Valle de Bravo

A few hours here explains why "Valle" is often billed as Mexico's best-kept secret. The pines, clear air, and the Lago Valle de Bravo make it totally different from most people's idea—and experience—of Mexico. The nation’s wealthy political and business elite keep weekend homes here, and barely a weekend goes by without a sailing regatta. It's also popular with fans of ecotourism and extreme sports.

This colonial lakeside treasure is peppered with white stucco houses trimmed with wrought-iron balconies and red-tile roofs with long eaves to protect walkers from both the rain and the glaring sun. Formerly connected to Mexico City only via a two-lane, winding, mountainous road, a new toll road has cut travel time by half, to about 1½ hours. The town is visited primarily by wealthy Mexicans—particularly weekenders from the capital—and fans of adventure tourism.

Valle was founded in 1530, but has no significant historical sights to speak of other than the St. Francis of Assisi cathedral on the town square and the church of Santa Maria, with a huge crucified black Christ on its altar. Rather than sightsee, saunter the streets and check out the bazaars, boutiques, galleries, and markets. Valle is famous for its lacelike fabrics called deshilados and its earthenware and hand-glazed ceramics.

The town's major festival is called Festival de las Almas; it usually occurs in the month of October and involves many old Mexican traditional games and dances as well as elaborate fireworks displays. If you plan to come during a festival, over Christmas, or on a weekend, make sure you make hotel reservations well in advance. To avoid the crowds from the capital and nab lower hotel rates, visit during the week for a quieter experience, more suitable for those who wish to hike and enjoy the pristine views.

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