A Day Trip to a Pueblo Magico: Tapalpa

Mexico has an internal tourist program called Pueblos Magicos: Magical Towns. These are towns that have a special appeal, with tourist attractions (usually historical and cultural attractions). (You’ll need a translator¬† from Spanish to English with your browser for the website if you are not fluent in written Spanish.)

The magical towns all get a plaque commemorating their achievement!

Tapalpa, according to Google Maps, is some two hours drive from Chapala both south and west of the lake. The drive was a beauty. After a drive west toward Tequila (yes, land of Jose Cuervo), another toll road routed us south in a deep valley, with mountains rising cliff-like on both sides and some serious mud flats, at least during rainy season, in the valley. Finally, we turned west again headed straight toward one of the mountains. Winding our way, switchbacks and all, we went up and over the mountain and finally descended into a valley to Tapalpa.

The Pueblo Magico site had suggested that a somewhat ruined structure of a church from the 1600s and the cisterns that are part of the local water supply were the must-see first items on the agenda.

Only one problem: Google Maps couldn’t find either and we didn’t really know the right way to ask.

But the street headed into town took us right past the town center, so we finally parked and hiked our way back to the square.

You can see from the photos here that the town is somewhat architecturally themed. Some might even say it’s magical.


Here we encountered not one, not two, but three churches, all clustered together and two of which seemed to be connected.

One of the fascinating aspects of Mexican towns is the preservation and mixture of the old and the new. Rather than tearing down the old, it’s often preserved and repaired and then added to with more modern structures. Such is the case with the cathedrals in Tapalpa.

Here’s what I believe is the oldest church, the one from the 1600s. Although I can’t say for sure.

And the town was hopping, with an art festival and food and other vendors out on the street along with the obligatory dogs which roam freely in Mexican towns.

We did notice, finally, a motorized trolley that does tours of the town and a tourist office on the square.

Next week I’ll share the rest of the story of our time in Tapalpa.

Hint: we’re planning to go back to spend an entire weekend soon!

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