Hola amigos! My name is Abril and I’m originally from Monterrey in Nuevo Leon but I have been residing in the state of Hidalgo for several years. I studied Tourism Business Administration and from there began my passion to know and discover new corners of my country, like the Pueblos Mágicos.
During the pandemic I started sharing photos of my trips on Instagram. This network also allowed me to travel vicariously through other people’s content. I have visited a lot of Mexico now, yet there are still many places on my list. Every time I see more destinations on Instagram, displayed by travelers, I fall in love with their images and imagine being there. I dream of immersing myself in new cultures, societies, traditions and gastronomy.
What are the Pueblos Mágicos?
In 2001, the Ministry of Tourism launched the Pueblos Mágicos Program. The initiative was created in order to increase the well being, and generate employment and development, of localities through tourism. It’s a model of intelligent tourism management, conceived from a cultural and sustainable perspective. Most pueblos can be seen in a day or weekend.
A magical town is a place with important symbols and legends. These towns are filled with history and, in many cases, have seen momentous events. Pueblos Mágicos showcase our national identity with a flair and magic that emanates from their various attractions. Currently, there are 132 of these towns dotted across the country. Every year many pueblos compete to achieve this identification through parameters and a registry.
Traveling to the Pueblos Mágicos allows you to discover the real culture of Mexico, because many traditional ways of life are still rooted there and the essence is preserved. I consider the inhabitants of the magical towns to be warmer. They make you feel at home since you receive familial treatment.
Best Pueblos Mágicos to Visit
1. San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
The one Pueblo Mágico I love the most is San Cristóbal de las Casas. After Oaxaca, the state of Chiapas has the greatest diversity of ethnic groups with 12. Traveling there is quite cheap and its gastronomy is amazing – they have the best coffee in the world! You will be consuming it all day long.
By walking around the charming streets of San Cristóbal, you can find many indigenous people selling handmade Mayan crafts at a good price. On the other hand, the colonial architecture that permeates the center is stunning. There is an incredible Amber Museum to check out, and it’s the only one in Mexico and America dedicated to this precious stone. Despite having a colder climate, this highland town oozes a romantic atmosphere.
2. Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo
Huasca de Ocampo was the first town to be designated as a Pueblo Mágico due to its extraordinary natural landscapes surrounded by forest, historical sites, beautiful views, cobblestone streets, colonial haciendas and the epic rock formations called Los Prismas Basálticos (geometric basalt columns).
It offers a wide range of cabin-type accommodation where you can connect directly with nature. For this reason, Huasca de Ocampo is ideally suited for a long weekend getaway with family or friends. If you are a lover of outdoor adventures and extreme sports the activities such as rappelling, zip-lining and camping in the forest will no doubt be very appealing.
3. Creel, Chihuahua
Creel is the gateway to the Copper Canyon and endless natural spots like forests, caves, lakes, waterfalls and rivers. The town has preserved the “misiones” (churches) and the various traditions of the Rarámuri culture. You can even stay close with these inhabitants who speak their indigenous language (Tarahumara). Creel is one place in Chihuahua not to be missed.
4. Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Bacalar has a paradisiacal lagoon of fresh crystalline water where you can see seven shades of blue (Lake of the Seven Colors). The swimming, snorkeling and diving opportunities here are outstanding. Another highlight of Bacalar are the sunsets – they will take your breath away. This town in Quintana Roo offers tranquility and the chance to disconnect.
5. Zacatlán de las Manzanas, Puebla
A main characteristic of Zacatlán de las Manzanas is that it feels foggy and cold, as if someone lifted the town up into the clouds. The top attractions are the Valle de Piedras Encimadas, the Clock Museum, the Sidrera San Rafael, the Tulimán Waterfall, as well as its many temples and convents.
What you absolutely cannot miss is the glass viewpoint that transports you into the clouds and from where you can see the Barranca de los Jilgueros. Another must-visit attraction are the Vitromurales de Zacatlán – a true masterpiece of art that was made with colorful tiles, telling the story of the universe and the creation of the town. One could spend days in Zacatlán.
6. Tequila, Jalisco
Tequila is recognized for the production of the most famous drink in Mexico, tequila! Many distilleries here open their doors to tourists to learn about the production process and the legends behind this great product. Additionally you can’t leave without trying the drowned cakes and the Jalisco style birria – both dishes are popular delicacies of the region.
7. Zempoala, Hidalgo
Zempoala is home to the Aqueduct of Padre Tembleque, a UNESCO-listed heritage site. The aqueduct is considered one of the most important hydraulic works of the Viceroyalty of America. It also highlights the Convent of All Saints founded in 1570-1580 by the Franciscans. Another cool aspect about Zempoala is that it’s part of the fascinating Ruta de Haciendas Pulqueras. There were once 20 haciendas but today only a dozen remain.
Cuisine of the Pueblos Mágicos
The heart of Mexican cuisine can be found in the magical towns. Many family recipes started in these pueblos and then became famous. A mixture of familiar flavors and gourmet traditions shape the gastronomy of these places, which has the power to install interesting lessons about the history and geography of Mexico for the diner who is willing to embrace it.
Personally, when I travel, I always go in search of the typical dishes of the Pueblos Mágicos. I visit markets and restaurants where I’m encouraged to taste even the most exotic of foods. I wouldn’t say that one town in particular has the best cuisine, since each region of the country has its own ingredients. Rather, I could share some dishes that you should try:
- Cholula, Puebla: Cholula has it all: poblano chalupas, pipián enchiladas, mole poblano, flavored ice cream, chiles en nogada and cemitas.
- Paracho, Michoacán: You can find traditional dishes from Michoacán, such as the famous carnitas, corundas, uchepos and atápakua.
- Maní, Yucatán: Here travelers can taste traditional Yucatecan foods like poc chuc, relleno negro, salbutes, cochinita pibil and papadzules.
- Santa Catarina Juquila, Oaxaca: In its kitchens one can find Oaxacan cuisine, considered by many to be the coarsest in the country – such as: tlayuda, juquileña enchiladas, Oaxacan-style mole and regional sweets.
- Real del Monte, Hidalgo: The traditional potato pastes and some other preparations of various stews can be tried in Real del Monte, Hidalgo.
- Zempoala, Hidalgo: The most popular dishes in the magical town of Zempoala are el mixiote and la barbecue (pre-Hispanic origin), prepared in a maguey stalk and cooked in underground ovens. You can’t miss a good few tastings of the traditional natural pulque or cured flavors in addition to its traditional burrita, a bread with piloncillo and cheese.
Lodging in the Pueblos Mágicos
- Hotel Mirador, Barrancas del Cobre: Located on the edge of a canyon, the jaw-dropping Hotel Mirador is surrounded by pine trees and offers 70 rooms with privileged views. Website here: hotelmirador.mx.
- Hotel Posada Hidalgo, El Fuerte, Sinaloa: This is a magnificent colonial museum mansion right in the historic center of the magical town called El Fuerte in Sinaloa. See the website here: hotelposadadelhidalgo.com.
- Hotel Hacienda Santa María Regla, Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo: It’s considered an architectural and natural treasure. The hotel preserved the arches (that were part of the great patios) and the furnaces from which silver was extracted. Website here: haciendaderegla.com.mx.
- Cabañas Kali-Tree, Zacatlán, Puebla: Here you can sleep in a tree house comfortably and safely. The cabins are located in the middle of the forest, surrounded by nature. Website here: cabanaskalitree.com.
- Hotel Casa Vieja, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas: A beautiful and colonial 18th century construction designed as a rest house. It’s located in the heart of San Cristóbal. Website here: www.casavieja.com.mx.
- On the other hand, these are some of the most popular booking sites to find accommodation at cheaper prices (the ones I listed are quite expensive): www.booking.com, www.airbnb.mx, www.bestday.com.mx.
Pueblos Mágicos Travel Tips
- Learn the customs and traditions before you go
- Create an itinerary of the most emblematic points
- Book with a local tour guide for the best local experiences
- Visit the food markets and try all of the typical regional cuisine
- Consume local products only and try to support local businesses
- Purchase some handicrafts and don’t haggle, locals need the money
- Make your accommodation reservations in the town center if possible
- Wear comfortable clothes – some towns are hot and others are cooler.