A block north and a block west of the Mascota  town plaza, head out Calle Zaragoza by taxi, local minibus, or your own wheels to Laguna Juanacatlán (12 mi/19 km, one hour), a 7,000-foot-high clear mountain lake framed by steep pine-tufted ridges. Even if you only plan to have lunch in the hotel restaurant and enjoy a stroll around the lake, the stunning drive is well worth the effort.
Following a good cobbled road, climb over a pine-crested ridge and descend into bucolic El Galope river valley, past rustic ranchos and rich, summer-green pastures and cornfields. After a steep final 2,000-foot ascent, the road levels out and winds through a sun-dappled evergreen forest to a lovely view of the lake. A few folks stroll its green grassy banks, small sailboats and kayaks rest by the shore, and smoke curls out of the lakefront lodge stone chimney.
Inside the Sierra Lago Resort and Spa (tel./fax 322/224-9350, toll-free Mex. tel. 01-800/725-6277, toll-free U.S./Can. tel. 877/845-5247, www.sierralago.com ), the reception leads to a spaciously handsome, beam-ceilinged, knotty-pine rustic dining room and adjacent lakeview lounge and bar. Although the whole hotel layout is luxurious, it’s also unpretentiously modest in scale, blending unobtrusively within the gorgeous alpine surroundings.
The 23 accommodations, all offered only on an all-inclusive basis, divide into three categories, all deluxe: ecosuites, actually permanent, open-air tented platforms ($350 d); comfortable standard cabañas ($400 d) with room for families; and cabaña suites ($480 d), roomy rustic-chic hotel rooms. Kids 4–12 stay for $40 apiece. Amenities include in-suite hot-water shower baths, big bubbling lakeside hot tub, and sauna. In-house activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, sailing, and kayaking. Massage and spa treatments are available but cost extra.
High prices nothwithstanding, this spot is gorgeous and could be easily worth a splurge for lovers of both comfort and the outdoors. Remember, however, that Laguna Juanacatlán is 7,000 feet (2,130 m) above sea level and during the winter is decidedly cool, even sometimes cold. Then, a dip in the lake would feel very chilly (while, however, the big steaming lakeside whirlpool bath would feel very welcoming). On the other hand, summer and the drier early to mid-fall would be delightfully temperate at Laguna Juanacatlán.