The State of Michoacan has some of the most beautiful scenaries, a rich prehispanic past, beautiful colonial villages, awesome handicrafts and amazing food.
Some of our most favorite places so far that we have explored with Aztec Explorers, are Patzcuaro, Isla Janitzio, Tzintzuntzan, Quiroga and Santa Clara del Cobre (apart from for example Morelia and Tlapujahua that we will describe in a seperate blog).
3 of them are Pueblos Mágicos (Patzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan and Santa Clara de Cobre).
The Pueblos Mágicos / Magical Towns in Mexico are places where the cultural heritage of the different regions is conserved. In them history, traditions and customs are manifested. The idea behind this title is to preserve the regional culture as intact as possible. Currently there are 121 magical towns in all the 32 states of the country.
Enjoy the voyage, not just the destination
You can reach Patzcuaro in about 4.5 hours driving from Mexico City; all the way you can enjoy beautiful views, but they are REALLY impressive in driving along the giant lake of Cuitzeo, the second-largest freshwater lake in Mexico; 300–400 km2 (120–150 sq mi), after lake Chapala to the North.
Patzcuaro was the first of the current 8 magical towns in the state of Michoacán. This beautiful colonial town is located south of the lake, in the heart of the state. The town has no tall buildings and retains the original culture of the town. In fact, about 10% of the population speaks Purépecha, the indigenous language of the region. The town was founded sometime in the 1320s, at first becoming the capital of the Tarascan state and later its ceremonial center. After the Spanish took over, Vasco de Quiroga worked to make Pátzcuaro the capital of the New Spain province of Michoacán, but after his death, the capital would be moved to nearby Valladolid (today Morelia).
Pátzcuaro and it´s lake is one of the most impressive places for the Day of the Dead celebrations. Don´t miss out on it´s great food (we simply love Restaurante La tradicion de Apatzingan, PLEASE try it´s Mezcal ´Uasisi´ and it´s amazing traditional food). For some more Mezcal look for the beautiful cantina ´El Carajo´. For sightseeing: enjoy a great walk along the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, the beautiful patio of Museo de Artes, the impressive Templo de la Compañía and Templo del Sagrario, the unique Casa de los Once Patios (House of Eleven Courtyards – handicraft workshops), Plaza Grande “Vasco de Quiroga” (handicraft market and main square), (Plaza Chica) Plaza Gertrudis, Parroquia del Santuario de Guadalupe, Exconvento de San Agustin and the Biblioteca publica (with incredible murals about the history of Patzcuaro).
You will quickly fall in love with this unique town!
Isla de Janitzio is the main island of Lake Pátzcuaro. The town of Janitzio, which means “where it rains”, is located along the hill. Janitzio can only be reached by boats which run regularly back and forth from about 7:30 am to 6 pm, accessible from Pátzcuaro’s pier (embarcadero), at about 15 minute from the town center . It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get to the island. The town is known for the butterfly fishermen who are skilled at lowering their butterfly-shaped nets to catch the local cuisine “pescado blanco”. Upon arrival, there are some very good seafood restaurants and places that can prepare excelent Micheladas (beer with lemon, salt and optionally hot sauze and clamato). Walking uphill you can find some more restaurants, souvenir shops, it´s church and cementary and on top the hill you can find a 40-meter statue of José María Morelos, a great hero of Mexico’s independence. Visitors can climb to the top of the statue by way of a staircase that spirals up the inside. Along the interior walls, the life of Morelos is depicted in murals painted by Ramón Alba de la Canal and other Mexican muralists. At the top, visitors can look through peepholes in the giant raised fist of Morelos, with views of the island, lake and surroundings.
A truly magical place!
Santa Clara del Cobre
Santa Clara de Cobre is another Pueblo Mágico, at 30 minutes from Patzcuaro. The town is part of the Pátzcuaro region of Michoacán, and ethnically dominated by the Purépecha people. These people have been working with copper since the pre-Hispanic era, and led to this town’s dominance in copper crafts over the colonial period (1519–1821) until well into the 19th century. Economic reverses led to the industry’s near-demise here until efforts in the 1940s and 1970s managed to bring the town’s work back into prominence. Without any doubt one of the cutest, cleanest and well maintained Pueblos Mágicos that we have explored so far. Don´t miss out on it´s intriguing Copper Museum (Museo del Cobre), it´s unique and economic copper handicrafts and it´s excellent food in for example Restaurante El Portal.
Quiroga is world famous for it´s Carnitas, literally meaning “little meats”. This is a dish of Mexican cuisine originating from the state of Michoacán. Carnitas are made by braising or simmering pork in oil or preferably lard until tender. The process takes three to four hours, and the result is very tender and juicy meat, which is then typically served with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and diced onion, salsa, guacamole, tortillas, and refried beans (frijoles refritos). Make sure to arrive on an empty stomach, because this is without any doubt one of the best meals you will have in your life. You have 2 options: either try the streetfood stalls in front of the kiosko (trust me, their turnover is so fast and their food is so fresh you will NOT get ill by trying; ask for a ´probadita´ – tasting, to find your favorite streetfood stall), or you can go to a formal restaurant; our favorite is Rey de Carnitas, on the left side of the main square. Vegetarians can still enjoy this town (after crying about their life-choices), by exploring it´s beautiful monastery of the 16th century and shopping at the large handicraft market with some of the cheapest handicrafts of excelent quality. Quiroga is at a 40 minute drive from Patzcuaro town, but you first pass Tzintzuntzan at 30 minutes distance from Patzcuaro.
This Pueblo Mágico is best known as the former capital of the Tarascan state, until it was conquered by the Spanish in the 1520s. Beside of it´s 16th century monastry and lovely church, also an archeological site unique for Mexico. The former monastery complex of San Francisco was founded in the 16th century. The complex was designed and initiated in 1530 by Spanish architect and Franciscan friar Fray Pedro de Pila. The complex contains the Church of San Francisco, the Church of La Soledad, two open chapels and a large atrium, with much of the building material obtained from the nearby yacata pyramids that the Spanish destroyed. The pre-Hispanic city of Tzintzuntzan (Place of the hummingbirds; 1450-1521) extended from Lake Pátzcuaro to the hills just to the east and had a population of between 25,000 and 30,000 when the Spanish arrived in the 1520s. The city lost most of its population after the Conquest, and what is now called the Tzintzuntzan archeological site is only the ceremonial center. The site is located on a hill that overlooks the modern town and Lake Pátzcuaro. The ceremonial center contains a large plaza and several buildings known to house priests and nobility, but the main attraction is the five yácatas or semi-circular pyramids that face out over the lake area. The first modern references to the yacatas of Tzintzuntzan date from 1855, when it was first identified as the capital of the ancient Tarascan state, but the ruins were not excavated until the 1930s. Founded eight centuries ago, it was the seat of the Uacúsecha dynasty. An amazing place with amazing views all over the lake!