Translated directly to English, Sierra Gorda means ‘Fat Woman Mountain Range’. To be fair, I believe the ‘woman’ part is really just the result of Spanish grammar… I suspect the intention of the name is more along the lines of ‘Fat/Large Mountain Range’. Although the English version of this translation doesn’t result in the most exciting sounding destination, trust me…this biosphere reserve is also known as the ‘green jewel of Mexico’ and is one of the country’s best kept secrets.
But before I get into that, you guys must be wondering: “WHERE ARE you crazy Canadians and why has it been so long since your last blog?” Or perhaps you’re speculating that we’ve abandoned the blog, possess no intention of ever actually going home and instead have gone on the lam. Tempting… but unfortunately, no. Whether or not any of those ponderings actually crossed your mind, I’m giving you an update.
We’re in the US and have just spent 2 amazing weeks exploring New Mexico and Colorado. As a result of laziness (choosing movie nights over blogging) and our fast (for us) pace of travel, I’ve fallen behind on the blog but don’t worry, we’ve had so many travel adventures and we WILL be sharing them with you… they’re coming! Now, back to the Fat Mountains.
Sierra Gorda Makes Our Bucket List
Of all the ways we choose destinations for van travel, word of mouth is probably the most common, followed by recommendations we find on vlogs, blogs and social media. When travellers meet up on the road, one of the favourite discussions is “where have you been?” or “where are you going?” In chatting with other travellers on the Pan American highway, some destinations – overlander favourites – come up fast and often. These tend to be the ‘Gringo Trail’ locations; the most popular routes and stops through Latin America. During our first couple of years of travelling through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, we hit up many of the Gringo Trail favourites. We’ve since been digging a little deeper to find our destinations.
Once in a while, we discover a hidden gem. These gems come in whispers… a small excerpt in a lonely planet book, a recommendation from a local, or an excited description by a blogger who stumbled off the Gringo Trail. Sierra Gorda was one of these places and after hearing many awestruck whispers about it over time, it popped onto our bucket list.
As Sierra Gorda was going to be more or less along our route north, we decided that the time was right to knock it off our bucket list. We also had an extra incentive to make this a destination: a visit with Walter’s favourite Instagram friend (and now real friend), Tashi the Golden (@tashi_thegolden). You may remember Tashi from an earlier blog, when we first met him and his awesome humans at their new house in Queretaro, Mexico. We kept in touch over the winter and decided it would be SO MUCH FUN to meet up in the Sierra Gorda for a day of doggie and human adventures.
48 Hours in the Sierra Gorda – Scratching the Surface
Our time in Sierra Gorda, which was WAY TOO SHORT, included 2 action-packed days of driving (often down worrisomely narrow streets), hiking, sightseeing and camping. Despite being a fat and slow (we should call her Gorda Sally), Sally managed to scratch and climb her way through the mountainous terrain. We were still feeling a little weak and tired from having suffered food poisoning (click here if you missed that little adventure) but had recouped enough to do some exploring.
A highlight of our brief visit to the Sierra Gorda was the day we spent exploring and sightseeing with Tere, Javier and Tashi. Tere and Javier have spent most of the last 30 years living in the US but they grew up in Mexico and just recently moved back to Queretaro. As a result, they made awesome tour guides. Tere planned out a whole day of activities – we just had to follow along. Tashi and Walter had so much fun playing and exploring together and of course – being crazy dog people – we had to take a few hundred pictures of them. Tere and Javier speak perfect Spanish so they were able to do some translating for us and share some regional and cultural information that we’d never have figured out on our own. If you guys are reading this – we had a blast and hope to spend more time with you guys again next year!!!
Since apparently pictures are worth a thousand words – here’s our 48-hour stay in pictures.
Why You Should Visit the Sierra Gorda
If the beautiful pictures in this blog aren’t enough to convince you that you should add the Sierra Gorda to your bucket list, here are some quick facts that should seal the deal.
- The Sierra Gorda is a biosphere reserve – a protected natural area known as the ‘green jewel of Mexico’.
- It’s off the beaten track. There aren’t a lot of tourists – especially international tourists. There’s many reasons for this… some of the main ones being that it’s more difficult to get to due to location and mountainous terrain and much of the tourist information available is in Spanish.
- The Sierra Gorda has something for everyone including hot climates, cool climates, cloud forests, deserts, canyons, crystal clear rivers, jungles, waterfalls and a huge range of species and habitats.
- There’s lots of delicious, authentic Mexican food and in Jalpan, a higher capita of ice cream stores to population than I’ve ever seen.
- For nature lovers, there are endless hiking trails, scenic views and camping opportunities.
- For city slickers, the area is dotted with little colonial towns, archaeological ruins and special to the area, Franciscan mission churches.
Three days wasn’t nearly enough time to explore the Sierra Gorda, we really just scratched the surface. Next trip south, we will absolutely be stopping here for at least a week to delve deeper and really explore all of the history, culture and ecosystems.
Have any of you out there visited the Sierra Gorda? If so, let us know you’re favourite spots/activities in the comments section so that we can add them to our list for next trip!