By Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.Ds
Welcome to one of the world’s great destinations for both travel and shopping. From ancient ruins, tropical rainforests, and gorgeous beaches to bustling markets, quaint colonial towns, colorful plazas, beautiful cathedrals, and scenic mountains, deserts, and canyons, this diverse and enthralling place seems to have it all.
The world’s 13th largest country with a population of nearly 100 million, Mexico is one of today’s most popular tourist destinations that hosts over 20 million visitors a year.
While Mexico has a great deal to offer all types of visitors, shopping ranks near the top as one of its major strengths and attractions. Indeed, shopping seems to be everywhere, from colorful markets, street shops, sidewalk vendors, factories, pawnshops, handicraft emporiums, home production centers, and galleries to department stores, shopping malls, hotel shopping arcades, and chic boutiques.
If you don’t find it, chances are it will find you! And it’s often fun shopping as you uncover new places, discover unique treasures, and meet many interesting people, such as artists, craftspeople, and shopkeepers, and bargain for good deals.
Best of all, Mexico offers numerous auxiliary pleasures – wonderful restaurants, hotels, and sights – that define a delightful lifestyle shopping scene.
Seductive Mexico beckons visitors to return again and again to sample its many unending delights. Offering a treasure-trove of products, it’s a wonderful destination for acquiring quality art, antiques, folk art, handicrafts, jewelry, silver, textiles, ceramics, leather goods, souvenirs, glassware, and home decorative items.
Two seasoned travel-shopping sleuths and authors of numerous volumes in the highly acclaimed Impact Guides series reveal in extraordinary detail the who, what, where, and how of enjoying the many treasures and pleasures of 15 destinations in Mexico.
The Treasures and Pleasures of Mexico includes shopping strategies and bargaining tips as well as advice on avoiding problems, selecting quality products, and shipping purchases home with ease.
It also identifies the best shops, restaurants, accommodations, sightseeing, and entertainment as well as includes everything from pre-trip planning advice to 24 critical shopping rules and 16 effective bargaining strategies.
Jam-packed with important contact information – including many key websites and details on the best quality shops in each location – here’s the ultimate guide for turning just another trip into a great travel-shopping adventure.
As discerning travelers quickly discover, when using this book they are much more than just tourists – they are treasured guests who support quality arts, crafts, and design as well as promote local talent, encourage entrepreneurism, and contribute to the development of local economies. 390 pages. 2004.
The cities described in this book are listed below. For a thumbnail sketch, click on the city you are interested in.
|Acapulco||Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo|
|Guadalajara||Morelia, Patzcuaro, and the State of Michoacan|
|Queretaro||San Miguel de Allende|
Mexico City is a grand and eclectic city that surprises visitors who learn to explore its unique treasures and pleasures. Above all, it’s a city of exceptionally appealing art and culture.
From the exclusive shops of Polanco and Zona Rosa to the trendy neighborhoods of Condesa, Roma, and Coyoacan and the historic center of the city (Centro Historico), this is a fascinating city that both intimidates and seduces.
It’s old, it’s new, it’s polluted, it’s sometimes dangerous, it’s Third World, it’s international, and it’s chic and trendy – everything you ever wanted a city to be and not to be, and then some.
It has its downsides, but they are minor in comparison to Mexico City’s many positives. While this city can be challenging to the uninitiated, spend a week here and it will fall into place as you discover what this place is all about.
Mexico City is famous for many firsts, seconds, and thirds, as well as for several major attractions:
- It’s the second largest city in the world.
- It’s the second highest city in North America.
- It boasts the world’s largest number of museums – 135 and still counting.
- It is the oldest capital in the Western Hemisphere – founded in 1325.
- It attracts over 14 million pilgrims who visit the Virgin of Guadalupe Sanctuary each year – making it the world’s most visited Marian shrine.
- It has the largest number of theaters (64) after New York, London, and Toronto.
- Both the Historic Downtown (Centro Historico) and Xochimilco are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- It has 14 upscale shopping malls.
- It is located within 45 minutes of the famous Pyramids of Teotihuacan.
- It’s one of the world’s major art centers, especially for contemporary paintings and sculptures.
Located about 100 miles southwest of Mexico City (two hours by toll road) and 170 miles north of Acapulco, Taxco, a city of approximately 50,000 people, is the perfect stop for travel-shoppers on their way to Acapulco and the nearby attractive Pacific coast towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Nicknamed the Silver Capital of the World, Taxco is all about silver and shopping. Boasting more than 100 silver shops and workshops, Taxco’s many talented artisans produce an incredible amount of silver jewelry, table assessories, and art pieces to overwhelm most any visitor. While much of the production ends up in shops in Mexico City and abroad, a good sampling of this city’s wholesale silver production remains in Taxco’s many lookalike shops.
Each day hundreds of day-trippers from Mexico City and Acapulco descend on this quaint community to explore its interesting streets, browse its many silver shops, or simply enjoy the ambience of this unique community from the vantage point of a restaurant or cafe facing the central plaza.
Time permitting, they may visit a few sightseeing attractions, dine in a charming restaurant with a view, or just have fun getting lost along the city’s many winding and hilly streets.
Acapulco has recently transformed itself into Mexico’s most popular resort destination and one of its fastest growing communities for real estate investors and vacation home (condo and timeshare) owners.
Variously referred to as the Pearl of the Pacific, Queen of Mexican Resorts, and Disco Capital of the World, it is now the most visited tourist destination in all of Latin America. It remains a popular honeymoon destination, with the Las Brisas Hotel still offering wonderful wedding packages.
From the hills of the Sierra Madre mountains overlooking Acapulco’s compelling bay and golden beaches, this is truly a special place. It’s understandably romantic when viewed from a distance and especially at night when the city lights sparkle over the shimmering waters of Acapulco Bay.
At the street level, Acapulco is less appealing to the eye during the day a cement jungle of unattractive buildings accented by high-rise hotels, lots of traffic congestion, and the chaos of crowds. But when night falls, the city transforms itself with its dazzling nightclubs, loud discos, and packed restaurants.
For many visitors, Acapulco is the ultimate vacation destination – relax, unwind, and indulge one’s decadent side.
IXTAPA AND ZIHUATANEJO
Located nearly 150 miles northwest of Acapulco along the Pacific coast, with the Sierra Madre mountains in the background, the twin coastal towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo (nicknamed Zihua) are two of Mexico’s most popular beach destinations for couples and adults (children are not encouraged in many places).
Blessed with excellent weather, gorgeous beaches and sunsets, a first-rate tourist infrastructure, great meeting facilities, a connecting four-lane superhighway, and direct international flights, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are ideal destinations for discerning travelers and business groups in search of quality travel.
Visitors to this area tend to be upscale travelers, meeting groups, noted artists, writers, and actors.
Despite the close proximity of these two towns (four miles apart), they offer very different travel styles.
Ixtapa, a small and tightly planned community originally designed from scratch in the 1970s, attracts well-heeled visitors and meeting and incentive groups, as well as real estate investors. Beautifully landscaped, it is a well maintained and manicured community that lacks the spontaneity and low-maintenance looks of most Mexican communities.
While it may not represent the real Mexico, it presents a new version of Mexico that is most appealing to visitors in search of quality, predictability, and security.
From beaches and sports to dining, shopping, and entertainment, Ixtapa is a self-contained community where you need not venture far from your hotel or condominium. Everything is here restaurants, shops, golf courses, tennis courts, beaches, swimming pools, water sports, and more.
Zihuatanejo, on the other hand, has more local character and color. It’s a real functioning community where over 90 percent of the area’s population resides.
It’s a great place for people who want to explore the community, from discovering great beaches to uncovering unique markets, shops, and restaurants. Upscale independent travelers fall in love with this place.
Once an old fishing village, today this picturesque town is noted for its beautiful beaches, a scenic diamond-shaped bay, and a sheltered harbor with yachts and fishermen. It’s a relatively laid-back community offering a good range of accommodations, many excellent restaurants, and varied shopping and dining experiences.
Just drive through its chaotic streets or visit its crowded artisan market on Cinco de Mayo, and you know you’re still in Mexico.
Taken together, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo offer complementary travel experiences. If you enjoy staying in small intimate boutique hotels with gorgeous views of a bay and exploring communities on your own, plan to stay in charming Zihuatanejo. If you prefer large resort-type hotels, complete with a full range of resort activities and group functions, set your sights on well organized Ixtapa.
It can be a pleasant surprise for many visitors who are expecting a typical glitzy west coast resort community on the par of Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta. You won’t find it here. Nor will you find many jet-setters heading to this area. Manzanillo especially appeals to individuals interested in beach and sports activities.
Manzanillo is primarily a quiet resort community, industrial center, and major port. It is justly famous for its crescent-shaped bay, long wide beaches, and excellent diving sites, sailfishing, and golf courses.
It’s known as the Sailfish Capital of the World because of its popular national and international fishing competition which takes place in November and February.
The immediate area of this community consists of two towns with two bays – Manzanillo on the east and Santiago on the west – separated by the Santiago Peninsula, which is primarily the property of the distinctive white and pink Las Hadas resort. The whole beachfront area, much of which is known as the Zona Hotelera (Resort Zone), runs for about 10 miles.
The major hotels and restaurants begin just north of the town center (La Posada Hotel), circle Manzanillo Bay, and continue to the center of Santiago Bay (Fiesta Mexicana). Most resort activities are centered in the Manzanillo Bay area.
Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s real jewels. Selected by Conde Nast Traveler in 2001 as one of the world’s top 10 destinations, Puerto Vallarta enjoys a delightful climate, beautiful beaches, a wonderful bay, a picturesque setting, and a terrific tourist infrastructure that attracts millions of visitors each year.
From great hotels and restaurants to tempting shopping, outdoor sports, ecotourism, and evening entertainment, Puerto Vallarta seems to have it all. Whatever you do, don’t miss this delightful place!
Made internationally famous by John Huston’s 1964 movie Night of the Iguana starring Richard Burton, who was accompanied by Elizabeth Taylor, Puerto Vallarta has rightfully developed an enticing reputation for beauty, charm, and romance.
In many respects, today’s Puerto Vallarta is to Guadalajara what Acapulco is to Mexico City – its beachfront playground. On weekends Puerto Vallarta can get very crowded as visitors from Guadalajara descend on its many hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs.
It is a community of 250,000 residents that attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. It’s also home to hundreds of U.S. and Canadian expatriates who have settled here permanently or return seasonally to reclaim their choice properties.
While the city is friendly and charming, it’s also a bustling and sophisticated resort community offering a full range of holiday pleasures. It remains a very special place blessed by great weather, wonderful activities, romantic settings, intriguing art, and many upscale travelers and expatriates who spend a great deal of money on the many treasures and pleasures of this community.
Lifestyle shoppers who enjoy a distinctive Mexican flavor to their music, art, dining, sightseeing, and shopping, often fall in love with Guadalajara, which showcases well many of Mexico’s best treasures and pleasures.
Guadalajara is famous for many things. Being one of Mexico’s most conservative religious communities, it has numerous churches and a rather subdued nightlife.
It is especially noted for four of Mexico’s major traditions – tequila, rodeos (charreadas), mariachi music, and the Mexican hat dance (jarabe tapatio) and for its interesting Churriqueresque architecture.
Home to a large community of expatriate business people, artists, writers, and retirees, the city is blessed with an idyllic climate, delightful plazas, excellent restaurants, numerous shopping centers, and a good road system connecting the downtown area to outlying suburban communities and beyond.
Guadalajara’s famous artisans and workshops turn out a fascinating collection of ceramics, glassware, furniture, metal work, sculptures, paintings, and home decorative items which are found in shops throughout Mexico as well as exported abroad.
From the shops and factories of Tlaquepaque and Tonala to the many galleries found in the expat and art community of Ajijic along the beautiful shores of Lake Chapala, Guadalajara is a delightful place to shop for all types of handcrafted items.
MORELIA, PATZCUARO, AND THE STATE OF MICHOACAN
The state of Michoacan offers one of the most interesting opportunities to shop for arts and crafts directly from artisans as well as to explore several Spanish colonial architectural gems. From the delightful old palaces, churches, squares, gardens, and streets of Morelia to the charming squares and picture-postcard streets of Patzcuaro and nearby villages, Michoacan has a great deal to offer adventuresome travel-shoppers in search of quality arts and crafts.
Our advice: Plan to spend a few days exploring the area’s many towns and villages that specialize in producing arts and crafts. You’ll discover many wonderful products, from handcrafted copper pots, ceramics, and wood-carved masks to intriguing painted furniture, sculptures, Catrinas (skeleton figures), textiles, and folk art.
Morelia, a charming city of nearly 500,000 people, was founded in 1541. Today it is especially noted for its beautiful colonial architecture, music festivals, candy production, and seven universities, including the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere, Colegio de San Nicolas.
Patzcuaro, 43 miles southwest of Morelia, is one of the most delightful towns in Mexico. Situated at 7,250 feet in the Sierra Madre mountains, the city is located along the southeast shore of lovely Lake Patzcuaro.
Picturesque and exuding lots of local charm, this quaint town of cobblestone streets, white stucco buildings, lovely plazas, and lots of shops and restaurants is an extremely inviting town that has the look and feel of old Mexico.
Santa Clara del Cobre is Mexico’s famous copper town, located nearly 13 miles northeast of Patzcuaro. Here, you’ll find numerous artisans producing copper pots, plates, trays, napkin rings, candlesticks, jewelry, and other objects.
Rich in history and culture, picturesque Queretaro is one of Mexico’s real colonial gems. If you are exploring the Morelia, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato areas, be sure to include surprising Queretaro in your travel plans. It may well become one of your favorite places in Mexico.
This beautiful old colonial city of over 850,000 residents is especially noted for its delightful baroque architecture, churches, temples, mansions, museums, and plazas. It also has a five-mile long aqueduct with 74 arches.
Queretaro is one of the cleanest and neatest cities in Mexico due to the extraordinary efforts of local authorities to keep it that way.
While it has little to offer travel-shoppers, it does boast one unique product that distinguishes it from other cities in Mexico – fiery red and rock opals, amethysts, and other semi-precious stones and jewelry. Queretaro is the center for Mexico’s opal production.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
San Miguel de Allende is to Mexico what Santa Fe is to the United States – an idyllic and compelling community where art, culture, money, and talent come together in producing a very stimulating visual and intellectual setting.
Deservingly ranked by Conde Nast Traveler in 2000 as one of the world’s 10 top cities outside the United States, San Miguel de Allende continues to exhibit all the signs of maintaining its world-class reputation.
Located 180 miles northwest of Mexico City and 40 miles north of Queretaro, this popular town of 80,000 residents is noted for its wonderful climate, beautiful flowers, lovely gardens, charming architecture, colorful buildings, colonial mansions, cobblestone streets, intriguing churches, resident artists, expatriate community, students, festivals, cultural activities, arts and crafts, studios and galleries, factories and workshops, boutique hotels, and excellent restaurants.
One of Mexico’s premier artist colonies and educational centers, San Miguel is a friendly and laid-back community where one of the most pleasurable activities is to just stroll its many cobblestone streets.
But be careful here. You’re about to be seduced without even knowing it! San Miguel is one of those wonderfully seductive places that has changed the lives of thousands of Americans and Canadians who first came here as simple tourists but then decided to make this their home as expatriates. It’s very easy to fall in love with such an exotic, magical, entertaining, cultured, and beautiful place that exudes a friendly and safe small-town atmosphere.
Once Mexico’s most important silver producer, today Guanajuato (the hilly place of the frogs) is known as a city of hills, tunnels, mummies, winding cobblestone streets and lanes, students, music, art, culture, festivals, muralists Diego Rivera and Jose Chavez Morado, and Cervantes.
Less trendy than the nearby expat center of San Miguel de Allende and yet to be discovered by many international tourists, Guanajuato radiates a certain Mexican character that is charming, colorful, and magical. It’s the closest you’ll get to a Mexican medieval and Spanish city. Indeed, you’ll often feel you are walking the streets of Spain or Italy!
It’s definitely a walking city where cars are unwelcome sights and public nuisances. Stroll this city’s web of winding and hilly streets, visit its popular Jardin, follow the singing and guitar strumming troubadours through the lanes, get lost in its labyrinth of tunnels and lanes, or view its more than 100 well preserved mummies, and you’ll know you are in a very special place, unlike any other in Mexico.
Nestled in a valley surrounded by hills and flanked by the Sierra Madre mountains and placed with underground tunnels that serve as roadways, this is Mexico’s only subterranean city.
A very disorienting city, Guanajuato is especially famous for confusing even the best drivers and road navigators. A map-maker’s nightmare, it is one of those delightful cities where getting lost and found by car and on foot is half the fun of visiting this charming and challenging place.
From the moment you arrive until the day you leave, you’ll be delighted with having chosen to visit Guanajuato.
Puebla is Mexico’s most Spanish-style city with great colonial architecture and numerous elaborate mansions, churches, and convents – the largest concentration in all of Mexico. Given its close proximity to Mexico City, it should definitely be on your must-visit list.
Only 80 miles east of Mexico City, it can be easily reached by car within two hours as part of a day trip, which might also include visits to nearby towns of Tlaxcala and Cholula and the archaeological sites of Cantona, Cacaxtla, and Xochitecatl.
For travel-shoppers, Puebla, the City of Tiles, is the country’s center for admiring and acquiring the hand-painted Talavera tiles and dishes, and a major center for Mexican cuisine, noted for its mole, chiles en nogada, and sweets.
Talavera pottery was first introduced into Mexico via Puebla by artisans from the Spanish town of Talavera. Shopping in Puebla is all about discovering some of the best and the worst Talavera pottery in Mexico.
Most visitors to Oaxaca take an instant liking to this festive city and its nearby towns, villages, and historical sites. It’s a charming and romantic place that may well become your favorite destination in Mexico.
Offering a unique combination of Indian, Spanish colonial, and Mexican cultures, Oaxaca simply looks and feels good.
Representing Mexico’s largest Indian population, Oaxaca is an exceptionally inviting place to visit. It’s cultured, laid-back, friendly, and simply fun to visit.
For travel-shoppers, Oaxaca may be the closest they get to a Mexican shopper’s paradise. The city and nearby areas offer a dazzling array of quality arts and crafts with special emphasis on local folk art and related products: woodcarvings, rugs, pottery, terracotta figurines, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, baskets, embroidered clothing, woven belts, shawls, brocaded cotton blouses, and chocolate.
The folk art tradition here is very strong. Oaxaca is a place where art, culture, and shopping form a very special relationship that makes for a great travel-shopping adventure.
Our advice: Plan to spend at least three days here absorbing the area’s many unique treasures and pleasures.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Welcome to Surprising and Seductive Mexico
PART I: SMART TRAVEL-SHOPPING
- Know Before You Go
- Best Kept Secrets of Savvy Travel-Shoppers
PART II: GREAT DESTINATIONS
- Mexico City
- Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo
- Puerto Vallarta
- Morelia, Patzcuaro, and the State of Michoacan
- San Miguel de Allende
PRAISE FROM REVIEWERS
“…[The Krannichs] teach you where the best shopping is, what items to look for and how to judge their quality. They also teach shopping strategies, give bargaining tips and tell you how best to ship your treasures home….Serious shopaholics heading South of the Border should break out the plastic immediately, if not sooner.”–Genre
“…Combines a travel guide with a shopper’s guide to Mexico, combining historical insights with reviews of the ‘best of the best’ of the country’s opportunities….Is recommended as an invaluable destination-oriented tote.”–Library Bookwatch