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Since days long past, Uruapan has been the way station for travelers that wander the roads of Michoacan. Its location is in the heart of the state, making it an excellent rest stop between the Purepecha Plateau and Tierra Caliente. Today, its multiple attractions surround Uruapan, making it ideal for adventure tourism with its age-old culture and tradition that can be found everywhere you go.
Barranca del Cupatitzio National Park
This national park is, strangely enough, located very close to the center of the city and is also known as the Uruapan National Park or the Eduardo Ruiz National Park. The latter is in honor of a local author who was once the owner of the land where the park was founded. In this immense extension of land flows the Cupatitzio River, in an area called the Rodilla del Diablo (the Devil's Knee). The river divides into multiple rivers and has foot paths that run along the banks of the river. While walking, admire the rush of water and the exuberant vegetation. "El Parque" (as it is also known by locals) is a visit that you should make if you love nature and are traveling through Michoacan.
Uruapan has buildings that date back to colonial times. One in particular, called the Huatapera, is an old hospital that was founded by Brother Juan de San Miguel. It was one of the first hospitals in New Spain and was where the indigenous population was treated. The construction has Plateresque influences and the materials used are "tejamanil" (a type of decorative method that uses colored wood splinters), wood, volcanic rock and quarry stone.
To the south, some six miles away from the city, you can find a park that is known for its cascade called the Tzararacua. If you want to appreciate the full extent of the river, travel two miles downstream. There are two options to get here: by horseback on the side roads or descent by foot, which is more than 500 steps.
The visitors can admire the lush vegetation at the lookouts that can be found all along the path. The thunderous cascade is more than 164 feet tall and has over 2,000 gallons of water falling per second. "Tzararacua" in Purepecha mean "sieve", referring to the volcanic rock that filters the water that falls.
Temple of San Francisco
Uruapan was very important during the colonial days and in the first few years after the Independence. It was a major stronghold for the evangelization of the region and remnants that still stand from those days are the Temple of San Francisco and the Casa de la Cultura. These buildings have Plateresque influences that date back to the founding of the city and have recently been restored.
Holy Week in Uruapan
Brother Juan de San Miguel is the Spanish evangelist that founded Uruapan and who went forward into the distant communities of the area to teach trades which would be useful for the inhabitants. Nowadays, the handicrafts that are still made here and the traditions of which have been passed down from generation to generation, can be found during Holy Week, when locals come out to sell their wares.
Patzcuaro and Janitzio
Less than 37 miles away from Uruapan is Patzcuaro, a magical little town that owes its charm to the peculiar layout of the streets, which are cobblestoned, steep and narrow. There is a certain beauty in its colonial architecture, churches, convents and old mansions. Patzcuaro is where you depart from to go to Janitzio, a small island in the lake of Patzcuaro. It's filled with fishermen, local handicrafts, lakeshore cuisine and many legends with the mystical touch of the Purepecha culture.
Due to the spectacular color and the fusion of religions, the celebration of the Night of the Dead in Patzcuaro and Janitzio is known all over the world. The cemeteries are covered with flowers while other graves are covered with candles. The temperature drops and the "charanda" (a traditional drink made of distilled sugar cane made in Uruapan) helps fight the cold of the night when the dead come back to visit the land of the living.
Santa Clara del Cobre
This is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting towns of the region. It is said that since pre-Hispanic times, the Purepecha have worked with copper. In 1538, the town was founded and then had "del cobre" (of copper) tacked on to the end of the name, in reference to the handicrafts made by artisans of that town with that particular metal. Strolling through Santa Clara is part of the attractive quality of the town and you can admire the copper detail in everything from the kiosk of the main plaza to the candelabras of the Church of Santa Clara.
Some 18 miles from Uruapan is Paricutin, you'll find the youngest volcano in the world that was active for a total of ten years. In February of 1943, a peasant was working in a field when the earth started to shake around him. The land opened and vapor and rocks started shooting out. The man alerted the town and everyone was evacuated without a single death. The Paricutin Volcano buried two towns in lava, one of which was Paricutin (which disappeared completely) and the other was San Juan Viejo Parangaricutiro. The church of the latter can still be seen emerging from the ruins and the petrified lava, an image that is both unsettling as it is beautiful.