Monterrey, Mexico: The Underrated Mountain City

April 20, 2015

Monterrey is not a city that comes to mind for most people when they think about Mexico. I’m willing to bet that most Americans have never heard of it–me included until a few years ago. That’s a little bit crazy, because it’s a city of 6~ million people (depending on what you count), which is significantly bigger than Los Angeles, and it’s really close to the United States border. AND it turns out that it’s crazy beautiful.

I arrived in Monterrey after a 27 hour bus ride and every part of me was ready to begin my new adventure. I walked to my hostel, which took about an hour. I always walk everywhere. It allows you to see a new place, learn how to get around, is good exercise, and costs the right price.

When I made it to the hostel I was a little nervous to speak Spanish right away, so I tried talking to the person working in English. He was having none of that, so we did everything in Spanish. And it wasn’t so bad! What a confidence boost.

I ditched my bag and ran out to see a new country and hopefully grab a beer. I quickly realized that there weren’t very many bars. Eventually a guy called me over to look at a food menu.

“Tiene cerveza?” I asked.

“Claro!”

I was sold. All I wanted was a beer. I sat down and drank an Indio, asked for the check, and paid for a 36 peso beer with 200 pesos. The waiter came back with 64 pesos and disappeared. What? Either I forgot how pesos work or that wasn’t right. I had to go find the guy and tell him that I wasn’t an idiot, and he gave me another 100 pesos. Less than two hours in the city and I almost got ripped off. But at least I realized it and got my money back.

Downtown Monterrey

I spent most of my first three days wandering around the city center. There’s a park east of downtown called El Parque Fundidora. It’s where an old Steel Foundry used to be until it went bankrupt. So now it’s just a park with running trails, a lake, playgrounds, etc., and still has all of the old steel manufacturing buildings. To get there, you can take El Paseo Santa Lucía, which is a river walkway cutting through the city. I went to El Paseo Santa Lucía every day. It was such a beautiful place to walk and read. I would walk until I got tired and then read until I was bored of reading, then repeat. What a perfect way to spend a day!

There were plenty of museums around as well. I went to El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Modern Art) on Wednesday with a friend I met downtown the day before. Tip: this museum is free on Wednesdays! There was an exhibit on Stanley Kubrick, where each room had one of his movies playing, with props and info about each. That was the highlight of the museum for me. I also checked out El Museo de Historia Mexicana (Museum of Mexican History) which was cool. I love history like that!

San Pedro Garza García

The real fun started when my friend Karen picked me up. I met her when we were both living in Belgium. She’s been living in Monterrey for five years now. More specifically, she lives in a suburb of Monterrey called San Pedro Garza García. I normally prefer to be downtown and shy away from the burbs, but wow, this was the exact opposite. Whereas Monterrey was nestled up beside the mountains, San Pedro is smack dab in between them. Towering cliffs on all sides. It was absolutely gorgeous. We went to a El Parque Chipinque, which overlooks the city:

El Parque Chipinque - Monterrey, Mexico
El Parque Chipinque - Monterrey, Mexico

And another:

El Parque Chipinque - Monterrey, Mexico
El Parque Chipinque - Monterrey, Mexico

We went to Potrero Chico, the world famous climbing destination 45~ minutes northwest of Monterrey. We also got lost trying to get there and did some serious off-roading in a Volkswagon Beetle, including getting stuck in mud that went halfway up to my knees! But we did finally make it:

Potrero Chico - Monterrey, Mexico
Potrero Chico - Monterrey, Mexico

La Huasteca is a series of white cliffs just minutes from San Pedro:

La Huasteca - Monterrey, Mexico
La Huasteca - Monterrey, Mexico

And finally we made it to Santiago, one of 83 “Pueblos Mágicos.” It’s a cool little historic town. More importantly, next to this town is La Cola de Caballo–which includes a park with a waterfall and other attractions such as the highest place to bungee jump in Mexico.

Cascada Cola de Caballo - Santiago, Mexico
Cascada Cola de Caballo - Santiago, Mexico

And of course I had to go bungee jumping:

Bungee Jumping Cola de Caballo
Bungee Jumping Cola de Caballo

On my last night I had one of Monterrey’s specialties, cabrito, which is a baby goat that they give to you basically whole. Mine didn’t have the head though. :)

Cabrito - Monterrey, Mexico
Cabrito - Monterrey, Mexico

I stayed in Monterrey / San Pedro six nights, and what a great stay it was. It seems like nobody knows about Monterrey. I highly recommend going! Nice people and beautiful views.

Penned on April 20, 2015 by Kevin Sweet.

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