Oaxaca Drive to Balloon Rides, Mine, Movie Set, Monolith & More

Courtyard Hotel Los Arcos, Tequisquiapan Credit: A.Starkman

Courtyard Hotel Los Arcos, Tequisquiapan Credit: A.Starkman

A Oaxaca – Querétaro tour combines wine and cheese tasting with an opal mine, kids’ activities, craft production, natural wonders and pictureque settings. As an adjunct to a weekend Oaxaca – Querétaro driving trip for wine and cheese tasting, or as a multi-day tour onto itself, ex-pat residents as well as longer-term vacationers to Oaxaca ought to consider the natural and cultural richness of southeast Querétaro.

Now that the Arco Norte toll road has been extended from just above Puebla to beyond Querétaro, other parts of Mexico are much more easily accessible to Oaxacans and their visitors. Previously, driving from Oaxaca to Querétaro, Guanajuato and further beyond, entailed entering the gridlock of highways around Mexico City. Now, driving to San Miguel de Allende from Oaxaca for example, takes seven hours, and less to enter the greater Querétaro area.

Suggested Driving Tour from Oaxaca to Southeast Querétaro’s Sights

It’s always advisable to take along a good series of maps for any such driving tour, and study them before departing. In addition, pick up tourist guides and maps for as many of the Querétaro cities, towns, villages and sights, in the tourist offices and at the hotels and restaurants. Some are in English, while others are bilingual, and of course many are in Spanish only. The following is but a brief sampling of what’s available, so consider playing it by ear once you’ve had a chance to review the literature relaxing your first evening on the road.

Follow the highways as if driving from Oaxaca to San Miguel de Allende, but get off the toll road at San Juan del Rio, then continue up to Tequisquiapan.

Tequisquiapan boasts:

  • An extensive array of craft marketplaces in the downtown core, featuring unique basketry and wool products, as well as a plethora of other Mexican handicrafts
  • A nearby opal mine where guided tours are available on a regular basis (and of course opals for purchase as jewelry or craft items, at the sight as well as throughout the town)
  • Particularly of interest for the children, enormous water parks and hot air balloon rides (the latter for romance motivated adults as well)
  • A broad diversity of accommodation options ranging from hostels to $200 USD a night luxury hotels
  • Strategic location in the midst of the region, enabling one to use it as a base for a multi-day excursions
  • Cheese shops featuring products produced in the four main creamery factories in Querétaro, and a Freixenet Wine Bar.

Proceeding north from town, about 10 minutes into the drive one encounters La Redonda winery. Thereafter one comes upon the bustling town of Ezequiel Montes, beyond which one happens upon the Freixenet and Los Azteca wineries. Continuing up the highway, at Cadereyta, one can’t help but stopping at the world renowned Fernando Schmoll Quinta cactus and succulent greenhouses, a facility which was opened in 1920, by biologist Carolina Wagner and her husband, painter Fernando Schmoll. It purports to have the most important greenhouses in the Americas for reproduction of cactus and succulents, including plants native to diverse parts of the globe.

Heading west is Colón, noted for its handmade wool products, and Bernal. In 2006, Bernal was declared a pueblo mágico because it sits at the base of the third tallest monolith in the world. But it’s the picturesque quaintness of the town which is most striking, certainly helped along with the rocky “peña de Bernal” ever-present, reminiscent of Switzerland’s Zermatt and The Matterhorn. Both national and international film companies have used the impressionable setting of Bernal for productions.

The region offers much more than this cursory enumeration suggests, including thermal springs and a geyser, a series of large dams, hiking trails and rock climbing, regional gastronomic excellence, thematic fairs and fiestas throughout the year, golf and other more active sporting activities, and so much more.

Where to Stay in Southeast Querétaro, as Part of a Driving Tour from Oaxaca

Upon entering Tequisquiapan and throughout the downtown core one is inundated with youths on bicycles who try to convince you to stay where their brochures in hand indicate. There’s really no need, since the area around Moctezuma, Centenario, Prieto and Juárez contains tens of lodgings at all levels of luxury and price.

For the budget conscious, in the 500 peso a night range for a couple, there’s Los Arcos Hotel Posada, about four blocks from the square, run by an elderly woman and her husband. The price includes hot water, cable TV and parking.

A reasonable recommendation would be to spend only a night or two in Tequisquiapan, as a jumping off point, and the rest of the trip in Bernal, for obvious reasons including its centrality in the region. In Bernal one finds great value also at 500 pesos a night, at Hotel Quinta Arantxa Bed & Breakfast run by a charming and extremely accommodating middle aged woman. The price includes parking, a queen bed, hot water, WIFI and breakfast.

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