THE BEST OF THE REGION


Paraiso Beach: it's a little off the beaten path, but for all you dudes and dudettes out there, this beach has one of the longest sandy breaks in the world. No more worrying about a nasty fall over some unforgiving reefs or tangly seaweed. And the waves aren't too shabby either. The black-sand beach is perfect for working on your sun-kissed glow and the surf shack has some of the best, fresh, caught-that-day Mexican seafood dishes. If you're brave enough, they might even cook up some stingray for you to try.

San Francisco de Almoloyan - Convento Franciscano: Built in 1556, the Spaniards worked stone from the native peoples' own land into the church to encourage them to pray there. Over 200 families from Chiapas were forced to live there - the Spaniards attempt at exercising cultural control. It's now the site of St. Francis of Almoloyan Church, along with what remains of the convent arch, stone walls and bell tower after numerous
earthquakes.


On the steps of the original structure
15 de septiembre: Mexican Independence Day, If you're here at this time, it's definitely a celebration you can't miss out on. Literally. Green, white, and red decorations adorn buildings everywhere and dresses, hats, and those fun blow horns that everybody loves can be bought anywhere. The city of Colima's grand celebration takes place in the main plaza in centro, with plenty of federalis around to keep everyone in order.

The night started off with shows by some of the top mariache bands in the country. There were tables and booths everywhere to buy anything from jewellery to Mexi-fries to moustaches. We definitely took advantage of the moustaches. Around 11 pm, the mayor of Colima gave a speech from the balcony of the government buildings in the square, followed by the "Grito de Independencia." Viva Mexico! was chanted over and over by the entire crowed.

Fireworks ended off the night. Clearly Mexico does not have the same safety laws as Canada: they were shot off right above our heads. But the ashes in eyes and all over clothes were well worth the sight.


Celebrating 15 de septiembre Mexican-style in Colima's centro.
Comala: Located less than 15 minutes outside Colima, Comala is a laid-back, traditional treat. Be sure to visit Don Comolon, a restaurant boasting live mariache music and free, endless appetizers when you order drinks. It's a must-visit for newcomers to Colima.


Lunch in Comala
Tortugario: It's a little sanctuary just outside Armeria, near Tecoman. It's home to sea turtles, iguanas, and some snappy-looking alligators. We learned a little bit about each animal and how the turtles, specifically, are raised from eggs until they're old enough to be released into the ocean. We even got to hold a baby!

Laguna de la Maria:
Located in the mountains outside Comala, it's a beautiful lake with a haunted past.

According to local legend, Maria lived with her husband Juan around this lake. Maria was beautiful, but had no children and was constantly suspicious of her husband.

One day, Juan returned to the house with residents of a nearby rancheria, who invited the couple to a dance. Maria refused to attend, but Juan decided to go while she watched the house.

While he was gone, Maria became increasingly jealous and called out to the devil to return her husband and change his soul. The devil became present, and immediately she repented and screamed out in terror, but it was too late. He carried her to a place now known as "the grave," and buried her in a hole dug with his own hands.

Juan returned to the house, but it was too late. He never saw Maria again.

It's said that Maria's ghost appears when the sun goes down. We didn't stick around to find out...

Besides that spooky story, it really is a gorgeous place to visit. The pine trees were definitely a welcome sight for these homesick Canadians. And if you feel your inner Aztec wants to come out to play, you can hike through the mountains and find old caves and tunnels to crawl through and explore.

Tip: don't wear flip-flops.

Museo de Sal: Myself, like most Canadians, have been brought up with the ideology that salt is bad for you. This is true - if it’s refined.

Salt has 84 minerals in it’s raw form, during the refining process, 82 of those minerals are removed (Should it even be called salt anymore?).

However, sea salt - in it’s unrefined form - is completely harmless to our bodies. Any amount of sea salt will pass naturally through our body, leaving no chemicals or medial conditions behind.

These fun-facts, processes, and the history of salt mining, can all be found in the tiny town of Cuyutlan’s Museo de Sal. The Museum, which is still a functional salt mine, is housed in the authentic, 100-year-old building. A little off the beaten tourist path, but well worth the trip!


The skeleton of a blue-whale at the Museo de Sal
Guanajuato: This quaint, vividly beautiful city, located in a valley high up in the Mexican mountains, is a simply must see. Originally a mining city, the area boasts breathtaking Spanish-Colonial architecture throughout it’s narrow streets.
In 1988, Guanajuato was named a World Heritage Site, as it's near to where revolutionist Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla began the Mexican fight for Independence in 1811. It was even the site of the first real battle in the war.

Another treat that Guanajuato has to offer is it’s world-renound Mueso de las Momias. In 1833, an outbreak of cholera in the region killed many of the locals, and mass graves were used to stop the spread of the illness. Years later when the bodies were dug up to be given proper burials, they discovered that because of the combination of the bacteria in the bodies and the composition of the soil in the area, the decomposition process had failed. A number of the bodies had become naturally mummified. After some time, any of the bodies that had not been claimed by the townspeople became property of the state, and were put into the now-famous museum. With over 100 naturally mummified specimens, the highlight of the exhibit is the youngest mummy in the world - a six-month-old fetus!

Every October, Guanajuato also holds the Festival Cervantino, a Folk Festival which attracts audiences, films, and performances from every corner of the Globe.

If you are planning on taking the long trip to the interesting site, be sure to pack for cooler weather than most parts of Mexico. Because of the high altitude and little foliage in the area, the temperature and night can drop rapidly and become quite chilly!

Agua Frio: Located about an hour northwest of Colima, the mountain river provides a taste of home for us Canadians. Yes, the water is still warmer than our glacier fed rivers, but much colder than the Pacific Ocean. A small fee of around 20 Pesos per person gets you a nicely manicured hut for the day, and allows you all access to the river. For you adventurous souls, rope swings and tubes are available for your convenience as well.

Dia de Muertos: It's the Mexican tradition of celebrating those who have passed away, occurring each year on the first two days of November. They are national holidays for which schools and businesses are closed to honor.

Each family builds an ofrenda, or altar, in their ome to honour a deceased loved one. They place the person's favourite things - food, drinks, books, poetry - on it and decorate it with candles and orange cempasuchitls (carnations).

There are celebrations all over the country, but the arguably best one happens in the town of Tzintzuntzan and the nearby island of Janitzio, about a six hour drive from Colima. Thousands of people make the journey for the night of the first, and the celebration goes literally all night long.

Candle-lit cemetery in Tzintzuntzan
Tzintzuntzan: Old monestaries, museums, churches, cemeteries and ruins are all lit up with thousands of candles and decorated with even more cempasuchitls.

And if you've been searching for the perfect keepsakes to take back for family and friends, this market will have everything you've been looking for. From jewellery and paintings to clothes and handcrafted masks, thousands of unique items will assault your senses, just begging to be taken home. The hardest part will be trying to say no.

The market in Tzintzuntzan
Janitzio: After you've toured the historic sites and made your way through the market, head on over the la Isla de Janitzio, a place rich in indigenous culture and tradition. About 1500 people inhabit the island, all of either Purepecha or Tarascan decent, and still speak the language of their ancestors.

Fisherman in boats with their traditional butterfly nets surround the island with candles on the night of the first, creating a beautiful, reverant scene. If you can abandon your fear of heights, you can climb up the Jose Maria Morales statue located at the top of the island - standing 130 feet tall - and peek your head our Morales' outstretched first for a panoramic view of the festivities.
La Feria de Colima: For all you cow boys and girls out there, longing for the country comforts of Calgary, La Feria de Colima offers a fun alternative, with a fair and midway containing games and rides comparable to those at the Calgary Stampede. Test your tummy's might on Turbo Force, indulge in the tasty treats of churros (in that order) and wander the market for more crafty keepsakes.
El Salto Waterfalls: They're about an hour's drive from Colima and well worth the trip. For just 20 pesos, you'll gain access to three spring-fed outdoor pools, a three-storey waterslide and also to the falls themselves. The falls flow from Rio de Minatitlan-Marabasco and stand over 100 feet tall. Depending on the time of year, you may even be able to take a dip in the natural pool. Words can't do their beauty justice; it's a place you'll just have to see for yourself!
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