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9 ‘Magic Towns’ Near Mexico City That You Need to Visit

Jerl71 |

In Mexico, a “magic town” is a place that has managed to preserve its roots and ancestral traditions over time. Natives fiercely protect the towns’ cultural and historical wealth, and visitors can explore natural wonders, historic sites, and gorgeous temples dating back hundreds of years—and don’t forget the magical elves. Here are some of Mexico’s must-visit magic towns, all within a three hour car or bus ride from Mexico City.—Odette Herrera

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WHERE: Puebla

At sky level stands the monumental Sanctuary of the Virgen de los Remedios, a church built by Spanish conquerors. Its pillars rest on a pre-Hispanic pyramid in honor of the god of the nine rains. The Popocatépetl volcano looms in the background, completing this postcard-worthy scene. Aside from admiring religious temples—it is said that there is a church in Cholula for every day of the year—its cuisine is something you can’t miss. The dining scene here reflects the city’s fusion of the old and new world. Its traditional sweets—the rompope, the mole poblano and the chile en nogada—are favorites.

Insider Tip: Go inside the pyramid and explore its magnificence through the tunnels.  

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Byelikova |
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WHERE: Guerrero

Sparkling silver jewelry appears at every corner of Taxco, one of the oldest mining towns in America and recognized worldwide for its great production of this precious metal. Its cobblestone streets guide you to picturesque alleys, charming plazas, and the temple of Santa Prisca, a true gem of Colonial architecture in Mexico.

Or, hit the road and drive 35 minutes to Cacahuamilpa Grottos, an amazing system of caves and geological formations.

Insider Tip: Admire this charming town from above while aboard a cable car.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Chepe |
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Valle de Bravo

WHERE: Estado de México

Valle de Bravo is the ultimate extreme sports destination near Mexico City. As you enter through the forest-lined road, the sky will begin to fill with paragliders. Water lovers will rejoice in its beautiful lake, where the common sports are waterskiing, kayaking and sailing. If you prefer inland activities, mountain biking and trekking are great options. For lodging, opt for a cabin with a fireplace so you can have somewhere to warm up when temperatures drop at night.

Insider Tip: From November to March you can experience one of the most beautiful natural spectacles in Mexico: the arrival of the Monarch butterflies that travel all the way down from Canada every year. There are three butterfly sanctuaries located near Valle de Bravo.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Jerl71 |
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WHERE: Estado de México

Located in a beautiful green valley, the charm of Malinalco lies in its harmonious combination of pre-Hispanic and Colonial treasures. Up in the hill, the mystical Cuauhtinchán archaeological site shows the greatness of ancient times when the Aztecs ruled the area. Down in the town’s center, a former Augustinian convent with a medieval exterior houses great murals painted by native artists.

Cobblestone streets, colorful houses, small religious temples, and great local eateries make this destination a truly magical town.

Insider Tip: Visit the traditional street market on Wednesdays that dates back to pre-Hispanic times. You will find handmade goods, food, pottery, and plants.  

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Mardzpe |
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WHERE: Querétaro

Located in a wine region, most visitors come to Tequisquiapan for wine tastings at the nearby vineyards and cellars. The best time to visit this magic town is at the end of May during the Cheese and Wine National Festival when hundreds of people from every corner of the country come to enjoy local gastronomic delicacies. A nice weekend in this destination also includes swimming in hot springs and shopping for opal handicrafts (there are opal mines on the surroundings).

Insider Tip: Take a hot-air balloon ride and watch the sunrise over the wine region.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Trabajo propio via Wikimedia Commons, [CC-BY-SA 3.0]
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Huasca de Ocampo

WHERE: Hidalgo

Named as the first magic town in Mexico, Huasca de Ocampo has an exciting mining past with haciendas dedicated to gold and silver. None of them are still operating, but they’re true witnesses to the former glory of the area. The existence of basaltic prisms—rock formations carved by water—is definitively a highlight; there are few spots in the world where these natural columns can be found.

Huasca is also a mystical place, and locals truly believe that goblins live around them.. During a nighttime tour through the “magic forest of the elves”, visitors can learn about the ways of life and customs of these magical creatures.

Insider Tip: Have breakfast or lunch at Hacienda Santa María Regla among its colonial architecture.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

AntonioRamsan via Wikimedia Commons, [CC BY-SA 3.0]
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WHERE: Puebla

A town where it’s always Christmas? Sounds strange, but everything in this town revolves around its locally-made glass Christmas ornaments. For decades, the artisans in Chignahuapan have mastered the art of making ornaments, and today more than 3,000 locals make beautiful pieces in roughly 200 workshops that are open to the public to come and observe.

If you happen to be in Chignahuapan during the Day of the Dead (November 1st and 2nd), you should visit the lake, which is beautifully illuminated with candles as part of the Light and Life Festival.

Insider Tip: Take home an ornament as a souvenir, even if it’s nowhere near the holiday season.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Jerl71 |
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WHERE: Morelos

The moment you set foot on its cobblestone streets, you know you’ve arrived at a special place. Joyful people, charming architecture, and delicious food can be found in all directions in Tepoztlán, a magic town guarded by the magnificent Tepozteco hill.

The food market is a medley of colors, scents, and flavors; Tepoztecan restaurants delight hungry stomachs with some of the best traditional snacks such as quesadillas, sopes, and tacos. After a good walk around town exploring art galleries, the beautiful Natividad temple, and handicrafts shops, relax at a temazcal, a pre-Hispanic steam bath.

Insider Tip: Climb to the top of Tepozteco hill for amazing views, and discover a small temple dedicated to pre-Hispanic god Tepoztecatl.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide

Jerl71 |
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WHERE: Querétaro

A 10-million-year-old monolith is the main attraction at this colorful town full of temples and old Colonial mansions. It is the Peña de Bernal—the third biggest in the world after the Rock of Gibraltar and the Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil—a hot spot for rock climbers and rappel lovers.

Knitted wool goods such as quilts, tablecloths, and rugs have been crafted by locals for over 100 years, a tradition passed down through generations. You’ll fall in love with these creations during your visit to Bernal.

Insider Tip: Take a nice hike in Peña de Bernal and absorb its mystical energy.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Mexico Guide