Valle de Bravo

If you don’t know Valle de Bravo, you’re in for a treat.

Valle is in the mountains, sixty miles west of Mexico City. The 400 year-old town has cobblestone streets with no street lights, movie theaters, or Starbucks. Although it’s considered one of Mexico’s Magic Towns, there are surprisingly few tourists. It is pretty much the opposite of Cancun or Los Cabos.

It is a festive place, perpetually celebrating something. From the terraces of Casa Cantil, you’ll hear local brass bands playing in the town square and you’ll wonder why someone is setting off fireworks at all hours of the day. (We don’t know why. They just do.)

Thanks to wealthy weekenders from Mexico City, the town has sophisticated restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries, along with spas, retreats, and an abundance of recreational activities. There is an artisan market and a farmer’s market, both open daily.

Lake Avandaro was formed when the government built a dam in the 1930s and ‘40s. Today, boaters, windsurfers, kitesurfers, and waterskiiers enjoy the 8-square mile lake. Regattas happen regularly (the North American J-24 championships took place here in 2009). Surrounding the lake are pristine pine forests where you can ride horses, hike, mountain bike, and off-road on ATVs. Runners and hikers will delight in Monte Alto, a 600-hectare nature reserve behind the property, with miles of breathtaking trails, softened with pine needles. Every April there is a popular triathlon. There are three golf courses.

Every afternoon you’ll see paragliders circling like hawks. Valle’s thermals attract fliers from all over the world (Valle hosted the 2009 world championships). Novices can take lessons or fly tandem with a professional. The take-off point is behind the house in Monte Alto. So far, nobody has landed in our pool, though they sometimes get close enough to exchange waves.

If you visit between November and March, you’ll have company. In an amazing feat of navigation, 300 million monarch butterflies migrate from the US and Canada to the same breeding grounds in Mexico year after year (scientists aren’t sure how they do it, especially considering it takes five generations to complete an annual cycle). You can hike or horseback ride into one of their sanctuaries (a 30-minute drive from CC) and be surrounded by butterflies. It is bewildering.

Some guests take a guided tour of Mexico City and the Teotihuacan pyramids or mix in a few days at a beach. Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, and Oaxaca (city and coast) are within a two-hour flight from Toluca. San Miguel de Allende is a four-hour drive.

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