With its colonial feel, the cobblestone roads, the colorful market, amazing hiking trails, and outdoor activities, cute cafes, and delicious restaurants, Valle de Bravo should definitely be on your bucket list of the places to visit in Mexico. In this post, you will find out why.
I have been to Valle de Bravo twice. The first time, in 2017, I didn’t have much time to explore, but, fast forward 4 years I decided to go back for a couple of days to see the monarch butterflies sanctuary and ended up staying 3 weeks. I decided to make it my main goal to explore as much as I could and join every possible activity to make the most of this spectacular Pueblo Magico that conquered my heart.
Valle de Bravo Mexco at a glance
Valle de Bravo, Mexico is a colonial town situated by the Avandaro Lake at only 2 hours drive from Mexico City and one hour 30 minutes from Toluca Airport.
Proclaimed Pueblo Magico in 2005, there is indeed a lot of magic in it, and for a reason, it has always been a popular vacation destination for the capital’s affluent upper class. But also many wealthy foreigners and movie stars found in Valle de Bravo and surroundings the perfect spot for their occasional getaways.
If you love to walk around the town and get lost in its flowery narrow lane, it won’t take much to notice opulent villas scattered around the hills with stunning views over the lake. If you happen to pay a visit to the nearby Avandaro and take a walk in the golf club (not on weekends) you will see even more of it.
After my luxury villas accidental tour, I wasn’t surprised to see Valle de Bravo mentioned in a famous architecture magazine where the pretty town is compared to the Hamptons, the popular getaways for the wealthy New Yorkers.
But Valle de Bravo is not only popular among Mexicans, as it became internationally famous in 2009 for hosting the Paragliding World Championship, with 150 competitors from more than 40 countries.
Among the many outdoor activities that you can practice here, Valle de Bravo is indeed one of the perfect spots for paragliding lovers. And in fact every year you can watch the Monarca Paragliding Open, a competition that takes place in January. Although the 2021 edition has been canceled due to COVID, stay tuned for next year’s edition.
I am so fascinated by this town that I wrote this compact but quite exhaustive guide with the hope to help you organize your visit.
If you are ready to explore Valle de Bravo with me, read on.
Amazing things to do in Valle de Bravo
Take a walk around the town and visit Valle de Bravo landmarks
Walking around and getting lost is the first thing I do when I visit a new place. I would wait to take out my camera after I get the feeling that it’s safe to do it. And Valle de Bravo is totally safe, just be aware of the people around you if you are photographing in their direction.
You will love to walk around the narrow and steep cobblestone lanes, besides being a great morning exercise is the best way to enjoy and explore the town. Among the points of interest within Valle de Bravo at a walking distance:
- Templo de Santa María Ahuacatlán (El Cristo Negro) – very much appreciated and cherished among locals, it’s quite popular for the Black Christ.
- The Parroquia of San Francisco de Asis – located next to the Central Garden of the Plaza Independencia, the parish dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi stands out towering over Valle de Bravo. You will love to photograph it from the hilly roads around town. Built with the simplicity of the Franciscan construction, it still preserves a 16th century quarry bell tower and it houses sculptural works from the seventeenth century. During the month of October of each year (except the pandemic times), the festival is held in honor of its saint, with dances and fireworks and a large party in the central garden.
- Take a walk through the colorful market – before the pandemic it was much bigger and more lively. Now most stands are closed but in the external part you will enjoy walking through the fruit stalls and will be tempted to buy those fresh veggies for your healthy meal, if you are staying in a home and get tired of eating out.
- Try the local bread and bakery in the “panaderias” – I always find Mexican bread mediocre, but here in Valle de Bravo you can find one of the exceptions. Especially if you walk in around 8 am, you can still smell the bread just taken out of the oven. It’s crunchy outside and soft inside. A real delicacy. Also, the sweet version is delicious.
- Take a stroll in Calle 5 de Mayo – the main street with interesting shops, restaurants, and bars in the heart of Valle de Bravo. You can walk all the way to the end of the street, and you will reach the lake, especially lovely early morning or at sunset.
- Enjoy watching the paragliding landing in the “pista de aterrizajes” by the lake. You can find the direction in Google
- Eat a “Crepa” – the french crepes are quite common here. Not sure for what reason. My favorite place to eat them is Bretaña La Ville Crepe where you can find all sorts of Crepes salted and sweet.
- Watch the Sunset from the Mirador Cruz de Mission, a short walk from the plaza. Take the road Calle del Deposito from the Main plaza and then turn to called Cruz de Mission. it’s a 10 minutes walk and super safe.
- Check out the art exposition in the cultural center Joaquin Arcadio Pagala. The 18th-century building was the home of the poet and bishop of the same name who lived from 1839 to 1918. You can admire its collection of 98 pieces of 18th-century furniture and religious ornaments that belonged to the former owner. However, you can also browse through a temporary art gallery exposition that changes every two months. View location
Walk to La Peña Mirador
This was the best hike I did in Valle de Bravo, and the best part is that it’s safe to go on your own even if you are a girl traveling alone. Super safe. Just keep some stones with you or dog food in case you meet some street dogs that scare you. Other than that it’s a very short but steel walk to the top of La Peña from where you will enjoy amazing views over the lake.
Walk to the Avandaro waterfall – El Salto
You could easily walk alone to the El Salto waterfall, but I was happy to be with a guide. I booked a tour on Airbnb with Arturo. It was only 10USD and all worth it. It’s a nice walk from Valle de Bravo, first among spectacular houses and then in the forest along the river to reach the fall. The second part of the walk it’s a little too isolated for me to go alone. That’s why I appreciated joining a group and we were only 3 so it was nice.
If you are traveling with somebody it’s ok to go on your own and easy to find.
Visit the waterfall Velo de Novia
The waterfall Velo de Novia is in Avandaro a wealthy town perched on the hill overlooking the lake above Valle de Bravo. You can get there by taxi either private or on a share basis. Obviously, there is a significant difference in price but in these times you will probably want to be on your own in the taxi. They will leave you at the entrance of the park from where you have just a short walk to reach the beautiful waterfall. If you like to walk you can follow the river and walk along until you get to Avandaro lake. It’s a short and pleasant walk.
I was lucky because Lupica, the mum of my Airbnb owner offered to take me in her quad. It was a lovely adventure. She kindly took me for a walk to the golf course, a spectacular manicured field surrounded by million-dollar homes, and then we went to the waterfall where we walked down to the river and up to the spectacular fall.
You will also enjoy walking along the main street in Avandaro full of great shops and restaurants. Lupita explained also that the town becomes alive on the weekends when the home owner’s come from Mexico for their short escape to their private paradise.
Take a walking tour in the hills around Valle de Bravo
Take a beautiful walk up to the tower (La Torre), where the paragliding takes off. It’s the highest location around Valle de Bravo. There are two trails that lead you there. I took the shortest but steepest, great exercise and a nice walk through local homes and nature. It takes an hour to get there if you walk at a good pace. As you can imagine all the effort is paid off by a breathtaking view over the lake and the city of Valle de Bravo.
Although it’s an easy walk, it’s advisable to go with a guide because the trail is difficult to find and has a lot of detours. You can get lost. I definitely would.
I went with Karla, a nice girl from Venezuela in love with Valle de Bravo and Mexico. You can email her to book your tour.
Try the paragliding experience
If you are up for extreme sports, you will love to try Paragliding. No worries you don’ thave to be an expert or think about anything. You will fly with an instructor and all you have to do is to enjoy the ride. I didn’t do it, to be honest, because I am too scared but most people come to Valle de Bravo just to experience the thrill of flying. So you might want to try it too. There are different paragliding schools in Valle de Bravo that offer this tour. I can’t suggest a particular one, though. Enjoy! And let me know how it goes!
Take a kayaking tour in the lake
Kayaking or paddleboarding are common activities in Valle de Bravo and it’s a good way to enjoy the lake while doing some exercising. I wanted to join a kayaking tour but I realized it’s more common to find a kayak to rent and go on your own than find a tour. I didn’t really like the idea of kayaking on my own so I didn’t do it. Too bad! This is one of the times when I wished I had a travel companion.
As for paddleboarding, it is easier to find a group to join but I didn’t want to get wet as it was February and quite cold to take a swim in the lake. 🙂
Visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary (seasonal)
This was the highlight of my stay in Valle de Bravo. The Sanctuary of the Mariposa Monarca is located about 11 miles from Valle de Bravo but there is no public transportation so I took a private taxi. I stayed there for 2 hours and saw million of spectacular butterflies drinking in the river and flying all around me. It was a real miracle of nature. I wrote a separate post on the Monarch Butterflies in Valle de Bravo Mexico where I explain in detail how to get there, the costs and why the Monarch Butterflies like these specific areas. Mind though, you can see them only from December through March.
Take a mezcal tour
Cabañas El Ensueño organizes a mezcal tasting where they explain all the kinds of Mezcal and how it is made. Very interesting. You can find them on Facebook.
Where to stay in Valle de Bravo
There are different accommodation options in Valle de Bravo. Since I stayed 3 weeks I booked two different accommodations. The first one was an Airbnb, it was an exquisite room but I didn’t pay attention to the reviews that were warning about the noise and that was real! So I am not going to suggest it to you.
However, my second place was just perfect. I was looking for a cheap but cozy place because I like to work from the room and I need a nice environment to focus. I found a great 40% offer on Booking.com for a cute little hotel right in the heart of Valle de Bravo and I grabbed it immediately. I was super happy. I had a spacious room, minimal but clean and with the essentials. I even had a table to work on and a lot of space for my morning exercises.
But most of all it was super tranquil and quiet, and it had a rooftop terrace from where to admire spectacular views of the sun setting over Valle de Bravo red roofs. The hotel is called Hotel Valle Bonito, from Collection O hotels. A real gem for budget travelers.
Hotel Mission Valle de Bravo is also an amazing option if you prefer to stay away from town and immerse yourself in nature. Hotel Mission Valle de Bravo is in fact located right by the waterfall El Salto. You can imagine the spectacular views.
If you rather stay in a beautiful home for more privacy check out this stunning property overlooking the lake and the city. Or this lake house, located close to the lake and at walking distance from the city.
My favorite cafes and restaurants in Valle de Bravo
The culinary scene in Valle de Bravo is also quite varied and eclectic. However I have to confess I have been eating out for three weeks and always in the same places.
Because I love to work from cafes, my favorite one was La Machinhuepa, right at the beginning of Calle 5 de Mayo the main road that goes from the Plaza to the Lake. Cozy and spacious place with great simple options for lunch and delicious croissants for breakfast. 🙂 I used to stay there all day long when I wasn’t exploring and I felt very welcomed, also because it was empty almost all the time, except on Sundays. Very kind and friendly staff, especially Francisco, very professional and kind.
Another place where I would go was Trastevere, although I wasn’t impressed by the food, it was a great place to work from, with a beautiful external patio and a nicely decorated lounge, when outside was too hot.
If you want a great espresso coffee go to Caos Cafe, a tiny place but with great espresso.
For a decent pizza or other italian style delicacies you can try Dipao. I had a pizza and although it has nothing to do with the real Italian pizza, it was eatable.
I noticed Soleado restaurant has amazing reviews on Tripadvisor, so my horrible experience might have been bad luck. The place is really nice but I ordered the Thailand dish and it was…uneatable (to be nice), very salty and the overcooked noodles were swimming in a broth of soy sauce. When I told them, they simply said I am sorry, offered me a cookie and the bill. I had a laugh and even left them a tip. I felt really sorry for them. I usually never leave food on the plate, but this one was definitely uneatable. If you try it let me know how it goes.
For a fancy dinner at sunset, you can try the Quirina Restaurant, located on the spectacular rooftop terrace of the Mubu’ hotel boutique.
If you are like me and love vegan food you must try Ground Food in Calle 5 de Mayo. They have simple but tasty dishes and a fixed menu with different options. It’s cheap and with abundant portions. I can never finish the full menu and always ask for a takeaway.
How to move around Valle de Bravo
The pretty town is most of the time walkable because everything is so close and the town is so pretty that you just love to walk around. However, if you need to travel to the surrounding places and attractions you have 2 options:
- Private taxi – they don’t have a fixed rate and you will have to negotiate
- Taxi Colectivo – they have a fixed rate supposedly but tend to charge more to foreigners, so ask a local first how much is it from one place to another and be firm. But keep in mind that sometimes they can refuse to take you if you don’t pay what they want.
- Car rentals – unfortunately, there is no car rental in Valle de Bravo. If you are coming from Toluca you can rent a car there where you can have plenty of choices, and drive to Valle de Bravo, which is the best solution.
How to get to Valle de Bravo Mexico
Getting to Valle de Bravo is easy. You can get by bus to Toluca from Mexico City or any of the main cities in the area. From Toluca, you either rent a car and drive (about 1 hour) or you can hop on the brand new Zinabus in Toluca, and in 2 hours you will be in Valle de Bravo. If you can, avoid the busses that take the Amanalco route because it’s longer and makes more stops.
Keep in mind that in Toluca there is an airport and you might find flights from different Mexican cities if the bus ride it seems too long. Otherwise, you can fly to Mexico City and get a bus from the airport directly to Toluca with the bus company Caminante.
Well, I hope I gave you a good overview of the beautiful Valle de Bravo and the amazing things to do. If I have missed anything please let me know. I will be happy to help if I can.