The word has slowly got out about this pueblo mágico, but come soon and you’ll still get to enjoy it without the weekend crowds that descend on its more easily accessible cousins. True, there are already a clutch of hippie stores with names like Gandhi and a couple of boutique hotels here, but for the most part life in Malinalco is a far cry from that in Tepoztlán.
The drive to Malinalco is one of the most enjoyable to be had in the area, with dramatic scenery south of Toluca lining the road. The village itself has a charming colonial core set around a well-preserved convent and two central plazas. There’s an ATM on Hidalgo, on the convent’s north side, and Internet Quetzal is on Progresso, to one side of the Palacio Municipal.
A short but bracing hike up the mountainside above Malinalco takes you to one of the country’s few reasonably well-preserved Aztec temples (admission M$37; 9am-6pm Tue-Sun, last ticket sold at 5pm), from where there are stunning views of the valley and beyond. From the main square follow signs to the zona arqueológica, which takes you up the hillside on a well-maintained footpath with signs in Spanish, English and Náhuatl. The site itself is fascinating, and includes El Paraíso de los Guerros, a mural that once covered an entire wall, depicting fallen warriors becoming deities and living in paradise.
The Aztecs conquered the region in 1476 and were busy building a ritual center here when they were conquered by the Spanish. El Cuauhcalli, thought to be the Temple of Eagle and Jaguar Warriors – where sons of Aztec nobles were initiated into warrior orders – survived because it was hewn from the mountainside itself. The entrance is carved in the form of a fanged serpent.
Temple IV, on the far side of the site, continues to baffle archaeologists. As the room is located in order to allow the first rays of the sun to hit it at dawn, there has been speculation that it was part of a Mexica sun cult, although other interpretations claim the temple was a solar calendar or a meeting place for nobles.
Near the site entrance, the Museo Universitario Dr Luis Mario Schneider (147-12-88; admission M$10; 10am-6pm Tue-Sun) explores the region’s history and archaeology in a beautifully set out modern space. The highlight is a mock-up of the full El Paraíso de los Guerros mural from the site and a replica of the Cuauhcalli chamber you aren’t able to enter in the temple proper.
A well-restored 16th-century Augustinian convent (admission free), fronted by a tranquil tree-lined yard, faces the central plaza. Impressive frescoes fashioned from herb- and flower-based paint adorn its cloister. Just uphill from the plaza, the tourist office (147-13-63; www.malinalco.net; 8:30am-6pm Mon-Sat) is inside the Palacio Municipal on the 2nd floor.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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