Visit Michoacán: How to Spend a Weekend in Michoacán, Mexico
This past long weekend, I visited a few different towns in Michoacán, Mexico, with my husband and my in-laws. We had a wonderful weekend full of sightseeing, artisan markets, hot chocolate, and hikes. We ended up visiting a total of four different towns during our three-day trip. Each one was beautifully unique and intriguing in its own way. Michoacán has a bit of a reputation for being a dangerous state in Mexico, but there was not one moment that I felt unsafe there. Here is why you should visit Michoacán and how to plan your trip there.
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Where is Michoacán?
Michoacán is a state in Mexico that neighbors Mexico City to the west. During our trip, we stayed in a hotel in the state’s capital, Morelia. It took us about 3.5 hours to drive from Mexico City to Morelia which made for a nice road trip. If you’re planning a trip to Michoacán from Mexico City there are a few different ways to get there. You can find information on renting a car here, or on taking a bus here. Since my in-laws are from here, we just carpooled in their vehicle.
Is Michoacán Safe?
Like I mentioned earlier, the state of Michoacán has a bit of a reputation for being dangerous. This is because there has been quite a lot of organized drug crime that has happened (and continues to happen) in the state. However, I personally do not think that this knowledge should deter someone from visiting Michoacán since most drug-related crimes are mainly targeted at different drug cartels and police.
Personally, there was not one single moment in which I felt unsafe or uneasy in any of the places we visited. However, I do want to say that my experience may be different from others’ experiences based on the fact that I was with my husband and my in-laws, all of whom are Mexican. I think if I had gone to Michoacán alone, the only thing that would have unnerved me would have been knowing about Michoacán’s reputation. If I went to Michoacán alone and not known anything about its’ reputation, I think I would have felt just as safe as I felt with my family.
When it comes to safety abroad, I think it’s best to stick to your instincts. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do in your own hometown, for instance. Make sure you have a map on your phone and a phone charger with you so you can order an Uber or call an emergency contact just in case. Be aware of your belongings and your surroundings. Again, I never felt unsafe at all while I was traveling in Michoacán and I have many friends and family members who have been there or are planning trips there as well. If you’re really feeling uncertain, you can try going with a friend too.
Where to Stay in Morelia, Michoacán
We stayed at a beautiful hotel right in the heart of downtown Morelia. Our room even had a view of the center square and of Morelia’s famous cathedral. The hotel we stayed in is called Hotel Virrey de Mendoza. Not only does it have incredible views, but it’s actually a really old palatial house that has been turned into a hotel. The lobby is beautifully painted with warm colors and has cozy seating areas. There are old paintings throughout the entire building of people who I assume used to live there or perhaps have played important roles in Mexican history. The hotel even has a stained glass ceiling in one area which is absolutely breathtaking.
Day One: Morelia, Michoacán
Morelia is the capital city of Michoacán and it is fairly easy to get to other beautiful towns from there. Here are some of the things we did on our first day in Morelia, Michoacán which you can do as well.
Festivals and Events
We were in Morelia during the long weekend of November 15 to November 17 which is a holiday celebrating the Mexican Revolution. The actual day that celebrates the Revolution is November 20, but the government makes sure to make the holiday fall on a Monday so that people can enjoy a long weekend. We noticed that there was a Food Festival, a Music Festival and a Datsun car show all happening during the weekend we chose to go. You can find out more about festivals and events happening in Morelia here.
We didn’t actually have time to do a bike tour on our trip but we saw many other people doing bike tours. The bike tours take place on one single bike that fits more than 10 people! It looked like a lot of fun. The bike tours take place during the day and at night. You can book a bike tour by talking to one of the biking tour guides that you will see around Morelia.
Artisan Museum and Market
There are a few different artisan markets to visit in Morelia but the one we went to on our first day there was a Museum and a Market in one. It’s called the Instituto del Artesano Michoacano IAM and is also known as the House of Handicrafts. The museum is located in a beautiful old convent. The House of Handicrafts was founded in 1972 and aims to showcase Michoacán’s folk art with conferences, exhibitions, displays, and even workshops. Michoacán is famous for wood, copper, and textile artisan works among others.
A lot of the items that you will see on display are actually for sale as well, which is why it’s a museum and a market in one. On the bottom floor, you can find a lot of different shops selling handmade artworks and on the upper floors, you can see exquisite pieces of art displayed in glass cases. It’s a very good place to buy souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones.
Bus tours happen throughout the day and you can night bus tours as well. We took a bus tour in the evening which was quite beautiful. The bus we were on had an open-air section at the back with minimal walls so we could get good photos from there. The tour guide driving the bus only spoke Spanish but even if you don’t understand the language, it was still a lovely tour. We got to see a lot of the city, learn about different statues, and we even got to go inside a really fancy church. There were street vendors selling food by the church so some people got ‘elotes’ (popular corn snack) before continuing on the tour. You can buy tickets for bus tours in the center of Morelia at various ticket booths.
Churros at Churrería Artesenal Las Ramblas
During our evening bus tour, I noticed that we drove past a churrería (churro shop). After our tour was over we walked back in the direction I had seen it and had some delicious churros and hot chocolate. The churrería is called Churrería Artesanal Las Ramblas. It was a bit crowded when we arrived but we managed to find a table. The churros were a little different than other ones I had tasted before. I think they were a bit more crispy on the outside while still being soft and fluffy on the inside. They also had a ton of different kinds of hot chocolate to choose from. In Mexico, hot chocolate is a very popular drink and there are always many different kinds you can order. For example, some have almond, vanilla and even chili added to them. Even if you’re lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy the hot chocolate because there is always the option to have it made with water instead of milk.
Day Two: Morning in Morelia and a Day Trip to Pátzcuaro, Janitzio and Quiroga
On our second day in Michoacán, we woke up and headed out to breakfast before going on a day trip to Pátzcuaro, Janitzio and Quiroga.
Morelia: Callejon del Romance
On our way to breakfast, we made sure to check out Morelia’s famous Callejon del Romance. The Callejon del Romance (or Romance Alley) is named as such because of the love poem written along the walls. It was written by Don Lucas Ortiz and the poem is called, ‘Romance of My City’. Different sections of the poem are hidden on plaques along the walls of the alley. The alleyway is filled with pink flowers cascading down the walls, beautiful fountains and papel picado (Mexican paper folk art).
Morelia: Breakfast at Galafre Bistro-Cafe-Bar
After walking through the Callejon del Romance, we arrived at the Galafre Bistro-Cafe-Bar. We had a lovely breakfast of spicy chilaquiles and foamy cappuccinos. The restaurant is located right outside the Callejon and is next to a Mezcalería. We ate outdoors in the small plaza outside and enjoyed the sunshine as well as the good food.
Morelia: Street of Floral Tapetes During the Music Festival
Like I mentioned previously, we happened to be in Morelia during their 31st Annual Music Festival. Although we didn’t go out to any concerts, there was one really cool thing we got to see. Every year during the Annual Music Festival, there is a street called the Calzada de Fray Antonio de San Miguel which gets a pretty cool artistic makeover. On this street during the Music Festival, you will find hundreds of beautiful floral tapetes (tapestries made of flowers, nuts, seeds, beans, pinecones and more) made by artisans from the municipality of Patamban. The Music Festival happens every year in November although the dates vary. You can find more information about the Music Festival here.
Morelia: Tarascas Fountain
Morelia’s famous Tarascas Fountain is located quite close to Calzada de Fray Antonio de San Miguel and the Callejon del Romance. We had driven past it and learned about its history on our bus tour the previous night. Before heading off on our day trip, we decided to walk by it again and get some pictures of it during the day time.
The Tarascas Fountain shows three Purépecha women holding up a large plate filled with fruit. Some people speculate that it represents three indigenous princesses named Tzetzangari, Eréndira, and Atzimba. Our tour guide said that the three women may also represent the three different capital cities that Michoacán has had. You can read more about the history of the Tarascas Fountain here (just make sure to click the Translate button so you can read the article in English).
Pátzcuaro Town and Lake
Pátzcuaro is the name of a town located right by a large and beautiful lake. I was told that Pátzcuaro was also the name of the lake but I think the lake is also known as Janitzio Lake too. We actually didn’t spend too much time in the town of Pátzcuaro but bought tickets to take a boat from Pátzcuaro to the island of Janitzio.
The boat we rode was crowded but the views were breathtaking. We were able to see many islands and other colorful boats on the lake. When we were almost at the island of Janitzio we saw several fishermen on the lake with giant fishing nets. Everyone on the boat got lots of pictures of them and then the fishermen came beside the boat to collect tips from the travelers. It’s safe to say that the fishermen make money from the fish they sell as well as from the tips they get from travelers photographing them.
Island of Janitzio
Janitzio is a small but very beautiful island. It’s home to a giant statue of Morelos on the top of the island. Morelos was one of Mexico’s heroes of Independence. The hike up to the statue of Morelos is very steep and we definitely needed to take breaks throughout our walk. There are many vendors selling artisan goods, food and drinks along the hike up to the statue.
Once we reached the top of the island, we paid a small entrance fee to see the statue of Morelos up close. The statue is located in a large courtyard. The views from the courtyard were incredible. We were able to see the rest of the island and a stunning vista of the lake as well. You can also go inside the statue of Morelos but we chose not to do that because the line up was quite long.
Another thing I really enjoyed seeing was the Baile de Los Viejitos or ‘The Dance of the Elderly’. Children and adults who do the dance, wear masks to make them look older along with wigs of long white braids. They wear wooden sandals that make a click-clacking sound when they dance too. The Baile de Los Viejitos is a famous dance from the state of Michoacán and you can see it performed all over the state, not just on Janitzio.
After we boated back to Pátzcuaro from Janitzio, we decided to head to Quiroga for dinner. The state of Michoacán is famous for tacos de carnitas (pork tacos). I’m a vegetarian but my husband and in-laws aren’t so we went to a restaurant called El Rey de las Carnitas (The King of Pork Tacos). It was a very beautiful restaurant. Plus, I managed to still get a vegetarian meal by ordering a few veggie sides of guacamole, nopales (cacti), tortillas and beans. Then I just made my own tacos out of those ingredients. The town of Quiroga was also quite lovely. There were many vendors selling art and food along the streets.
Day Three: Morelia, Michoacán
Our third day in Michoacán was the day we left to go back to Mexico City. However, we made the best of our last morning in Morelia by going to a really good cafe and heading to another artisan market before leaving.
We heard from some of our friends that Café Michelena was a really good breakfast spot. The cafe was also quite close to our hotel so we headed over there for breakfast. The food was so delicious! I had an avocado toast with poached eggs along with a traditional hot chocolate. I also loved that the cafe had outdoor and indoor seating as well as a book shop. My husband ended up buying a couple of books there. Both of us love book shop cafes because we love reading, so if you’re a bookworm like us, you’ll really enjoy Café Michelena as well.
Mercado de Dulces y Artesanias (Artisan and Candy Market)
Our last stop in Morelia was to the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanias or the Artisan and Candy Market. This market is home to tons of traditional Mexican candies as well as more artisan goods. I ended up buying a couple of handmade mugs and pieces of jewelry there as Christmas gifts for some of my family members. If you go to Morelia I would highly suggest you check out this market!
If you visit Michoacán between October and January, you can also see the Monarch Butterfly Migration! Find more information on that here!
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