and lake. This does not include a kitchen (fridge and oven coming soon), and includes a pull out sofa bed to sleep 4. The Master Suite runs about 900 pesos/night. The phone number is 726 262 6119.

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