Less than two hours outside of Mexico City, travelers can find themselves in the lush mountain town of Tepoztlán. Known for its temple to the god of pulque; healing arts; and weekend parties, Tepoztlán offers a little something for everyone. During the week the town is mellow and peaceful, while the weekend is bustling and vibrant. Tepoztlán stands as a sanctuary of profound beauty and spiritual significance, attracting travelers from all corners of the world. Whenever you choose to visit you will find a bevy of great things to see and do.
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Tepoztlán’s most famous attraction is a temple and complex of stone dwellings built up on the Sierra de Tepoztlán that looks out over the city. The small and unassuming temple was built in homage to the Aztec god of pulque, Tepoztecatl. Pulque is Mexico’s oldest alcoholic beverage made from the pulp of the maguey cactus. The hike up to the temple is a decent workout, especially considering you start out at almost 6000 feet above sea level, and the views from the top are definitely worth the climb. There are several tour companies that will lead you to the top and provide historical background for the site, but you can also easily go on your own.
The town of Tepoztlán is too small to have dozens of museums like Toluca or Mexico City, but they do have two that will satiate an urge to learn something. The Museo del Hongo “Maria Sabina” is a mushroom museum dedicated to one of Mexico’s most famous indigenous healers who used all types of local mushrooms in her craft. The museum often organizes mushroom hunts or workshops so it’s worth checking the dates you will be there to see what they are offering. The Museo de Arte Prehispánico Carlos Pellicer houses the poet Carlos Pellicer Cámara’s collection of over 1,000 pieces of pre-hispanic art which highlights Maya, Totonaca, Mexica, Teotihuacana, Zapoteca, and Olmeca cultures along with others.
One of the area’s nicest characteristics is the calm and tranquility it retains. Though the town’s main streets may be packed with tourists on Saturdays and Sundays, there are lots of small boutique hotels tucked into quiet residential streets or up on mountain roads, and a handful of woodland retreats to be found online on sites like Airbnb. The new LMM Bungalows bill themselves as minimalist, modern jungle retreat houses and hotels like the Hostal de la Luz, and Posada de Tepozteco provide a taste of luxury in a wild natural setting. The city’s international vibe means that there is great food, music, and a slate of activities throughout the year but it retains its small-town charm and quiet ambiance post sunset.
There are hiking trails all over the area, most inside of the Tepozteco National Park, including a few that set out from the tiny town of Santo Domingo Ocotitlan. The trails can be a bit hidden and you will need a little Spanish and some mingling with the locals in order to get good directions on how to get to trailheads. There area a couple of hiking websites that recommend various routes and provide you with the GPS coordinates if you are ready to set out on your own adventure.
The busy and bustling nature of Tepoztlan means there are lots of places to eat and drink. Locals and foreigners mix and mingle eating hot quesadillas on the street and sampling Mexico’s famous pulque. Los Colorines, brightly colored inside and out, serves delicious traditional Mexican cuisine and El Ciruelo, slightly more upscale and equally delicious, has incredible views of the surrounding hills. La Sombra de Sabina is a great place to wake up with coffee, simple breakfasts and a bookstore for browsing. Don’t forget to take a stroll around Tepoztlan’s local market in front of the Iglesia de la Natividad, if you happen to be there on Sunday you will find an additional open air market with crafts and prehispanic snacks.
Tepoztlan is a weekend retreat for Mexico City residents and a common stop for visitors from all over. So naturally there are plenty of souvenirs and keepsakes for sale. Tepoztlan’s main street (that leads to the entrance of Tepozteco park) is chock full of shops and roving vendors selling local crafts and food. A common find are the hollowed-out gourds sold on almost every corner – ghoulish, funny, or sweet, the faces carved in them are obviously crafted with skill and care. They’re not easily packed in a suitcase, but you certainly won’t forget your time in Tepoztlan with one of these hanging on your wall.
The tricked-out michelada is a favorite in Tepoztlan – beer with various kinds of sweet and sour goo around the rim, gummy worms inside or a tamarind coated straw. If that sounds like too much you can just have one plain with a little salt and lime. Their famous temple in dedication to the god of pulque makes this a great place to try this pre-Colombian delight. There are plenty of local bars for cocktails and wine as well, all of which are packed on the weekends but pretty mellow during the week.
It’s said that the son of conquistador Hernan Cortes, Martin Cortes, had Tepoztlan’s main church built just across from his mansion so he could hear the mass through a window, without having to leave the comfort of home. Whether that is true or not, the Capilla de la Santísima Trinidad in Tepoztlán is cozied up to his ancient home and is a beautiful example of ancient colonial architecture. If you happen to visit on December 12th, Virgin of Guadalupe day, you will find parishioners handing out tamales and singing Happy Birthday to the Virgin into the evening.
Tepoztlan is known for its holistic hotels and spas. Each year there are yoga retreats that take place hosted by some of the towns boutique hotels and exclusive B&Bs. Tepoztlan’s reputation as a spiritual destination means booking a massages, yoga class or a meditation break is easy whenever you visit.
One of Mexico’s most famous celebrations of annual Carnaval is celebrated in Tepoztlan. Locals all pitch in for bands, decorations, and costumes and the days of Carnaval are celebrated with parades of masked revelers, dances, drinking and just general festivities. The show starts about four days before Ash Wednesday so make sure to get your ticket in advance!
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