We knew that Tepotzotlan held one of colonial-era Mexico’s most important examples of religious architecture, but we never imagined actually seeing it: from the facade of the San Francisco Javier Church to the Camarin de la Virgen (Chapel of the Virgin), the audacious hand of indigenous artists majestically transformed wood, mortar, quarry stone, and metal into works of unmatchable beauty.
In the main square of Tepotzotlan, dozens of craft stalls are set up every Saturday and Sunday. You will be able to find baskets, textiles, wooden furniture and clay creations such as miniature chapels and rosaries. If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, we recommend that you visit the town when holidays honoring the saints are held. Here you will find beautiful colonial farm estates, each wealthily adorned, perfect for spending a peaceful, comfortable night. Bear in mind that the weather is warm in the summer, rainy in summer and quite cold in the winter.
Where to Eat
Hosteria del Convento
(Traditional Mexican recipes)
Plaza Virreinal 1, Centro
Tel. (55) 5876 0243 / 1646
Plaza Virreinal 34, Centro
Tel. (55) 5876 0229
(Rabbit and snacks)
Plaza Virreinal 9, Centro
Tel. (55) 5876 0309
Where to Stay
Quinta Las Golondrinas ***
Domicilio conocido, 10 minutes from Tepotzotlan
City Express Tepotzotlan ****
Autopista Mexico – Queretaro km 42.5
Tel. (55) 5899 3190
Hotel San Francisco **
Mariano Galvan 10A, Barrio Texcacoa
Tel. (55) 5876 0443
Office of Tourist Information
Direccion de Turismo Municipal
Pensador Mexicano 1, Barrio San Martin
Tel. (55) 5876 8069 ext. 106
Don’t Miss Tepotzotlan’s food market, situated in the central square, you can keep hunger at bay with soups, pambazos, quesadillas and other delicacies. If you are into sports, nature and adventure, you might want to visit the Arcos de Sitio park with its monumental 18th Century structure that measures over 60 meters in height. The park also has suspension bridges, zip-lines and horses riding. In the evening, take the Historias y Leyendas de Tepotzotlan (Stories and Legends of Tepotzotlan), a tour with costumed guides who will tell you about the local legends in detail.
- Dedicating a morning to the Museum of the Viceroyalty, which includes the San Francisco Javier Church.
- Picnicking at Arcos del Sitio and riding the zip-line.
- Enjoying a traditional dish at Hosteria del Convento.
- Visiting in December and witnessing the famous Pastorela Celebrations.
- The San Pedro (Saint Peter) Patron Saint Festivities on June 29th.
- The Señor del Nicho (Our Lord of the Niche) Fiesta the first week in September.
- The Pastorela Celebrations in December.
Tepotzotlan, Magical Village of the State of Mexico, has a wealth of things to see. In the morning, you can head to the Acueducto de Xalpa (Xalpa Aqueduct), where you can pursue different ecotourism and adventure activities. Afternoons are ideal for going shopping at the Plaza de las Artesanias (Artisans’ Square), eating at the Mercado de Antojitos or visiting the Museo Nacional del Virreinato, which is home to a wide collection of sacred art. After dark, don’t miss the Historias y Leyendas de Tepotzotlan tour, where costumed guides will share the town’s legends with you.
10:00 a.m. The first street foray
Before deciding what we would do today we went and walked around downtown Tepotzotlan. In order to keep the tradition, we visited the local Mercado de Antojitos (‘snack market’) where everything from sopes (a type of thick tortilla with toppings), pancita (a traditional Mexican tripe soup), birria (a spicy meat stew), tacos de loganiza (tacos with a special type of chorizo), pozole (a traditional pre-Columbian stew), pambazos (Mexican-style sandwiches), tamales, and more were available. We opted for cheese quesadillas and guava shakes. In the meantime we decided that we would make today’s mission adventure.
12:00 noon. Relaxing and playing
After driving 30 km northeast of town using State Highway 5 – which although very pretty is in poor condition – we got to the Xalpa Aqueduct. Better known as Arcos del Sitio, it was built by Jesuits at the beginning of the 18th century to bring water to the hacienda of the same name. The work surprised us in its scale: upon crossing the river it is more than 60 meters high. You can also walk across it from one side to the other. We spent some time there and then decided to try our luck at the hanging bridges at the Arcos del Sitio ecotourism center. The center also offers zip-lines and rents horses. Last but not least, you can bring food and have a picnic there or buy some snacks made on-site.
6:00 p.m. A little bit of the local flavor
We went back to downtown Tepotzotlan and took a look at the Artisan’s Plaza where they sell items from all over Mexico. Then we walked past the Palacio Municipal (where there is a small tourism information kiosk) and entered the San Pedro Apostol (Saint Peter the Apostle) Parrish Church. This church has become the area’s main place of worship because nowadays the San Francisco Javier Church functions only as a museum.
8:00 p.m. Stories and rabbits
At eight on the dot we joined the Historias y Leyendas de Tepotzotlan Tour (Tepotzotlan Tales and Legends Tour) on the recommendation of the tourism office. In the company of costumed guides we walked through the historic downtown area listening to entertaining stories about La Llorona (‘The Weeping Woman’), the Jesuit catacombs, and the enchanted bell. You can buy tickets next to Restaurante Carta Blanca or by calling (55)1668 1084 or (04455)5506 5463.
After finishing the tour we went and had dinner at Carta Blanca where they serve Mexican food and rabbit. The rabbit is prepared al mojo de ajo (in a garlic mojo sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or en adobo (traditionally seasoned). We had the last kind after a satisfying Aztec soup.
9:00 a.m. Best on Sunday
We had an early breakfast at Casa Mago, which serves a full Mexican buffet on weekends. Afterwards we went to the National Museum of the Viceroyalty located within the former San Francisco Javier convent, which was built by the Society of Jesus from the 17th to 18th centuries. The Antiguo Colegio Noviciado de Tepotzotlan (Tepotzotlan Old Novitiate School) was located here and educated almost all of New Spain’s Jesuits until the time in which the order was expelled from Spanish lands in 1767.
We knew that the museum was first-rate but were nonetheless surprised by the quality of its collections: there are paintings from the Viceroyalty’s most famous artists as well as sculptures, decorative works, and antique books. In the arcade below the Los Aljibes Cloister, for example, there are 22 oil paintings that dramatically depict the most important moments in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola; they are by none other than Cristobal de Villalpando himself. Throughout the museum you’ll also find works by Jose de Ibarra, Juan Correa, and Miguel Cabrera.
Other points of interest that you can’t miss include the beautiful Novicios (Novitiates’) Chapel, the overlook, and the collection of Crowned Nuns: the nuns were depicted with crowns and bouquets of flowers in consecration and death ceremonies. At the library you’ll find old works in the Dominican and Jesuit archives, giving us an idea of what was read both at the school and throughout New Spain. There are also books on theology and canon law in addition to classic authors such as Plato and Aristotle. Don’t miss the document promising the excommunication of anyone who damaged or removed any books, parchments, or papers from the library.
12:00 noon. Monastic rest
From the ground floor of the Los Naranjos (Orange Trees) Cloister you’ll find access to the former convent’s gardens. It’s worth taking a moment to sit and rest there, even lying down in the grass. At one end of the garden is the Virgen de las Nieves Chapel with an elegant raised crest by its entrance.
12:30 p.m. The cherry on top
It makes sense to leave a trip to the San Francisco Javier Church for last, which you can only get into through the museum. The five main altarpieces dedicated to San Francisco Javier, La Virgen de Guadalupe, the Founding Saints, La Virgen de la Luz, and San Jose (Saint Joseph) are so beautiful that they’re hard to describe. Additionally, the paintings on the presbytery vaults and elsewhere are by Miguel Cabrera. Lastly, the Virgen de Loreto Chapel truly takes the cake: its walls and domes are completely covered in a polychrome plaster featuring angels, archangels, and shells that will amaze even the most obstinate of atheists.
2:00 p.m. An old inn
After an aesthetic experience of this kind, it’s a good idea to stop and eat at La Hosteria del Convento. For more than fifty years it has focused on preparing Mexican specialties and conserving traditional recipes. Luckily for us, it was chiles en nogada (poblano chiles filled with ground beef and topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds) season. Other dishes that came highly recommended were chiles tolucos (ancho chiles filled with beans and chorizo), arroz verde con platanos fritos (green rice with fried plantains), escamoles (a local delicacy consisting of ant larvae and other ingredients), and string cheese in Mexican pepperleaf with a tomato salsa. For desert we had xoconostle (the fruit of a cactus similar to the prickly pear) sweets with cinnamon.
Another good option for finishing up the weekend is visiting the Xochitla Ecological Park (www.xochitla.org.mx).
- Tepotzotlan’s Jesuit church is one of the most spectacular surviving examples of the New-World Churrigueresque architectural style.