If you are looking for a weekend away from the beach and surf, and feel like exploring the mountains, valleys, rivers and beautiful landscapes of Jalisco we recommend visiting the picturesque towns around Puerto Vallarta, which offer many different options for a quick trip, San Sebastián, 47 miles away, is one of the best options.
San Sebastían del Oeste from the hills
San Sebastián del Oeste is a town and municipality.
Founded January 20, 1605.
Location: Western part of the state of Jalisco, Mexico (see map).
20°45'30" N - 104°51'30" W
1,480 metres (4,856 ft) over sea level.
Formerly the town was known as Real de San Sebastián and later San Sebastián and since 1983, San Sebastián del Oeste, is a village made up of ancient haciendas and century-old homes that have aged gracefully along with the surrounding mines and fields, filled with a valuable legacy of tradition and history.
In its glorious past it was a prosperous and self-sustaining silver mining town with over four times the population it has now.
You can reach San Sebastian by air and you'll arrive in the small airstrip located just outside the town, which allows daily service from Puerto Vallarta. On the way you'll enjoy impressive views of the hills and forests in the Sierra Madre.
When looking at a map, the town may seem to be hidden and inaccessible, it is actually a place you should definitely NOT miss. After traveling through mountain pass after mountain pass, you will feel a real sense of arrival when you reach this town in the heart of the mountain region.
By 1785 there were 10 gold and silver reduction haciendas and almost 30 mines in the area, the town became a city in 1812 and reached its peak in 1830. The mines stopped working during the 1910 revolution and the foreign companies moved elsewhere. The last mine stopped working in 1921.
It was actually the mines of the towns in the Sierra that created a need for Las Peñas (what later became Puerto Vallarta), the original name derived from the name given to the rocks that are now known as Los Arcos de Mismaloya.
In 1851, the small village was the starting point for what later was to become Puerto Vallarta, they would provide salt for the smelting process at the mines and it was taken to the mining towns of the Sierra on mule back.
In the early XX Century the mines were depleted and the town lost it's precious metal attraction, and the town entered a "time warp" and this is actually one of its main attractives.
According to the latest census figures in 2010,
the municipality of San Sebastián has 5,755 inhabitants. It was a mining town a few centuries ago, and at its peak had over 20,000 inhabitants, but following the Mexican Revolution and the closing of most of the mines in the area, the population declined in the nineteenth century.
Just outside town you can visit many old haciendas, some of which are now in ruins like La Máquina, while others are meticulously restored to their former grandeur like La Quinta, which proudly continues to produce organic coffee.
Other haciendas that have been wonderfully restored are La Galera, La Hacienda San José (with its unique and out-of-place palm tree in the mountains) or La Hacienda Jalisco.
Hacienda Jalisco is located right on the main entrance to town, just behind the airstrip, across storybook fields of blue agave plants used to make our famous tequila. Its former function as hacienda to the Quitería mine is evident still when you visit its on-site museum of mining and metallurgy.
The Pabellon Mexicano is an old company store but is now transformed into a boutique hotel on the southeast corner of the main square within view of the church, dedicated to Saint Sebastian.
The scenic view from La Bufa is truly breathtaking... on a clear day you can see all the way to Vallarta and the waters of the Pacific Ocean, to get there you'll need a 4-wheel drive vehicle and 45 minutes, but it's worth it.
Yet another road can take you to Los Reyes, a tiny hamlet whose old-fashioned streets remind you of what San Sebastian was not so long ago.
Things to do while in San Sebastián del Oeste
Hacienda Jalisco: One of the main haciendas in the area and that in its time controlled most of the mining that took part in town.
Iglesia de San Sebastián: A humble town church dedicated to San Sebastián Mártir, built Franciscan friars at the end of the XVIII century.
Cerro de la Bufa (La Bufa Hill): The scenic view from La Bufa is truly breathtaking... on a clear day you can see all the way to Puerto Vallarta and the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Banderas Bay, to get there you'll need a 4-wheel drive vehicle and it's a 45 minute trip, but it's completely worth it. On the way you'll encounter wild animals and spectacular views and panoramas. (Photo below)
4. La Quinta: A XIX century hacienda at “La Pareja” when you are driving in to the town of San Sebastian. It offers regional organic coffee and is, luckily, excellent too.
5. Camposanto Viejo: The cemetery dates back to the XIX century where many notorious locals rest in peace.
How to get to San Sebastián del Oeste
You can get to this colonial town from Puerto Vallarta by bus (ATM Red Line), the trip lasts about 2 hours and with the local buses which will cost around 6 or 7 dollars each way. There are no direct buses to this town, but you can take the ones that travel to Talpa de Allende which take off from the corner of Lucerna and Havre street (see map below).
There are a few buses in the morning, some past midday and two in the afternoon, visit the place and ask for details. When you arrive at La Estancia, a small town on the way to Mascota, you jump off the bus. Here you can grab a taxi to San Sebastián (some 10 dollars each way). Check the schedule of the buses back to PV from La Estancia while you are there to coordinate the trip.