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The Altavista petroglyph complex is located about 30 minutes north of the town of La Peñita de Jaltemba where we booked a seasonal rental in the winter months of 2016-2017. Although you can visit the petroglyphs on your own, we chose to take a guided tour with Alicia’s Tours in Rincon de Guayabitos.
For this trip, we were picked up in a van at our residence. Our small tour group of four people, were led by Alejandro Sr, Alejandro Jr, and Miguel, who spoke English and was our translator.
After Alejandro expertly maneuvered the van up the rutted road and under low hanging branches, he parked and we began our walk down a dirt road that bordered some farms.
Walking through the farms
Miguel showed us the trees that were growing on the farms, including guanábana, lychee, and jack fruit. He also pointed out trees along the route such as the parota tree (also called guanacaste}, coconut palms, and others.
Shady parota Tree
Jack fruit growing along our route
At first, the walking was fairly flat and easy as we hiked alongside the fenced farms on the rutted road. Soon the path narrowed and we were maneuvering over stone cobbles that took more effort to traverse.
After about 30 minutes of walking, we came to the entrance of the site itself and a guard opened it up by unhooking some barbed wire and removing some sticks that blocked the path.
Here the hike became quite challenging with many large rocks along the trail that we needed to go over or around. Walking sticks were a real help in negotiating the uneven terrain.
The sudden onslaught of mosquitoes required us to apply the picardin insect repellent we had fortunately brought along.
The path is difficult in some places
Alejandro led us to the stone carvings and Miguel translated, explaining some of the symbolism. There were interpretive placards near many of petroglyphs in both English and Spanish. Unfortunately, many of the placards showed signs of age and were difficult to read. Some couldn’t be read at all.
Petroglyph inscribed on boulder
Interpretive sign about petroglyph
Alex and Miguel pointed out the spirals, animals and other symbols on the petroglyphs. We were able to closely examine many of these ancient markings. Others were visible a short distance along the trail, and some were not accessible to us. The carvings varied from deep and easy to see, to only faint outlines on those worn away over the centuries. We were thankful for having knowledgeable guides to point them out.
We learned that this region was originally home to the Tecoxquin (Tequectequi) native peoples dating from approximately 2000 BC to 2300 BCE. There is little known about their culture. The petrogyph complex contains 56 petroglyphs whose antiquity cannot be accurately determined.
Spiral in a square petroglyph carving
Corn man petroglyph
The trail ends in pila del Rey, an area of huge boulders with a stream and waterfalls running through it. The walls of the canyon had square blocks along them that looked almost man made. We spent some time resting here, admiring the stunning scenery and icy water. We refreshed ourselves with bottles of cold water and fruit provided by our guides.
Pila del Rey (king’s Fountain) is an incredible place
The Pila del Rey waterfall flows through the boulders
Two throne seats are situated among the boulders
Aside from its cultural and archaeological importance, the Altavista petroglyph complex remains an important religious center for the Huicholes who still leave offerings and perform ceremonies here.
As we were leaving, we greeted some of the local indigenous people who were there for that purpose.
The petroglyph complex was a truly memorable experience for us. Our twenty-something guests were intrigued by the carvings and particularly enjoyed the natural beauty of the Mexican countryside. Although we found the trek difficult going at times, they managed it easily.
One of our party was interested in photographing the many birds we saw along the route and our guides from Alicia’s Tours were happy to include bird watching in our itinerary.
We recommend a visit to the Altavista petroglyph complex to anyone who is in the Jaltemba Bay area and enjoys hiking in nature and exploring the mystery of ancient sacred sites. Although you may be able to get there on your own, we recommend hiring a local guide to help you locate the unmarked entrance and to help with finding and understanding the stone carvings.
Whether with a guide or not, be prepared for your visit to the Altavista petroglyphs with the following essentials:
- Sturdy hiking shoes (we love our Keens)
- Insect Repellent (we recommend picardin based repellents)
- Sun screen
- Wide brimmed hat
- Bottle of water
- Trail snacks
We found a hiking staff (like this one) to be a big help in the ups and downs of the trail.
We’d love to hear your comments. Have you had a chance to visit a petroglyph site? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.