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Introducing Pátzcuaro

This small, well-preserved colonial town in the Michoacán highlands is the beating commercial heart of Purépecha country. Indigenous craftspeople from surrounding villages journey here to sell their wares, and their presence, as well as Pátzcuaro’s dramatic history, infuses the town with a palpable mystical energy.

Its center is defined by impressive old churches – including a hillside basilica – dusty, cobbled streets, tiled adobe buildings brushed white and reddish-brown, and two bustling plazas: Plaza Vasco de Quiroga (known as Plaza Grande) and the smaller Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra (popularly known as Plaza Chica). At night it is so quiet that you can actually hear the wind whisper through the narrow backstreets as you bed down in one of the town’s unusual number of charming hotels.

Just 3km to the north lies scenic Lago de Pátzcuaro, ringed by traditional Purépecha villages and sprinkled with a few islands. Isla Janitzio is Mexico’s biggest party magnet during early November’s Día de Muertos, when Mexican tourists flock to Pátzcuaro, though plenty also come for Christmas, New Year and Semana Santa. Make advance reservations during holidays and bring warm clothes from November to February – you’re at altitude here and it gets frigid.