Getting to the Alta Vista Petroglyphs

While spending a week in Sayulita on the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico, my friend Kristen and I decided to leave the beach behind and venture inland for an afternoon excursion to the Alta Vista Archaeological site. We had been warned that it was difficult to reach this site but felt confident that we could find our way with the fairly detailed directions from Kristen’s travel guide… that turned out to be completely outdated. For anyone looking to visit Alta Vista, here are some directions based on our November 2016 excursion:

  • Turn east off Highway 200 at kilometer marker 81.8 (north of Peñita).
  • Go 1.6 kms and turn left onto a tree lined dirt road.
  • Go 800m (it’s a rough 800m with some serious ruts and rocks that will take a while to drive) and park at a re-bar gate by an organic plantation. Follow the road on the right and walk from here – don’t even try to drive unless you have an ATV.
  • Here is the important part: when you come to the river, don’t follow the path that goes straight. Instead, continue on the main road to the right which will take your across the riverbed a little further on.
  • Once you get across the river there will be a fence – veer right and follow this fence (you will be walking in some tall grass between the fence and the river). The fence will eventually end and the path will be easy to follow from this point onward but watch out for poison ivy. (We actually walked on the inside of the fence and asked a farmer who happened to be working in the field if we were going the right way and he said yes, that you can walk on either side of the fence but you just have to duck and step over some barbed wires when you’re on the inside.)
  • You will come to a clearing where a caretaker (so random) will collect 20 pesos per person to entre the site. It’s about an 800m walk (on the left side of the river) to the cascading-water amphitheater and there are petroglyphs with old interpretive signs along the way although most of the carvings are concentrated at the end of the trail.
  • The first part of the walk is in open fields so you’ll want sun protection while the walk to the petroglyph site is in the buggy jungle. Bring bug spray, lots of water, and some snacks. Also keep in mind that the river (and the beautiful cascading pools) may be dry at certain times of the year.
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