2023 Pueblos de Plata

Welcome to our 9th annual Mexico trip. This year we visit famous Mexico silver cities, starting with Alamos and the most beautiful hacienda in Mexico. While there, we will have an opportunity to overfly Copper Canyon with its unique geological features, which many compare to Grand Canyon.

We will continue to the city of Guanajuato, which is the capital of the state with the same name, with its colonial and baroque architecture; thin, colorful, winding streets that run across town and the mines on which the city was founded. While in the state of Guanajuato, we will also visit its most famous town of San Miguel de Allende, with its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and cultural festivals and the city’s historic, cobblestoned center.

Our last destination is the city of Zacatecas, a 16th century silver mining hub built on the steep slopes of a narrow valley overlooked by a steep and imposing hillside. The large historic center is jam-packed with opulent colonial buildings, a stupendous cathedral, magnificent museums and steep, winding streets and alleys.

Date Day Town Comments
2/18/2023 Saturday Tucson, Arizona Optional US get together for a flight to Mexico
2/19/2023 Sunday Alamos (MM45) Fly to Ciudad Obregon (MMCN) and continue to Alamos
2/20/2023 Monday Alamos Fly over Copper Canyon or relax at the Hacienda
2/21/2023 Tuesday Leon (MMLO) Fly to Leon and transfer to Guanajuato
2/22/2023 Wednesday Guanajuato Visit the town of Guanjuato
2/23/2023 Thursday San Miguel de Allende Morning transfer to San Miguel de Allende
2/24/2023 Friday Zacatecas (MMZC) Afternoon transfer to Leon airport and fly to Zacatecas
2/25/2023 Saturday Zacatecas Visit the town of Zacatecas
2/26/2023 Sunday Fly back home

Program

Alamos

Our trip starts at the Hacienda de los Santos in Alamos, Sonora. This is the fourth time we are coming to Hacienda de los Santos and it is because this is truly a unique place. The hotel won first place in 2016 Trip Advisor Top 25 Small Hotels in Mexico and it certainly deserves that honor. Jim and Nancy Swickard bought the property over 30 years ago and patiently renovated it, adding over the years to what used to be three Spanish colonial mansions and a sugar mill. It is a breathtaking collection of colonial mansions connected by stone pathways, brick tunnels and Moroccan-style arches. The 30 guest rooms, all individually designed, have antiques, fireplaces, original artwork and tile floors topped with thick carpets, and they all face front courtyards lush with fountains, small swimming pools and leafy guanacaste trees. A spa on the premises offers treatments from massages to body wraps, and its restaurant serves tasty Mexican classics in a romantic, candlelit ambience.

The city of Álamos, dating back to 1682 is an architectural treasure and had 188 of its structures declared National Historic Monuments in 2000. It was also named one of Mexico's handful of Pueblos Mágicos, placing it in good company with 13 others, including Taxco and San Miguel de Allende. Founded by Spaniards in 1681, Álamos has a long history of playing host to missionaries, explorers and miners, and was once the world's leading producer of silver.

On Monday, you will have an opportunity to fly over Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre), a group of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental. The overall canyon system is larger and portions are deeper than the Grand Canyon. The canyons were formed by six rivers that drain the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara, a part of the Sierra Madre Occidental. All six rivers merge into the Rio Fuerte and empty into the Sea of Cortez. The walls of the canyon are a copper/green color, which is the origin of the name. Little further up, you'll find beautiful cascades of Basaseachi and Piedra Volada.

Those wishing to relax instead will be able to visit the spa, go on a town history tour or hike through the Parque Colorado and in the evening, participate in a Tequila class.

Guanajuato

Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world's leading silver-extraction centre in the 18th century. This past can be seen in its 'subterranean streets' and the Boca del Inferno, a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m. The town's fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings, resulting from the prosperity of the mines, have influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. The churches of La Compañía and La Valenciana are considered to be among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America. The name of the city means "Place of Frogs" in the local indigenous language and therefore the frog is the city's official pet.

The center of the city is pedestrian-only, most traffic is in tunnels beneath the city. The tunnels were initially built to prevent flooding of the nearby Rio Guanajuato from damaging the city, but now they protect it from traffic. We will take a funicular to the top of the mountain to be rewarded with spectucular views of the city, as well as an up-close view of the statue of Pipila, a local hero.

San Miguel de Allende

With its gorgeous colonial architecture, enchanting cobblestone streets and striking light, San Miguel de Allende is rightly one of Mexico's biggest draws and has been popular with aesthetes and romantics for much of the past century. This includes a large population of Americans who either live full time in the town or maintain winter homes here, bringing with them a cosmopolitan atmosphere you'll find in few other Mexican towns. San Miguel was ranked as the second best city in the 2020 World's Best Awards and took the top spot in 2017 and 2018. It's a destination where many travelers want to put down roots, you are warned!.

Founded as San Miguel el Grande in 1542 by a Franciscan Monk Fray Juan de San Miguel, it was renamed San Miguel de Allende after Ignacio Allende, a hero of the independence movement. Cobblestone streets lead to architectural achievements dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, structures that gave UNESCO impetus to designate San Miguel a World Heritage Site.

Zacatecas

Zacatecas is a colonial gem crammed with gorgeous old buildings, churches, and museums. It’s setting in a narrow valley between two hills is spectacular and wandering its cobbled streets and leafy plazas, it’s easy to feel transported back to classical Spain. The architecture there is immensely attractive—the pink limestone used in its buildings gave the city the nickname Ciudad Rosada (the Pink City). We will take time to look at the intricately-designed stone and iron works which has been invested into the colonial buildings. Many of the city major buildings took years to complete, because their sponsors and creators were determined to craft and leave something special behind them—and they succeeded in doing so.

The mining history of Zacatecas is the focus at the fascinating Mina El Edén, where a guided tour will bring us deep inside the city’s old silver mine. We will also take the Teleférico (cable car) up to the Cerro de la Bufa, the huge rock that dominates the city, for its spectacular views, and for those who are adventurous enough, a descent by a zipline.

Lodging

For this trip, we chose truly exceptional properties and you will feel at home in each of them.

Date Day Nights Hotel
2/19/2023 Sunday 2 Hacienda de Los Santos, Alamos
2/21/2023 Tuesday 2 Casa del Rector, Guanajuato
2/23/2023 Thursday 1 Live Aqua, San Miguel de Allende
2/24/2024 Friday 2 Quinta Real, Zacatecas

Flights

If you've never flown to Mexico, this will be a great introduction, it will be as easy as it gets. You will have two options to join the trip:

  1. If you are an experienced Mexico pilot, you may decide to fly yourself to Alamos. It may be helpful to read my Flying to Mexico guide (password provided after registration) to review procedures. Please plan to arrive there in the afternoon of Sunday 2/19/2023. If you let us know your ETA, a van will be waiting for you to bring you to the Hacienda.
  2. Otherwise, you may decide to join us in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday 2/18. Please book a room in Four Points by Sheraton Tucson Airport and plan to be there by 6 pm for a short briefing and dinner. We will depart together on Sunday morning for Ciudad Obregon, to clear customs and immigration together and continue to Alamos just 50 nm away.

You will receive flight briefings, airport descriptions and we will also help you plan your return flight home.

Procedures

Access to the detailed guide for flying in Mexico will be provided after registration, but please be aware of the following:

  1. You must have valid pilot license, temporary license is not allowed.
  2. Aircraft must have valid registration and airworthiness certificate.
  3. Mexico now recognizes BasicMed.
  4. You should have 406 ELT in the airplane and the documentation proving it.
  5. While instrument rating is not strictly required, it is highly recommended. While the weather is most often VFR, we will not be able to help if you cannot continue the trip due to adverse conditions.

Airports

Ciudad Obregon (MMCN), Leon (MMLO) and Zacatecas (MMZC) are all medium size airports with commercial traffic and an operating tower. You can expect similar procedures as in USA and these airports have avgas. Please note airport elevations: MMZC at 7,141', MMLO at 5,956' and verify density altitude and aircraft performance prior to operating there.

Alamos is a non-towered airport located about 15 minutes south east from Ciudad Obregon and has 5,000 feet paved runway 31-13. Field elevation is 1,300 feet. Please use 122.8 MHz to make radio calls. The airport identifier is MM45 or XALA, but the coordinates are not in Jeppesen databases, you must enter them manually as a waypoint (27°02.27, -108°56.95 in "degree minute.decimal" format). There is no fuel on the field.

Hacienda has a private hangar for 10 airplanes, which will be available on first-come, first-serve basis. The hotel van will be waiting for us and will drive you to the Hacienda. Here is picture of runway 13 I took when landing there a few years ago. You can see the hangar and the ramp on the left side. Runway 31 is the calm wind runway. There is downsloping terrain and houses on short final for runway 13.