Ixcatán is a little town perched high on the edge of the huge Barranca de Oblatos, that big hole lying at the north end of greater Guadalajara.
Many, many years ago, rumors reached us that there were geysers near Ixcatán at a place called La Soledad, which means “solitude.”
Now when Mexicans decide to call a place Soledad, you can bet it’s going to be pretty far off the beaten track. Indeed, it was not easy to find those geysers, but find them we did — twin sprays of boiling water shooting into the air from two curious-looking cones each about a meter-and-a-half high and displaying just about every color in the rainbow.
This was a sight to see, but we only saw it once. Upon our return, the twin spouts were no more. “Some kids decided to test out their rock-throwing skills,” local people told us. “Unfortunately, they had quite good aim.”
Today, steam still fills the air at this site, but, sad to say, the place is privately owned and not accessible to the public. Fortunately, we now have a second option of sorts.
Forget the geysers and visit the hot springs of Rancho Ávila, also located along Soledad Canyon and recently opened up to the public.
“The owner of this place has just turned it into a balneario,” my friend Franky messaged me. “But if we go there on a Friday, we’ll probably have the whole place to ourselves.”
So, one fine Friday, we headed north out of town along the winding road through majestic Oblatos Canyon, once again on our way to La Soledad.
Seven kilometers past Ixcatán, we came to a sign reading “Rancho Avila’s.” It was comforting to see the apostrophe and “s” – a sure sign that the property we were entering had class!
After a few minutes we came to a parking lot next to a roofed dining area with nearby restrooms and changing booths. As for bathing options, the owners have taken full advantage of the many hot and cold springs all along this stretch of the Soledad Canyon. Here you can choose between a spiffy modern pool with its own mini island or a long, rustic swimming hole bordered by a picturesque canyon wall covered with ferns and gnarly tree roots.
“Let me show you the part I really love,” said Franky, leading me onto a trail heading west from the balneario. Soon we were crossing a river by leaping from rock to rock, leaving behind the inevitable music emanating from the dining area. A few minutes later, we came to a truly magical place with small, interconnected pools, two of them fed by streams of water pouring down from the cliff side.
“Feel the temperature of this water,” shouted Franky, as he pulled off his shirt and jumped under the natural shower. Now this is what hot springs are all about: clean, crystal-clear water, deliciously warm, but not hot ... ahhhh!
Rancho Avila’s is only open Fridays to Sundays. If you are free on a Friday, that’s the day to come, but try to avoid the last Friday of the month, which is a holiday for elementary schools.
Camping is also an option, with plenty of flat grassy places to pitch your tent and, according to Franky, very good chances that you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
If you plan to camp, you should forewarn them on their Facebook page, Casa de Campo Rancho Avila’s, or call them at 331-022-5837 (cel). Admission is 50 pesos for adults, 30 pesos for kids and camping is 150 pesos for each person. To get there, ask Google Maps to take you to “Rancho Avila’s” (what else?). Driving time from the north end of Guadalajara is about an hour. Double that if you’re coming from Ajijic.