Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page
The Magic Circle around Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Text and Photos ©2010 by J. Pint

The Magic Circle is 500 kilometers wide and centers on Guadalajara, Mexico.

 It is the only place in the country where Mexico's five ecosystems are found in close proximity.

 Elevations range from 4000 meters to sea level

The result is amazing biodiversity and stunning natural beauty.

Photo Gallery

Beautiful, rugged Llorona Beach in Michoacan is located in Mexico’s Tropical-Deciduous-Forest Ecosystem, an easy day’s drive from Guadalajara.


At 3820 meters elevation, Colima's Fire Volcano is right on the edge of the Temperate-Forest and Tropical-Deciduous systems.


Thousands of American Pelicans gather yearly at the eastern end of Lake Chapala, which falls within Mexico’s Arid-Scrublands Ecosystem.


La Campana Hill with its weirdly shaped rock formations is located inside the Temperate-Forest Ecosystem.


A Roseate Spoonbill is just one of the many exotic birds you might spot among the mangroves of San Blas, located in Mexico’s Tropical-Evergreen-Forest Ecosystem.


The view from Talpa'a Bosque de Maples, one of two cloud forests found within the Magic Circle.


Over the centuries the Santiago River has carved a deep and majestic canyon through the heart of Jalisco.

 Outdoors in Western Mexico, Volume 2

You'll find 65 great places to hike or camp in the two volumes of Outdoors in Western Mexico by John  and Susy Pint.

Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:






Mexico's Magic Circle   VERSION EN ESPAÑOL

Guadalajara is where all five of Mexico’s ecosystems come together--with amazing.results

By John Pint

Guadalajara's Magic Circle:  by J. Pint after Rhoda & BurtonFor a while I’ve been asking myself how it’s possible that I keep finding new natural wonders to write about after 25 years of living near Guadalajara. So, one day I sat down with a map and drew a circle around the city, with a radius of around 250 kilometers, nicely encompassing the places a citizen of Guadalajara could conveniently drive to in one day.

As I looked over what was included in that circle, I realized it was filled with attractive, picturesque, exciting, charming, even amazing sites. There was Lake Chapala, biggest lake in the country, the Primavera pine and oak forest, the live and fiery Volcán de Fuego, the white sand beaches of the Pacific Coast, huge, deep canyons carved by the Santiago River, limestone mountains supporting incredibly rich cloud forests like El Cerro de Manantlán, the mangrove swamps and rivers of San Blas, teaming with bird and animal life, and much, much more.

Of course, to some extent, this variety can be attributed to altitude, which ranges from the height of snow-covered Nevado de Colima (4240 meters, 13,911 feet) to sea level on the Pacific coast. But is this diversity of eco-systems due only to altitude?

By good luck, I happened to receive a copy of just the book that could answer this question. I’m referring to Geo-Mexico, by Richard Rhoda and Tony Burton. This is a geography book, but far more interesting than the sort I had to deal with as a schoolboy. It focuses on the interaction between people and the physical environment and is chock full of fascinating facts. For example, did you know that Mexico has more species of pine trees than any other country? That it has the world’s richest assortment of cacti (over 900 species)? That Mexico’s diverse economy produces about $1.6 trillion in goods and services every year, more than Canada or South Korea? That Mexico’s population of 110 million makes it the eleventh largest nation on earth? That migrant workers in the USA sent $25 billion (yes, billion!) back to their families in Mexico in 2008?
Guadalajara's Magic Circle:  by J. Pint after Rhoda & BurtonBut I digress. This book also made it possible for me to test my theory that the circle I had drawn around Guadalajara is something special. Chapter 5 of Geo-Mexico is devoted to ecosystems and biodiversity. It divides all of Mexico into five natural ecosystems:

Arid scrublands (as in the cactus-rich Sonoran desert_)

Tropical evergreen forests (for example, the rain forests of Quintana Roo)

Tropical deciduous forests (like the thorn forests of Sinaloa)

Grasslands (from Ciudad Juarez to Aguascalientes)

Temperate forests (the oaks, pines and firs of Mexico’s mountains)

To my surprise and delight, I discovered that there is only one place in the entire country where all five ecosystems are found in close proximity and that is inside of what I have now decided to call The Magic Circle. In addition to this, according to Rhoda and Burton, the line designating the major Faunistic Divide of Mexico, (creatures of the north and creatures of the south) just happens to run right through that same Magic Circle. This is shown as a dotted red line on the map above.

Rhoda and Burton state that Mexico is one of the most mega-diverse countries of the world, with 30,000 different species of flora (compared to 18,000 in the USA) and, in my opinion, the best place to get a taste of this extraordinary biodiversity is The Magic Circle.

While many of us who live inside this circle see it as a single geographical unit (the area around Guadalajara), politicians might have a very different opinion. Politically, the Magic Circle is composed of Jalisco plus a large chunk of Michoacán, a slice of Nayarit, a lump of Zacatecas, a piece of Guanajuato and the entire states of Colima and Aguascalientes. While a citizen of Guadalajara might see a circle, a politician may see something shaped like an anemic amoeba. Funding, of course, for most projects related to culture, tourism or sport will usually come from the coffers of a single state and usually result in posters, brochures, films, etc. with titles like, The Marvels of Michoacán, The Haciendas of Jalisco or The Calabashes of Colima.

Thus, the bigger picture often escapes the eye of the politician—and the publisher as well. I was once asked to write a book on The Caves of Jalisco and replied, “But amigo, some of the best caves of Jalisco are in Colima and Michoacán.”

Apart from the fact that The Magic Circle encompasses extraordinary geographical, botanical and biological diversity, it also just happens to have been home to complex civilizations for over 2000 years and because of its huge obsidian deposits, was, for a long time, the very hub of the vast and powerful Teuchitlán nation. So, this area is abundantly rich in pre-Hispanic ruins like its famed Circular Pyramids, as well as countless colonial-era haciendas.

So it is that a person living in Guadalajara Mexico could choose from any of the following fascinating places for a Sunday outing, and could draw up a similar list for dozens of Sundays thereafter:

Ceboruco Volcano: pine trees, meadows and hissing fumaroles
San Blas: mangroves, exotic birds, crocodiles and dramatic ocean surf
Los Negritos: boiling black mud pots next to an unpolluted deep lake.
Las Piedras Bola: giant stone balls at least a few million years old
Santa Rosalia: untouched, beautifully preserved circular pyramids 2000 years old
Hacienda de San Antonio: deep canyon, tropical orchard, idyllic swimming hole
Tapalpa: mountain town with cobblestone roads, ornate balconies, cold nights, blazing fireplaces
●Las Siete Cascadas: seven waterfalls and natural pools all in a row, 10 minutes from Guadalajara
Bosque de Maples: a Pleistocene cloud forest near Talpa, dripping with moss

The Magic Circle around Guadalajara is almost as big as the U.S. state of Kansas, but I doubt if you could find so many marvelous and varied places to visit on a day trip out of Topeka… or even out of Tokyo or Timbuktu.

If the governors of the seven states within the Magic Circle were to sit down together and to draw up a strategic tourism plan, the Magic Circle around Guadalajara might someday acquire the reputation that it deserves as one of the most extraordinary and attractive places on the face of the earth.

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