Hi sweet friends, how are you? We just left Orizaba Mexico. We’re currently in Tuxtla Gutierrez Mexico— just about nearing the border. After this, we have one-stop left (Tapachula) before we enter Guatemala. A stop we did twice this summer and we’re not exactly thrilled about, but we plan to be as ready as we can be. Once we enter Guatemala it will take 1 to 2 days to get to the lake. It’s possible to arrive at the lake in one day, but with the curved mountain roads, high elevation, and dragging a trailer, we’re thinking we might break it up into two days. After all the last thing we want to do is drive those roads at night. We plan to rent a home for a week or two while we set up our farm, but the rental doesn’t have road access (like so many things on the lake) so we’d have to park and bring our belongings by foot (on a dirt path) to our rental. So you can see why we might want to arrive at our destination during the day.
While you guys might know that I really like planning for road trips and like to plan stops in advance, we didn’t do the with this trip. We were originally planning on driving south through Oaxaca to get to Tapachula. The map app kept putting us through Veracruz for our drive— but we never really considered this route given that neither of us had ever heard positive things about the state. Well, in the last week before we left we had multiple people tell us about the lush beautiful landscape of Veracruz and how magical nature was. Marlowe’s teacher even mentioned an Ashram in the state. So at the last minute, we decided to detour up through Veracruz, before going down to Tapachula. And we’re really happy we did. With the exception of the traffic and fog storm we experienced entering Orizaba, the drive was really nice. Sure, lots of potholes on the highway— but not every road can be perfect, right? And this route has given us some really nice towns to explore.
For this trip, I mostly planned 5-hour driving legs— given that 5 hours on the map meant much, much longer for us. After Mexico City that meant the best stops owuld be Cordoba (my mother’s maiden name) or Orizaba. Orizaba seemed to have a bit more activities and a few nicer stay options so we opted for there. The road coming in was rough— really rough. We got stuck in standstill traffic. We sat there, at 8,000+ feet up, for 7-8 hours wedged between three giant trucks. By the time we moved again, I had become so dehydrated that any pee I held in had gone away. Honestly, it wasn’t completely terrible, just a bit of an inconvenience. But after we started moving, the hard part came in. By the time we moved it was 11 pm at night and pitch black out— and there was this chaos everywhere. Apparently, we weren’t the only highway completely jammed. We could see lines of cars that would probably be stuck for much, much longer.
The town of Orizaba itself only sits at 4,000 feet or so. But coming from the west and heading into the town meant crossing some pretty high passes. Leaving our traffic stop we had to climb over 10,000 feet through a mountain pass that is already known for dangerous fog— during a massive fog storm. To say it was dangerous would be an understatement. It was rough. Really rough. My heart was beating out of my chest the entire drive. But like all things, we made it through.
We had debated on a few hotel options in Orizaba. One seemed nicer and more central, while the other had a kitchenette (always the better option for us). But we opted for the central one, Gamma Hotels. It was nice, but I still wonder if the other hotel, Mardeka, would have been easier for us.
The weather was perfect. It’s similar to the climate we love in Antigua and Lake Atitlan, but maybe even a bit warmer. Cooler nights and mornings, but warm sunshine on your skin all day long. And maybe a little bit of rain in the evening. And with the elevation only being 4,000 feet we were able to start hydrating again 😉
I don’t know if I would have ever heard of Orizaba if I hadn’t put my finger on the map while exploring this new (to us) Veracruz route. But I’m happy I did and we were all happy for the easy stop. The town itself is super, super clean, super safe, and set up for tourists without feeling like a tourist town. It still feels like a very real, Mexican town for locals. And I think it’s set up to hold even more. It doesn’t feel like a place where the locals will eventually be pushed out with tourists coming in. And it helps that many of the tourists there are nationals and not Americans or Europeans—- that could be because of covid, but it feels like it could always be this way– a town a bit more out of reach to a tradiational traveler– like Valladolid pre-bus tours.
Looking around the town it almost feels like Colombia. I’m not sure how to explain this adequately— but there’s certain cartoon kitsch that so many Colombian pueblos hold. Orizaba had that. In most situations, it’s not my favorite thing. But it felt right for this town. And in a way, maybe it made me appreciate Colombia more. It’s not high-end and lux, but the town has some real charm and character. Beautiful churches, colorful buildings, lots of beautiful surrounding nature with the biggest most beautiful ancient trees, kind people, and even GIANT snow-capped mountain in the distance.
I’m grateful we got to experience this town. It’s not Tulum, Sayulita, Oaxaca, or some other well-known American tourist spot— instead, I feel like I stumbled on something really beautiful, true to character, and something really special that’s rarely shown on social media. Unless we do the drive back to Nayarit one day, I don’t know if we’ll visit again, but I’m grateful we were able to make the stop in this beautiful Mexican town.
I hope you guys are well in the world. Thanks for being here. I look forward to sharing our new life on the lake. I’m trying to set myself up for it to be a really experience without making myself to nervous of the difficulties. But overall, it’ll be an adventure to share for sure.