The town of TAPALPA, 130km southwest of Guadalajara, makes an ideal base for a few days of relaxation amid upland pastures and pine forests. It is reached via a steep, winding road off the old highway, which climbs continuously until it crests a 2300m ridge at El Balcón. If you’re driving, stop here to check out the view back down the valley (on a bus, it’s on the left if coming up to Tapalpa) and to feel the near-constant steady breeze, a phenomenon that drew World Cup paragliding events in 2002 and 2004.
Pretty little Tapalpa, 10km further on, lies amid magnificent surroundings – ranch country and tree-clad hills that are often covered in a gentle mist. With a population of only around sixteen thousand, there’s a village feel to it, especially around the plaza. Here you’ll find eighteenth-century wooden-balconied houses, encircling portales and two impressive churches – the larger with an unusually plain brick interior. On the outskirts, clusters of cabañas dot the woods luring upwardly mobile Tapatíos, and a fair bit of desirable real estate has sprung up in recent years.
Tapalpa is on the Guadalajara weekender circuit, so try to visit midweek when its old-world charm is little affected (although hotels remain pricey). The town centres around a stunningly picturesque main square, where several old buildings have been refurbished as restaurants and hotels. The place gets very cold in winter, and even summer nights can become chilly, but people brew their own mescal, which may help warm you up.