The northern part of Baja California has a unique combination of appeals: stunning desert landscapes, an emerging wine region producing award-winning cabernet sauvignons and shirazes, and pristine beaches both on the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. Add in opportunities to explore the area’s exciting restaurant scene and learn about the indigenous peoples of the region, and the result is a fascinating destination for a Mexican vacation that’s just over the border from San Diego and yet feels worlds apart.
John Clifford of International Travel Management, a member of the AFAR Travel Advisory Council, has created an itinerary that covers all the highlights of Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe. It’s perfect for the travelling gourmet who also wants to explore the natural beauty of this part of Mexico.
Itinerary / 6 DAYS
DAY 1Travel to Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe
Afterwards continue on to the Valle de Guadalupe, roughly 45 minutes to the north of Ensenada. A celebrated destination for wine and olive oil, it entrances visitors with a desert landscape, rolling hills, and blue skies. Your base for the next two nights will be the six-room Villa de Valle Hotel, which has its own vineyard. Next door, at one of the area’s best restaurants, Corazon de Tierra, Chef Diego Hernandez Baquedano creates dishes that take advantage of ingredients at their peak of ripeness. From perfectly balanced vegetable broths with local seafood to fennel ice cream, the restaurant’s menu is full of inspired surprises.
DAY 2Surfing and Microbrews
In the afternoon, John will arrange a tour of craft breweries, like the Old Mission Brewery and Wendlandt Cervecería. Pale ales, heavier stouts, and fruitier Belgian-style brews are created at the state’s 80-some microbreweries but only a few of them export to the United States—you have to come to Baja to try them.
At the end of the day, you’ll return to the Valle de Guadalupe for a dinner with a vineyard view at Finca Altozano or Deckman’s.
DAY 3A Private Wine Tour
After you have a background on the area’s wines, you’ll continue on to Mogor Badán and tour their farm market, gardens, and cellars. The winery has the distinction of being one of the few in Mexico to produce chasselas, wine made using a rare sparkling variety from Switzerland. Your next stop on your wine tour will be the Viñas de Garza, where the owner Armando Garza will lead you on a private tour followed by a wine tasting. You’ll end your excursion with a long multi-course lunch at Laja in a rustic barn and owned by Chef Jair Téllez, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed chefs.
After your meal, a short drive will bring you to Adobe Guadalupe, a six-room bed and breakfast located in a hacienda surrounded by 60 acres of vines. If you’re interested in sampling some more wines, the owners will be happy to pour you samples from their bottles—or pour a glass, and head to the Jacuzzi to savor the sunset.
DAY 4A Hike in the Hills
Your guide will also provide an introduction to the culture of the Kumeyaay Indians, who have lived in northern Baja California and the area around San Diego in the United States for thousands of years. You will return to the Adobe Guadalupe late in the day, and then John Clifford can provide recommendations for dinner at one of Guadalupe’s restaurants based on your tastes.
DAY 5Saddle Up
In the afternoon you will continue on to your hotel for the night, Encuentro Guadalupe. You may recognize this hotel from its many appearances in design, fashion, and travel magazines. It consists of a number of freestanding “eco-lofts” and “eco-villas” overlooking the valley below. Enjoy dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Origen, before returning to your room under a sky blazing with stars.