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Rural El Tuito

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Get out of town for a day and explore the past with a trip to 500 year-old pre-Hispanic El Tuito which lies an hour south of Puerto Vallarta. Feel the cooler weather as we travel by local bus along the “palms to pines highway” into this verdant valley which lies 2000 feet up in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Life moves slower in this small, rural town and the agricultural and cottage industries will surely interest you as we walk the well-worn streets.

The first thing you will notice are the colorful adobe buildings as we progress towards the main plaza. These earthy colors of burnt orange, sage, ivory and brown come from a wash made of the local clays. Potters come from near and far to dig their own clay here which they claim is some of the best in this part of Mexico. There is a local man who has become famous for his reproductions of pre-Hispanic figures. His daughter has taken over now and her sculptures are available at the co-op gallery.

The spacious plaza is typical of most rural towns and is the regional seat for the local government. City hall, or the presidentia as it is called, is a prominent building on the plaza and houses a colorful mural, “The Universal Revolution,” depicting the ancient history of El Tuito, an Indian name meaning “beautiful valley.” Here is also where folks gather for fiestas, celebrations, market days, and dancing. The local folkloric group of young people in regional costumes is a favorite on the outdoor stage.

There are many interesting and tasty things here to appreciate as we continue on our walking tour. The 200 year-old church is known for its simplicity and the large boulder placed in the sanctuary, a remnant from the days of the Conquistador’s simple Catholic chapel, and used today as the alter. The many cottage industries, most run by the women, are the mainstay for many families of this town of 3500 people. Panela cheese from the local dairies; blue corn tortillas from locally-grown corn; famous cookies and breads baked in an old wood-fired oven; and raicilla, a tequila moonshine that is enjoying an increase in popularity amongst tequila aficionados.

Visit the co-op art gallery in the former summer home of famous Mexican artist Manual Lepe while tasting locally-produced raicilla and chocolate-flavored tequila-a fiery experience before sitting down to a typical Mexican lunch in one of the family-owned restaurants. The bus ride back to Vallarta will find you satisfied and sleepy while perhaps munching on some of those oven-baked cookies for dessert.

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