Exploring the beauty of Mexican small Colonial Towns
Mexico is home to some of the world’s most colourful colonial cities, but its lesser-known towns are just as fascinating to explore. The country’s tourism board has designated 121 Mexican small colonial towns as official ‘magic towns’. According to their outstanding architecture, natural beauty, culture, indigenous past and gastronomy, they chose these destinations. Along the coast, hidden in the mountains or among the jungles you find Mexican small colonial towns. They each have their unique vibe and distinctive characteristics.
In contrast to the fast pace of the cities, these mexican small colonial towns offer visitors the chance to unwind as they wander through the streets, soaking up the relaxed atmosphere. People-watching in the plazas, shopping in the markets, and sampling the local cuisine are just a few of the activities to enjoy. Many of the towns are conveniently close to Mayan ruins or places of great natural beauty. However, these towns offer a glimpse into the heart of Mexico and often the streets are pleasingly devoid of foreign tourists. Here, we look at just a few of Mexico’s most enchanting small colonial towns.
Definitely, this lively suburb of the city of Guadalajara is home to an abundance of shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants. The major area of Avenue Independencia is a pedestrianised street. It leads to El Parian, an attractive plaza. In the evenings, the haunting sound of mariachi fills the air as bands stroll around the plaza entertaining the crowds. However, Tlaquepaque is the ideal place to browse for art, whether it is traditional Mexican folk art or something more contemporary. The town is especially captivating during Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations. That day parades featuring dancing skeletons take to the streets and colourful altars spring up throughout the town.
Not only does Valladolid have some impressive colonial architecture and a picturesque plaza, but it also has some excellent restaurants and eye-catching shops. Also, the town is home to the largest collection of folk art in Mexico. However, the collection we can see at Casa de los Venados, It is a stunning house of John and Dorianne Venator, who open their doors to the public for daily tours. The tours are free, but all donations go directly to local charities for the underprivileged. Valladolid has its cenote (limestone swimming hole) conveniently located in the middle of town – a brilliant spot to cool down when the Mexican sun becomes too intense. To make a visit even more tempting, the renowned Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are only a short bus ride away.
Situated at the southern end of the Baja peninsula, wedged between the desert, ocean, and mountains, Todos Santos is blessed indeed. Colourful buildings line the cobbled streets of this desert oasis. Surely, the town is a magnet for artists because of its beautiful light. Galleries brim with images of desert and coastal landscapes and craft shops full of temptations abound. Mission de Nuestra Senora de Pillar is located on the pretty main plaza and on a Sunday the ethereal sound of singing can be heard coming from within its walls. However, after much controversy, it was decided that Hotel California in Todos Santos was not the same as the one referred to in the Eagles’ most famous song. The hotel has a lovely courtyard and oodles of atmosphere and is a popular hangout for visitors.
As in most towns of Mexico, Campeche has a lovely plaza that lies at the heart of the local community. At weekends, concerts and dances take place and the plaza buzzes with activity. The surrounding buildings of the historical center are attractively painted in pastel colours. Campeche is situated in the country’s southeast on the Gulf of Mexico. Locals and tourists stroll along the Malecon (promenade) enjoying the sea breeze and watching pelicans swooping for fish. The town is fortified by a wall that was built to protect it from pirates back in the day. A walk along the wall offers views of the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the town on the other. Campeche has a thriving dining scene, with most of the restaurants located in and around Calle 59.
Tequila, a city surrounded by fields of blue agave, the plant from which it comes, surely owes its name to its iconic national drink. The town, which is in the state of Jalisco, is easily accessible from Guadalajara. It brims with historic distilleries, haciendas, and, of course, tequila shops. The many distilleries run tours where visitors can learn about the distilling process and enjoy a sample or two. Tequila’s major landmark is its cathedral. The cathedral is close to a variety of restaurants, many of which serve tequila-based dishes. It’s worth paying a visit to the National Tequila Museum. The museum has an extensive array of bottles on display from times gone by.
Known for its nearby jungle wonderland, Xilitla is a town high in the mountains of San Luis Potosí. Created by the visionary, Edward James, a visit to La Pozas is like entering another world. Gigantic sculptures of flowers and serpents are embraced by the foliage and a spectacular waterfall splashes into a chain of pools. There are trails, secret doors, and surprises at every turn. However, visiting the jungle is akin to being in a psychedelic dream. The village of Xilitla is often foggy due to its high altitude. Locals shop at the local market for jungle fruits or tamales wrapped in banana leaves and there’s hardly a tourist in sight. A more recent addition to the village is the excellent Leonora Carrington Museum. It is dedicated to the work of the surrealist artist.
The town of Cholula makes a perfect day trip from the beautiful colonial city of Puebla, about eight miles away. Surely, Cholula is home to the largest handmade pyramid in the world. Covered in vegetation, the pre-Hispanic pyramid has tunnels running beneath it, and which are visited with a guide. From the church at the top of the hill, there are sweeping views of the town below. However, on a clear day, we can see the Popocatepetl Volcano in all its splendor. The leafy plaza is an ideal spot to sit and watch the world go by. The Cholula Museum, which is situated on the plaza, traces the art, geology, and history of the local area.
Although Palenque is home to restaurants that serve delicious Mayan cuisine and shops specialising in local crafts, it is the mysterious ancient ruins, situated five miles away, which draw visitors to the town. Located in the north of Chiapas, the Mayan ruins were abandoned in around 800 A.D. To this day, nobody knows why. The well-preserved temples, carvings, and statues of the magnificent ruins are surrounded by lush tropical jungle and are fascinating to explore. Back in town, La Cañada, is chiefly the most attractive area to stay in. It is within walking distance of the shops and the zocalo, where the locals gather in the evenings.
Author: Sue King