- Ana McKinney
Experience Mexico Magic in a Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town)
Updated: Apr 7, 2022
Hi! Today, I have a special treat for you. My friend, Ana, is guest writing about her home country of Mexico and specifically towns designated as "Magical". I hope that you enjoy reading and learning about these places as much as I did! Make sure that you check out some of the links that she's included - there's a lot of great information and places to add to your bucket list!
Happy Travels, Chrissy
“Magical” – doesn’t the word evoke excitement within you? The monotony of our lives breaks with the captivating mysticism of magical events and experiences. Some would say that magic doesn’t exist. I say it does, and Mexico agrees with me. The country has a special designation for special towns, those that have stood the test of time and have kept their magic for centuries!
How many magical towns (Pueblos Mágicos) are there in Mexico?
There are 132 towns in Mexico that hold the designation of Pueblo Mágico... let's read that again: one hundred thirty-two!
For a town to be declared magical, they must demonstrate that they have preserved their original architecture, traditions, and culture, or have a meaningful historical value. Sadly, I cannot say that I have visited many Pueblos Mágicos. However, I have fallen in love with each and every one that I have visited. To really experience Mexico, I believe you must experience at least one of these magnificent towns.
I have chosen to list them as they come to my mind rather than to prioritize them. I think each place has a special file folder, both in my mind and in my heart!
Some would say that magic doesn’t exist. I say it does, and Mexico agrees with me.
Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi
Real de Catorce is approximately one hour west of Matehuala, in San Luis Potosi. This Pueblo Mágico is sequestered from civilization by a mile and a half long tunnel, so narrow that traffic can only go one way. I remember crossing the tunnel differently each time I visited. Be it by foot, driving a car, or riding the small bus that shuttles visitors every half an hour, each method gives visitors a unique experience. On the small bus, we were able to touch the stone walls of the tunnel through open windows! Suffice it to say, the bus drivers know how to stay in their lane! Regardless of your method of transportation, once you get to the other side, you are in another world. A magic place that you never knew existed opens to your eyes as you realize you’ve crossed the inside of a mountain into a marvelous new sky. Yes, the sky looks different on the other side!
My favorite place to visit in Real de Catorce is the main Plaza where you can relax and enjoy the breeze. Also, The Church of the Immaculate Conception offers visitors a place for reflection, prayer, and architectural wonderment. There is a special altar where fervent Catholics worship St. Francis of Assisi. You can spend hours reading the prayers left by thousands who make the pilgrimage every year to visit their saint. If you want to fully enjoy Real de Catorce, make sure you stay at least a couple of days in any of their lodging options. Take your time and breathe the magical air!
Bustamante, Nuevo Leon
In my home state of Nuevo Leon, Bustamante holds a special place in my heart. As a child, I remember visiting the natural caverns and always having the best meals there – and I hear that not much has changed. Their cabrito arropado is a must! And the bread from Bustamante is simply delicious, whether it be empanadas, semitas, semitas rellenas, hojarascas… I am salivating y’all! Their bread and pastries are sold throughout the state as a delicacy, but they are better enjoyed fresh while visiting this Pueblo Mágico.
The caverns in Bustamante are gorgeous! I am sure the inside is more developed now, but back in the day, it was free of man-made paths and stairs. In many spots, you had to crawl your way to another chamber. While in Bustamante, don’t miss the springs and Boca de Leones aquatic park, the park Callejon del Beso, and La Guadalupana Mezcal Factory.
Strangely, I’ve never visited the Cave Paintings of Chiquihuitillos when in Bustamante. You can also see pinturas rupestres (cave paintings) in Mina, another town in Nuevo León which should have the designation of Pueblo Mágico, but does not. The state of Nuevo León is also home to two other magical towns, Santiago and Linares.
Despite having nothing to do with the United States, people enjoy celebrating Cinco de Mayo, many without knowing its origins. In Mexico, this celebration only happens in the state of Puebla, to commemorate the battle won against the French army on May 5, 1862. Puebla is the name of both the state and its capital city, considered the second-largest colonial city in Mexico after Morelia, Michoacan.
Just outside the City of Puebla, there is a magical town called Cholula. Yes, like the sauce! Alas, the sauce it’s not made there, but in Chapala, Jalisco. I list Cholula, Puebla in both my checked and my bucket list because is impossible to take it all in in one visit. I was only there for a few days and I didn’t get to see as much as I had planned.
Cholula was an important Pre-Columbian city in Mesoamerica, with the largest pyramid by volume known in the world, Tlachihualtepetl or the "man-made mountain". As a symbol of the religious conquest left by the Spaniards, a church was built atop the pyramid, Nuestra Senora de los Remedios. There are close to forty churches and 159 chapels in the small town, although the legend tells that there are 365 temples, one for each day of the year -this tidbit predates the colonial churches, as it was once told that there were 365 holy pyramids in Cholula.
You can imagine it is quite a trip to try to see this Pueblo Mágico in just a few days!
One thing I can assure you, if I ever go back, I will be eating mole poblano and camotes every day.
The list of magical places to fall in love with is endless. Once you start reading about one, you will continue traveling cyberspace for more. Check this list of Pueblos Mágicos and you will see what I mean! In my immediate bucket list, I wish to visit Tequila, Jalisco; Xilitla, San Luis Potosí; and both Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. And maybe one day I will have enough time in my hands to visit the State of Michoacan including all its magical towns and the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries!
For more information about the Magical Towns in Mexico
Guide to Pueblos Mágicos
Biosphere El Cielo, Mante, Tamaulipas
Turismo Nuevo León
Mina, Nuevo León
García, Nuevo León