Because of time constraints and our decision to drive the new Mazatlan-Durango highway we had only two choices of which colonial city to visit.
Our new friend Sergio, who works at the botanical garden in Mazatlan, is from Durango and told us how beautiful the city is. He even contacted a nephew there who provided us three options of where to park our RV in Durango. And one of the RVers at the park had been there and gave me their tourist magazine which made it all the more inviting. It was a tough choice but Zacatecas won out this time. Thank you Sergio for all your advice!
Highway 45 from Durango to Zacatecas is nice enough that I expected a toll booth but there were none until shortly before Zacatecas in Fresnillo. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Durango to Zacatecas and therefore an easy day’s drive from Mazatlan.
The Hacienda Baruk Hotel has RV parking places at one end of the parking lot with full hookups. There are also showers, a nice indoor pool and an exercise room included at no extra charge. The hotel has nicely landscaped grounds and a restaurant. The only drawback is extremely loud truck noise because the hotel is just off the highway with no buffer area and the trucks use their air brakes all night right in front because of an upcoming curve. Otherwise, it is a fine place to stay.
There was a Canadian couple parked next to us the first night but after that we were alone. We appreciated their advice that we take the cable car first when visiting the city. They were headed for Mazatlan with a long trailer and were apprehensive about the drive but we told them it was very easy and they would have no problem as long as they got gas before Durango.
First, we did take the cable car ride over the city and up Bufa Hill to get the lay of the land. This gave us some good ideas of what we wanted to see and what direction to head next. The cable car operator was one of only two people we met who spoke English and he told us quite a bit about Zacatecas. Zacatecas, population around 125,000 is built on steep slopes in a narrow and deep ravine at about 8200 feet elevation. Along with Guanajuato and Taxco, the city is along a route called the “Ruta de la Plata” or Silver Route due to the many silver mines in the area. The state of Zacatecas mines about half the silver in the world!
The cable car glass gave off a greenish cast but the views are still great
The cable car was constructed by the Swiss in 1979. The station below this is located on the grounds of another Baruk Hotel which has parking for small RV’s. The Canadians met someone who had parked there and said night club noise kept them awake until 3 am. In Mexico, I think it’s advisable to arrive and leave on weekdays when staying in cities. It’s no guarantee but chances are increased that maybe the nights will be quieter.
I’m glad we decided to walk further up hill after getting off of the cable car because we saw Our Lady of the Patronage Chapel whose construction began in 1548, the same year the city was founded. It is small but the inside is very ornate and all aglitter with shiny gold. There are also statues on top of the hill of horsemen, one being Pancho Villa.
We walked down the hill to the city center and our first stop was an art museum called Pedro Coronel located in an old monastery next to the Santo Domingo church pictured below. You can almost see the open court yard above and to the left of the bigger blue dome. We tried to go inside the church but it was closed until 6 pm as were several other churches in the city.
Museum entrance is on the left and entry fee was only 15 pesos each (about $1.15) to see art by Picasso, Dali, Chagal, Degas, and many others. There was also work from Africa, India, China, Greece, and Egypt. In relation to its’ population, Zacatecas is one of the cities with the most museums in Mexico. In the picture above, you can get a little peak of the top of Bufa Hill.
Fruit trees in the art museum court yard
One bonus of visiting the museum was stepping into a small courtyard and getting a partial view of the Santo Domingo church.
Zacatecas-Part Two is next.