The coastal plains of Nayarit are sultry, marshy and flat, dotted with palm trees and half-submerged under lagoons teeming with wildlife. You have to travel through this to reach SAN BLAS, once an important port but now an enjoyably laidback travellers’ hangout. For such a small town (with around fifteen thousand inhabitants), San Blas manages to absorb its many visitors – who come mainly in winter – without feeling overrun. During the summer it’s virtually deserted, but in January and February the town is a magnet for birdwatchers, and in February the city also hosts its biggest festival in honour of San Blas (St Blaise). Do not come here without insect repellent or you will be eaten alive: legions of ferocious sand flies (jejénes) plague the beaches mornings and late afternoons, and the mosquitoes descend en masse at dusk.
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North of Santiago Ixcuintla, located on a lily-strewn lagoon and supporting only a few hundred habitants (mostly shrimp farmers), is the extraordinary islet of MEXCALTITÁN. The“House of the Mexicans” in Náhautl, the town really does look like a very tiny version of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital before the Spaniards arrived. Indeed, the place is one candidate for the legendary Aztec homeland Aztlán, from which the tribe set out on their exodus to the Valley of México around 1091 AD; the small Museo del Origen addresses that hypothesis with a collection of archeological relics. If you’re in the area around the end of June you should definitely try to visit the island fiesta, on June 28 and 29 (the feast days of Saints Peter and Paul), when there are canoe races on the lagoons and rivers; be sure to make a reservation.