In 2001, the Mexican Secretariat for Tourism realized that the real soul, history and culture of the country was being neglected in favour of the bright lights and mod cons of the big party cities. Places like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, and Cabo San Lucas do, of course, have their part to play in the tourist trade of the country, but they don’t necessarily educate visitors on the true vibrancy of the Mexican culture – they don’t press a little piece of Mexico into the soul of the visitor.
This is where the Pueblos Mágicos come in. Once only a few, now over 80, these villages represent the culture, spirit and living history of Mexico, and they were each chosen because of their unique beauty and vibrancy. These villages can be found over all 31 states of Mexico, but some are easier to access than others.
San Sebastián del Oeste
One Pueblos Mágico which is within easy reach of the tourist Mecca of Puerto Vallarta is San Sebastian del Oeste which was chosen for its rich history and architectural beauty. Slumbering in the shadow of the Sierra Madre mountain range, San Sebastian is a mining town which dates back to 1605 and, in its heyday, was home to 20,000 people. Once it’s main plaza and the Church of Saint Sebastian (built in 1608) would have been bustling; crammed with people.
These days it’s quieter, being home to only 600 people and a little less hectic, but retains its beauty alongside more recent and abundant tranquillity.
Drive from Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastian
The drive to San Sebastian from Puerto Vallarta or the Riviera Nayarit is a beautiful one; renting a car is easy and the drive can be made in an hour or two. This is easily a day trip. Once you get to San Sebastian we would recommend that you see Saint Sebastian’s Church, which has beautiful Corinthian columns, as well as the House Museum of Doña Conchita Encarnacion. The Museum is home to personal items that once belonged to prominent individuals and families (usually landowners or miners) of San Sebastian’s past.
Whether you spend time picking fruit in the orchards of Hacienda Esperanza de la Galera, walking around the main plaza, or sit and sip fresh coffee at Quinta Mary, however, a trip to San Sebastian del Oeste won’t disappoint. This is a living piece of Mexico’s colonial history not too far from Puerto Vallarta.