The northeastern “finger” of the strangely shaped state of Jalisco has characteristics all its own. It’s called Los Altos because the altitude is typically over 1,800 meters (1.12 miles) above sea level. The ecosystem there is rather unique: mostly flat grassland, but just about the time you’re ready to pronounce it “boring,” you discover that this prairie land is cut by the deep and dramatically beautiful 150-kilometer-long Río Verde Canyon, dotted with majestic waterfalls and numerous hot springs.
If you haven’t visited Los Altos, you ought to. Besides canyon sites like Rancho el Venado and La Leonera, you’ll find extensive archaeological ruins at Teocaltitán and some 800 recently discovered petroglyphs at Presa de la Luz. As for food, highlanders pride themselves on their tasty carnitas; and to wash down the meat, you can take your pick of locally produced tequilas which some say are Mexico’s best, thanks to the red, iron-rich soil of the grasslands.
To reach the highlands from Guadalajara or Chapala, you have to take highway 80 northeast, which will give you a chance to visit fascinating Parque Ecológico Puente de Calderón.
Here you will find remains of the ancient Camino Real that ran east out of Guadalajara crossing a massive seventeenth-century bridge over the Calderón River. In 1811 this bridge was the site of an important battle for Mexican Independence. Father Miguel Hidalgo had only recently launched the rebellion against Spain and now at the Puente de Calderón he would face an army of 6,000 royalists. However, the history books tell us that Hidalgo had as many as 100,000 fellow rebels with him: how could he possibly lose?