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Mexico’s State of Nayarit Dazzles

with Newly Designated Magical Towns

Nayarit is a state in western Mexico, located between the resort towns of Puerto Vallarta to the south and Mazatlan to the north, between the forested mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Pacific Ocean.


Beyond its sparkling beaches and delicious food straight from the sea is an eco-wonderland of lofty volcanos, crystal-clear freshwater lagoons, historic colonial towns, and local indigenous people from ethnic groups such as the Coras, Huicholes, Tepehuanos, and Mexicaneros. All welcome visitors to buy their crafts and share in their festivities. This area is known as Valle Nayarit. 


With its 192 miles of coastline, Riviera Nayarit is home to the colonial city of San Blas, whose 16th-century San Basilio Fort once protected the area from pirates. Long before Puerto Vallarta was a bustling resort community, San Blas was the Spaniard’s third port on the Pacific. 


Just to the south are the surf-friendly beaches of Matanchén Bay, while to the North is the island of Mexcaltitlán, considered the cradle of Aztec civilization.


San Blas also serves as the port destination for the newly opened Islas Marias, an ex-prison colony known as “Mexico’s Alcatraz.” New travel destinations are rarely found anywhere in the world. A former penal colony in the Pacific Ocean is now a sustainable tourist site. The Islas Marias, or Las Tres Marias, is a modest archipelago with four islands. The larger three named after Marys from the bible include Maria Magdalena, Maria Madre, Maria Cleofas, and a tiny fourth island called Isla San Juanito.  


The lost world cluster of four islands is located 70 miles or 112 kilometers off the coast of Mexico’s sun-splashed eco-wonderland state of Nayarit. In 2010, the small biosphere reserve island chain was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and has been open to travelers since December 2022. 


Advisors with clients visiting Puerto Vallarta are already traveling north to the state of Nayarit’s gems of Punta Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho (San Francisco). The sun-splashed state on Mexico’s Pacific Ocean is also home to Pueblo Magicos, magical towns recognized by the Mexican government for their rich history, small-town charm, colorful preserved buildings, and flaunting magical qualities. 


The state of Nayarit is in the mood to celebrate. Earlier this week, Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR) held a press conference in Mexico City where Nayarit State’s Minister of Tourism, Juan Enrique Suárez del Real Tostado, presented five new Pueblos Magicos, or “Magical Towns,” designations for the Pacific Coast destination, including the towns of San Blas, Ahuacatlán, Amatlán de Cañas, Ixtlán del Río, and Puerto Balleto.


The Pueblos Magicos initiative is a Mexican tourism program similar to UNESCO Heritage sites, in which unique towns and cities are recognized for their significance to Mexican culture, including their contribution to the country’s history, architecture, gastronomy, and arts. These Magical Towns benefit from multiple tourism programs. This year, 123 towns requested inclusion in the program, and 45 were approved.


The current state administration of Nayarit worked to achieve Magical Towns status for the five municipalities awarded it. This was part of its objective to include diverse tourism offerings across the state in its travel and tourism infrastructure. 


This achievement is a direct result of the policies of Governor Miguel Ángel Navarro Quintero, his administration, and their shared commitment to explore alternatives to mass tourism and develop the state’s sustainable rural tourism, ecological tourism, and theme-based routes tourism offerings.


Travel and tourism campaigns in Nayarit have expanded to include colonial towns of the Sierra Madre, communities of the indigenous Huichol people, the ecological areas of Isla Marias and Marrietas, and the 150miles of beaches found along the Riviera Nayarit coast. The state government has focused on providing small business training to residents, providing training of an international standard to tour operators, hoteliers, police, taxi drivers, and DMCs, making tourism a valuable asset — especially to smaller communities.


Nayarit’s infrastructure has also seen several initiatives as part of this plan, including new roads to access remote communities statewide, enhancements in maritime access to San Blas, and expansion and transformation of the airport at Tepic into the international Riviera Nayarit Airport. A tourism school has also been created to train future tourism leaders.


In addition, the tourism minister announced a new Magical Towns corridor in the southern part of Nayarit, creating a new tourism route across Jala, Ixtlan del Rio, Ahuacatlan, Compostela, and Amatlan de Cañas. The new designations will bring travelers to five of Nayarit’s Magical Towns and foster the opportunity for new businesses to emerge, from dining options, entertainment venues, and museums to transportation services, healthcare facilities, and beyond. Tourism encourages new developments that visitors and residents can avail themselves of year-round.

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