Mexico’s magical villages – Pueblos Magicos
Big cities, even in ‘developing’ countries, provide the expected. But as they say, good things come in small packages, and in the case of travel, it often proves to be the truth. While the cities strive to be cosmopolitan, to merge with the rest of the world, the small towns don’t mind keeping some of the secrets of the past and this is where one can find some of the unique feel and personality of each country.
A lot of countries have programs that aim to promote towns and villages to tourists. Some are great, others not so, but they are always worth checking. Mexico’s small town tourism program is called Pueblos Mágicos or magical villages. These are select places around the country that have been chosen either because of their beauty, historic significance or both.
Ok, lets go on a quick journey through some of the magical villages we visited on our way South.
Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato
The birthplace of the revolution that got Mexico free from Spanish rule.
This town is located a short and beautiful ride from Guanajuato. It is a lovely place and it’s other claim to fame is the variety of ice creams that you can find on the square and the side streets. Not exceptionally beautiful or impressive otherwise.
Less than an hour from Queretaro, and driving distance from Mexico DF, this is a popular stop for locals. The town is charming, although when we were there they were fixing up the zocalo, so we stayed away from there. Nice narrow streets and a relaxed feeling. Not much to see and after dark only the central part was somewhat lively – mainly from our kids running around with the mexican children – but good vibe during the day. The best part about Tequisquiapan are the numerous diary shops that sell the produce from the area. Great sheep cheese to be found, as well as plenty of cow and goat one.
Almost part of Puebla, the reason most people come to Cholula is the pyramid that has been half uncovered beneath a church that was built on top of it. And the area is quite interesting to walk through, no really, one can literally walk through the pyramid.
There are two parts to the town. In the one you can find container city, a fascinating area where bars, restaurants and other businesses have found home in quite imaginative ways amongst the containers. It is supposed to be a happening night scene, but don’t take my word for it. Even though it is a small area, we loved exploring it.
The other part is where the colonial part and busy zocalo is. This is a pleasantly crowded place to walk around, plenty of things to see and little shops to pop into. There is a nice big play area at the central park, if you happen to come with kids.
Bernal is a short drive from Queretaro and is home to the third biggest monolith in the world. It towers over the tiny village and makes for an impressive backdrop. If you so desire, you can climb it.
As far as charm, this place has it in buckets. it has maybe 2-3 streets with anything happening on them, but they are worth it. I am guessing when the local tourists pour in, it might be different, but if one avoids the busy times, it is impossible not to love it. At least it was for me. Small, but packs a punch.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
San Cris is well traveled by foreign tourists and I even considered not writing about it, but it is one of the Pueblos Magicos, so here it is. This town is wonderful in so many ways. If one is coming down to Chiapas, it should be a must visit destination. I wrote more about our time there in this post .
About an hour south of San Cristobal is this town, almost at the border with Guatemala. It has one of the most pleasant zocalos we have seen and while we were there the big screens for watching the World Cup certainly added to the atmosphere. From here you can also visit a few of the big attractions of Chiapas, like the lakes of Montebello and the Chiflon waterfall, or even go up to Palenque, as the drive from here is nicer and half the time it takes from San Cris.
I will make a point of visiting a few of the other towns on our way North, but so far the Pueblos Magicos program has been quite satisfying and I say it is worth exploring the places that have found their place on it.
Have you been to any of them and have advice for other travelers? You know what to do :)
More information: Pueblos Magicos have a website (in Spanish), but I prefer using the Wikipedia page because it has links to more information of the villages and I can organize it by state – that way I can see what is available where we are or in the direction in which we are going. There is also an app for iOS and Android (in Spanish).