There are plenty of towns you can visit while in Puerto Vallarta. San Sebastian del Oeste was our first trip. In fact, traveling to the surrounding towns – just like this one – is what spurred us on during the work-week.
Roughly 47 miles away; San Sebastian makes for a wonderful day trip, and the perfect retreat when the Puerto Vallartan heat saps your energy or an oceanside swim leaves you feeling more humid than when you began. Why? San Sebastian is nestled high in the mountains; where you can get a much needed injection of cool crisp air, picturesque valleys and rivers, or aging haciendas.
Founded in January of 1605, San Sebastian has gone through several transformations to become the burgeoning Pueblo Magicos you’ll see before you. Initially it was a mining town that grew to 20,000+ people in the height of production. What was mined? Gold, silver, and lead.
By 1910, the Mexican Revolution was underway and many, if not most, mines were closed or closing. The city was a ghost of what it once was. Building maintenance and new construction came to a halt.
Which turned out to be the best thing for San Sebastian. It became a town frozen in time; even the skirmishes between the people of Pre-Hispanic Religions and Christianity were nearly forgotten. Today, tourists – native and international – started returning in droves to taste a bit of history – left behind farms and haciendas, mines, and of course the Church of San Sebastian.
Although is a slowed a bit due to COVID-19, I would say it’s a great time to visit. You pretty much get the town to yourself. Hiking paths are clear and nobody to unintentionally photobomb your must have IG shots.
What we learned on our trip:
- Right before you drive over the Progreso Bridge there is a bakery called Carmen’s Panderia. It is the best! I would say, “It’s a reason in itself to go on the trip”! To be fair I am a sucker for fats, salts and sugar!
They make bread stuffed with different meats or sweets. We stopped there heading towards San Sebastian and on our Talpa & Mascota trip.
- Along the winding road leading to San Sebastian is a Hacienda that was owned by Elizabeth Taylor. The legend goes, “She often retreated there during filming of ‘Night of the Iguana’. She loved it so much that she, and Richard Burton, bought it. During production and re-shoots they would throw lavish parties. Now, if you listen intently, you can hear laughter and the popping of champagne”!
- An affluent mine owner – when production was at its height – was as consumed with security as with miserliness. A real Scrooge! The legend says “The men chosen to transport the ‘ore’ from his mine to the township could only go by night. Upon reaching the secret destination, he and the horse would be corralled into a nearby stable. Waiting for payment, in pitch black, the transporter would be attacked, killed, and buried in order to keep the final destination, and exact amount of gold or silver a secret.”
- The Main Square is the lifeblood of this town of roughly 6,000 people. There you can choose from several restaurants to get birria, enchiladas, pozole, tamales, and tostadas. Hell they will deep fry a pig in the middle of the street. Carnitas anyone? Nearby, street vendors sell their wares which includes everything from pony rides for the kiddies to a made-to-order Michelada stand. Have a sweet tooth? you can also find cartas and fruit rolls made of agave.
- The Church of San Sebastian is beautiful! I wouldn’t say it alone is worth the trip, but if you are there and a bit of a completionist…Cool façade and interior’s colors make you feel at peace.
- San Sebastian makes dynamite coffee! We went to one of the haciendas and witnessed their traditional coffee-making in action.
There are quite a few attractions that we did not get to do on our trip, but I would like you to be aware of in case you have a day or weekend you would like to fill:
- La Bufa Mountain viewpoint – I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see this view, but we didn’t learn about it until after we got back. You know how it goes; chest puffed up while telling your buddies all about the trip like you’ve discovered it or the only person that has ever been there, and then they ask, “Weren’t you just blown away by that view”? Apparently it is a bit further up the mountain (roughly 45mins) and you will need a 4wheel drive, but we’ve been told it is well worth it!
- Ancient Cemetery – My taste for all things macabre soured after going to the Momias Museum in Guanajuato City. However, if you like to see a cemetery lost in time only to be rediscovered this is just the thing for you! Engross yourself in the atmosphere: ancient volcano, 19th century mausoleum for San Sebastian’s rich and famous, and nature’s embrace proving, if not slowly, nothing last forever.
- Museums: Hacienda Jalisco & Conchita Encarnacion’s House – Both transport you to a time before electricity (Hacienda Jalisco still refuses to modernize) . The homes belonged to 19th century mining landowners and now serve as a marker in history.
Although you can reach this town by local bus – ATM Red Line (two hour drive) – there is no charter bus with a direct route.
We booked a private driver for the trip, less risky than a group tour with Covid-19 still an ongoing issue. It was a similar price to a group tour, but it gave us a lot more freedom to see what we wanted. We used Jose from Xplore with Chamaco who we’ve booked four times – while in PV – because he’s the best.
This includes a lengthy trip from Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco to Guanajuato City, Guanajuato.