Patzcuaro – The Mexico we imagined

Patzcuarao is famous for two things; the most beautiful lake in Mexico, Lago de Patzcuaro and its Day of the Dead celebrations which apparently it is renowned for throughout Mexico. Sadly, when planning this trip, I had never heard of the Day of the Dead and, as we discovered on arrival in the country, the celebrations had all finished the week before we arrived in the country. Oh well!

Patzcuarao is halfway between Morelia, where we have just come from, and Guadalajara, where we would be spending Christmas. It made for a really convenient stop for a few days.

The centre of the town is quite small and is focused around its two main squares Plaza Vasco de Quiroga and Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra. We were staying at the Hotel Mansion de Iturbe in a prime position right on Plaza Vasco de Quiroga. Once a muleteers house, it is now a very quaint, atmospheric and, for this trip at least, one of the more luxurious places in which we have laid our heads. Very well restored and full of interesting nooks, crannies and objects d’Art it is probably still much as it would have been back in the day, a couple of centuries ago.

Our Hotel
The View from our room
Our room

Setting out to explore the town we stepped out of the hotel entrance right onto the main plaza. It was packed with the most incredible array Christmas trees, decorations, lights and the ever present poinsettias. We have spent Christmas in places all around the globe and I can honestly say, I don’t think anywhere does it better, or more impressively than Mexico.

Merry Christmas!
Our regular evening carol service
Wise men, elephants and camels – what more could you ask for?

Patzcuarao’s markets are amazing – it was here that we stocked up with what seemed like a lifetime’s supply of dried chillies (so many varieties!!) The street food around the markets is second to none – some of the best Tacos anywhere were to be found here and the Pollo Asado was out of this world.

So much variety of dried chilli

No visit to the town would be complete without a trip on Lago de Patzcuaro. We jumped on the bus down to the harbour and got the next public boat out to the island of Janito. In the distance the island looks quite quaint, cone shaped, with a giant statue on top of the hill. It is only as we approach closer to the dock on the island that we realise that it is really quite squalid.

Isla de Janito
One issue of living on an island on a lake – what to do with the rubbish?
A massive 45m high statue of a local hero (apparently)

On arrival we immediately decide to bypass all the fish restaurants and tacky souvenir stalls around the quayside and take a walk up through what is really a shanty town to the statue of Jose Maria Morelos. Not the most inspiring of island, it must be said but the boat trip over made it worth the effort.

One guy got fed up waiting for the public boat..

We were the only gringos on the boat over and on the way back. Our fellow passenger are all Mexican families and tourists. on the way over they seemed friendly but a little resaved for Mexico. The boat trip back from the island turned into a party. Our fellow passengers had clearly been enjoying some Tequila on the island and we were joined by a Mariachi band for the return! This made for a very lively journey with much singing and dancing ( and lots more Tequila!)

From Patzcuarao it is possible to circumnavigate the lake by taking a succession of local buses and indeed, that was our initial intention. In the end we started out late and so decided just to jump off the bus after 15 kms or so to visit the 14th century ruins at Tzintzuntzan.

Carolyn and one enormous monument!

Enormous in their sheer scale, these really are impressive. We timed it badly as were arrived in the heat of the early afternoon so, after a couple of hours exploring ruins we returned to the village to spend an hour or two in the relative cool of the Franciscan Monastery and its grounds.

The monastery

We really enjoyed our time on Patzcuarao but now it is time to head off to spend the Christmas holidays in Mexico’s second city, Guadalajara..

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