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Dolores Hidalgo – Mexico


Cradle of Independence–Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Mexico                         by Erica Soto

Dolores Hidalgo-esAs we enter Dolores Hidalgo, we are welcomed with streets filled with a rainbow of stores selling hand-glazed talavera pottery.  We stop at a work shop where the process is explained to us.  We see some of the artists at work, drawing and painting each piece by hand.

Our first stop is at the Nuestra Senora de Dolores Church where Miguel Hidalgo, the parish priest rang the church bells to summon the town’s people to issue a speech against the unfair Spaniard government. Being that the day we were there was a Saturday, the church held many ceremonies from baptisms, quinceneras and weddings; almost every hour.  The church doors where filled with many locals preparing for the ceremonies.   It was a privilege for us to here on a Saturday and become part of their celebrations.  We were even invited by the bride and groom to follow the procession of their wedding.

Just across the church there is a large monument of Father Hidalgo in the tree-filled plaza. It is a perfect spot to enjoy some exotic ice-cream.  What a difficult decision in deciding what flavor to try! Luckily we could combine flavors from traditional vanilla, pecan and chocolate to the more exotic and unique, such as tequila, avocado, elote (corn), nopal (cactus), and shrimp, among many others.  The vendors are happy to let you sample the flavors and enjoy seeing your taste buds react.  You might just be surprised which flavor you choose!

Dolores Hidalgo maintains its quaint-Mexican charm that makes you feel very welcome here.  The local people appreciate your visit.  We were invited to return soon!

S & S Tours
4250 S. Hohokam Drive; Sierra Vista, AZ 85650
Ph:  866 780 2813 or 520 803 1352; Fax:  520 803 1355
Email:; Website:  http://www.

Atotonilco – Mexico

Place of Hot Waters- Atotonilco, Guanajuato, Mexico                         by Erica Soto

Atotonilco sanctuary w logo-e.s.Approximately six miles from San Miguel de Allende we stop in the village of Atotonilco, which means “place of hot waters.”  Atotonilco has one of the most revered sacred churches in Mexico.  The sanctuary of Atotonilco is a mysterious church used for pertinence.   It also has an important part in history as the route for independence and where the banner of the Virgin Mary was ripped from the sanctuary wall by Father Hidalgo and used as a representation of freedom from the Spaniards.

When we step out off the car we immediately notice the silence of this village.   We stop in front of the Sanctuary of   Atotonilco.  From the outside it is a very simple church with high, plain, white walls. But as you get closer and take a good look, encrypted are various faint murals.  You will have to look very closely to be able to depict them. The façade murals were noticed after the sanctuary having been neglected for centuries was named and UNESCO World Heritage Site and funds were available for restoration.  When the outside walls of the sanctuary were being prepped for painting one of the workers realized that these murals were hidden behind the dust of the sanctuary walls. The sanctuary entrance is the original 1740 carved wooden doors and lock.  The wearing down of the entrance step is also noticeable.

Once inside the sanctuary it was entirely an opposite sight from the outside.  There are huge carved wooden images of mythical creatures, bleeding penitents, suffering saints and frescos. One of the most notable and important figure is of a bleeding Jesus of Nazareth.  This same figure is used for pilgrimage during holy week procession from the village of Atotonilco to San Miguel de Allende.

After the intense visit of the sanctuary, we stopped to have a relaxing lunch at the banks of Rio Laja surrounded by mesquite trees and cacti.  From here, we are only 10 minutes away from San Miguel de Allende!

S & S Tours
4250 S. Hohokam Drive; Sierra Vista, AZ 85650
Ph:  866 780 2813 or 520 803 1352; Fax:  520 803 1355
Email:; Website:  http://www.

Oaxaca Adventure Tour

Oaxaca Adventure Tour

Guelaguetza2-17 3Oaxaca has been said to be the most traditional state in Mexico. Located near the Gulf of Tehantepec on the Pacific coast, it hosts 16 ethnic groups with 28 dialects. There is so much variety in the capital city and surrounding folk art villages that there is something for everyone. The botanical garden tour in the capital is the best I have taken. All the wonderful plants from the state there have important uses in diets, healing and local crafts. Close around the capital are many wonders worth visiting. The Monte Alban archeological site is on par with Tikal of Guatemala. Its history spans over 1500 years and only 10% has been uncovered. The small museum is worth visiting with original stelas from the site on display. Visits to the villages of the master craftsmen of wool rugs, the famous nightmare alebrijes (carved wooden animals and mythical creatures, the black pottery, and cotton weavings are a wonderful glimpse of the creative energy abounding in this area by the indigenous people. Oaxaca is known for is 7 moles, sauces that have as many as 31 ingredients in them, principally chocolate. A cooking class with the owner of a local restaurant is fun and informative and delicious. In 2016 we made stuffed chilies, squash blossom soup, and chocolate tamales, among other delicious foods.

San Miguel de Allende


San Miguel de Allende #1 City in the World

(By Conde Nast Readers, topping the list of the top 25 cities in the world)

San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, is a little city with big appeal. Colonial charm and a sophisticated cosmopolitan atmosphere draw flocks of travelers every year. It has two claims to fame in that it is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Mexican National Landmark.

San Miguel de AllendeSMA is easily walked from one end of town to the other, providing baroque and neoclassical architecture that finds expression in churches, monasteries, mansions, gardens, plazas.

The archeological site of Canada de la Virgen, only 10 miles away, is an impressive Toltec fortress. Explore the seven enormous pyramids, plazas, ball court and more.

Artists discovered the beauty and charm of the city in the 1940s and is to this day is a vibrant arts community. The Allende Institute and School of Fine Arts thrive on patrons and students of the arts from around the world. November’s Festival of Jazz and Blues is one of Mexico’s largest music festivals. Concerts abound throughout the city in theaters, the cultural center, amphitheaters and the town center, the Jardin.

On our tours we always visit Atontonilco, one of Mexico’s most unique shrines, just outside the city. The fantastic world class folk art is highlighted on colorful murals and frescoes, gilded alters, sculptures and more. The Baroque artwork is so fine, the shrine has been known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Language schools also draw a lot of students to the city. My husband (Chuck) and I (Sue) spent a large part of one summer in this charming colonial city living in a private home. It was a great way for Chuck to further his Spanish. In addition to taking Spanish classes in a language institute, our “ home” spoke no English.

The famous San Miguel shoes are made here. On our Colonial Cities Tours, we always include a visit to the store that actually manufactures them. I (Sue) find them very comfortable for my narrow feet and I have them in purple, royal blue, turquoise, as well as normal colors..

Copper Canyon Bus & Train Tour

Copper Canyon

“The Balderrama hotels exceeded my expectations! The driver & guide were excellent!” P.D., AZ

At S & S Tours, we are Copper Canyon specialists! This magnificent 25,000 square-mile canyon system in northwestern Mexico is deeper, greener and wider than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Copper Canyon is home to primitive Tarahumara Indians, some of whom still live in cave homes. The railroad trip through the Canyon has been described by the Reader’s Digest as the “most dramatic train ride in the western hemisphere.”

cc-sueerica-cc2Because this is a remote area it is difficult to access by plane, S & S Tours in association with the Balderrama Hotels now offers an innovative 10-Day; 20-50 passenger monthly scheduled group bus tours between Phoenix and Copper Canyon. The last one this year is December 4-13, 2016. The hotels in this remote area have all been chosen with great care. We utilize the best hotels in the canyon system, Balderrama Hotels, wherever available.

Your adventure begins and ends in Phoenix, Arizona. We pick up people in Tucson and Green Valley, AZ, along the way.

An overnight on the spectacular Sea of Cortez breaks up our bus journey.

The picturesque colonial town of El Fuerte, founded in 1564 deserves two nights of lodging. Famous for being the legendary birthplace of Señor Diego de la Vega, you will meet the charming Zorro at 6:00 happy hour. From there, we board the famous Copper Canyon train. The Copper Canyon train ride is an inspiring journey that took more than 100 years to construct. National Geographic calls it an engineering marvel. Imagine yourself riding a train that will take you from sea level to almost 8,000 feet elevation into the heart of the majestic, rugged western Sierra Madre Mountain Range (25,000 square miles of unspoiled landscape).

A visit to Sue’s favorite place in the canyon system—the small rural village of Cerocahui—allows you an expansive rim view of the deepest canyon in the system, Urique Canyon.

Our hotel on the rim of Copper Canyon is the prime location in all the 25,000 miles of Canyon system. Your room will have a balcony overlooking the Canyon. Zip lining and a cable car ride across the Canyon are available here.

On the way home we overnight in the famous pottery making town of Casas Grandes. We have a demonstration in one of the pottery family’s homes.

Fly to Copper Canyon Mexico

For the first time in 8 years, an airline route between Tucson and the Copper Canyon Mexico

Aeromar planeA long awaited inauguration occurred at the Tucson Airport on September 30th. Aeromar, the oldest airline in Mexico, will begin offering flights between Tucson and the Copper Canyon October 3rd. Aeromar operates more than 100 daily flights to 41 destination with an on-time performance level exceeding 93%. The comfortable flights will hold 48-63 passengers.

The flight will leave Tucson at 1:20 pm and arrive in Los Mochis (for the Copper Canyon) at 5:40 pm. You will be able to credit miles on AeroMar toward your Milegage Plus account with United and Aeromexico’s frequent flyer account. is the website. Please check it out.

Batopilas Canyon Tour

S & S Tours Special Once a Year Copper Canyon Tour
to the Bottom of Batopilas Canyon

Copper Canyon











The magnificent Copper Canyon System in Northern Mexico is composed of 7 major canyons in the system. Not all the canyon are easily accessible, but, we actually make a journey in a van down to the bottom of Batopilas Canyon once a year. This Canyon has a particularly interesting history. Alexander Graham Shepherd was one of the few Washington, D.C. mayors and he made a 40 day’s journey with his family, mining engineers, employees, teachers, doctors, servants, pets, etc. to the bottom of this Canyon where he established the Batopilas Mining Company in the early 1880’s. More pure native silver was taken out of here from the 1880’s to 1910 than anywhere in the world. ‘’capitalist, brought the industrial revolution to Mexico. Batopilas was the only location outside of Mexico City at this time that had electricity. Christmas in Batopilas was a grand affair that took months of planning with liquors being imported from Scotland and turkeys from the Tarahumara Indians (they ran them downhill for days and had to be there early so they could be fattened up again in time for the holidays!) The gifts were brought from the New York Office on the backs of mules. Christmas balls were elegant affairs.

S & S Tours offers a small, escorted group tour to the bottom of Batopilas Canyon every November. The drive is described by Froemmer in his Guidebook of Mexico as “one of the most spectacular drives in North America.” This year’s 9-day tour is November 7-15, 2016. Call S & S Tours 1 866 780 2813.;

Gray whale watching tour

“A Dream Come True” Gray Whale Watching in Baja California, Mexico


Gray whale watching tour

Baja California Whale Watching

Even though I was raised in Iowa with no whales anywhere near to be seen, I have been fascinated by them since I was a very young girl. When my parents took me to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (they even had a mine there), they asked me how I liked it and my answer was “They do not have a whale here.”

The first few times I went whale watching in Magdalena Bay out of La Paz, my clients commented that they watched me as much as the whales. I was so excited about every sighting and could not express enough my enthusiasm for these “gentle giants.”

The Grays have migrated to Baja California to rest from Orcas, their prime predator, to breed and to calve in the protected lagoons. These elite migrant mammal travelers, journeying up to 12,000 miles round trip, come from the ice-plagued waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea to bask in the warm waters of Baja California’s bays.

The babies thrive in the warm waters as they have no protective layer of blubber at birth. It is a wonder to watch baby grays rolling over onto Mom’s back, teasing her all the while, or swimming under our skiff as though stuck to mom’s side. Whales breaching and spy-hopping add to the awesome adventure.

Friendly whales are common in this area and some will actually approach the skiff as though to say “hello.” Whale researchers have speculated if whales see the boats a potential mate as they can come up under the skiffs and rub against them. Or, perhaps some whales are just friendly.


Travel Tours for 2017

         Looking ahead: 2017  ESCORTED SMALL GROUPS TOURS ( ROTATED every few years)


Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city

Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city

 NEW!!!Mexico City and Puebla and Cholula—Anthropology, Archeology and Arts :  Jan. 26-FE 2, 2017

 The Museum of Anthropolgoy in Mexico City is one of the best in the world.  It  displays Lord Pakal’s tomb treasures from Palenque.   Visit Frida Kahlo’s home and some of her paintings.  Teotihuacan, “the place where men become gods,”  is one of the most important ruins of the world.  Visit the hidden pyramid in Cholula. $2195 p/p per double room.  Add $450 for a single room.

 Gray Whale Watching in Baja California, Mexico:                       March 2-10, 2017

Two days of watching these gentle giants in Magdalena Bay will be a thrill of a lifetime.  Other water activities will be in the tour, even swimming with sea lions if you choose to do so.  An estuary and bird sanctuary visit is included.   Begins and ends in Cabo San Jose.  $2495 p/p per double room.

 Peru and Machu Picchu:  April 18-28, 2017

We  usually offer Peru about every three years.  But, due to popular request, we are offering it again this year.  Machu Picchu is one of the new wonders of the world.  One of my clients commented he had been to 45 other destinations and this was the very most outstanding.  If you have ever considered going to Machu Picchu, this would be the time.  $3995 p/p per double room. ***Same price as last year!  Add $690 for a single room.

Costa Rica Natural History Tour:   May 31-June 9, 2017

Experience the most diverse eden in the hemisphere.  The premier sites of Poas and Arenal Volcano National Parks, Cano Negro Biological Preserve, Monteverde and Santa  Elena Cloud Forests and Carara National Park on the Pacific Coast are all highlights.  $3395 p/p per double room.  **Same price as last year! Add $535 for a single room.

 TERRORISM FACTS VS. TERRORISM FEARS  from our State Dept. conservative warnings:

  1. In 2011 17 U.S. citizens killed as a result of terrorism, including civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  2. You are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from terrorism.
  3. You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer in America than terrorism abroad.
  4. You are 404 times more likely to die from a fall than from a terrorist attack.
  5. You are 1048 times more likely to die in a car accident than from a terrorist attack.
  6. You are 12, 571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack.
  7. Obesity is 23,528 times more likely to kill you than a terrorist attack.

According to the Washington Post, the chance of dying when traveling abroad in a terrorism-related attack is l in 9.3 million.  It is ironic that the French government actually has warnings to their travelers about New York City, Houston, ST. Louis and Richmond, among others.

According to statistics from a university “think tank,” traveling abroad can increase our health and life span and well-being overall.


S & S Tours, LLC, 4250 S. Hohokam Dr., Sierra Vista, AZ 85650    Phones: 866-780-2813 or 520-803-1352;

Fax: 520-803-1355 Emails:;


UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tours

UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

S & S Tour Offerings to Some of These Sites

Seville palace garden2In 1978, when UNESCO published its first list of protected places, there were just 12 World Heritage Sites.  These included one of S & S Tours offerings this year in May:  The Galapagos Islands.

Today there are 1031 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The top ten nations for the World Heritage Sites listed according to ranking in the number of sites are Italy, China, Spain, France, and Germany, Mexico, India, UK, Russia and  USA. Italy, China, Spain and  France possess 51, 48, 44 and 41 respectively,  France is the most popular country in the world, with Spain not far behind.  Spain is one of my favorite countries and we tour there every few years with clients.

As you can see  Mexico rates #6 in the top ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  We offer various tours to these Sites all over Mexico—archeological sites, architectural sites, natural history sites, designated cities, etc.

One of the new wonders of the world is one of the best known and most visited tourist destinations in South America, Machu Picchu, does not fail to disappoint visitors and even though I have been there 10 times, I am ready to go again next year. S & S Tours has a popular 12-day tour here in April this year and plans to offer another one next April.

We are so fortunate the Spaniards did not discover the 550-year old citadel, built by the Inca civilization in the 15th century. It perches high in the Peruvian Andes at 7,973ft above sea level.

Machu Picchu (which means “old mountain” in the Quechua language) can be reached by a hike on mountain trails or by a scenic train trip through the “Sacred Valley.” We take the Vista Dome Train and  follow the Urubamba River up to the  foot of Machu Picchu.  We stay two nights at Aguas Calientes so we have plenty of time to wander around the ruins and even climb Wayna Picchu if we desire (“new mountain.”  )  This is the widely photographed peak at the back of Machu Picchu.

Sue Stilwell