San Sebastian Bernal: A Magical Town

Paula Camera


Lost in time, San Sebastian Bernal is little town that has been called "magical" for the beauty of its buildings and its color. Among legends and fantastic landscapes, it sits fifty-four kilometers away from the city of Queretaro. The word "bernal" is Arabic for "crag", in reference to the peak found in this town. In height, it is only surpassed by the Pan de Azucar in Rio de Janeiro and the Rock of Gibraltar.

bernalSan Sebastian Bernal was founded in 1642 by several Spanish families that took possession of these lands. The buildings still maintain their original architectural style from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Adorned by old-fashioned, flowery balconies and lampposts, which give life to this magical town, the buildings house enchanting handicraft shops which exhibit incredibly intricate tablecloths and blankets made on looms that are over 100 years old.

bernal callesIf you walk along these charming little cobblestone streets, you can't help but fall in love with this place, which feels like it's from another time. Make a stop in one of the old stone houses, where you can find romantic patios with bugambilias and large trees that are ideal for shading yourself.


iglesia bernalOn your walk, you can find historical monuments of spectacular beauty, such as El Castillo, a 17th Century structure that has a German-made clock, machinery that was installed nearly two centuries later to commemorate the beginning of the 19th Century. La Capilla de las Animas (The Chapel of the Souls) is another interesting construction of the 18th Century that was built in honor of the souls in purgatory. There is also an open-air theater and a picturesque park, ideal for snapshots.

pueblo bernalFor a little local flavor, look for the town chapel where all the locals honor the Santa Cruz (the Saintly Cross). A tradition of the locals that participate in pilgrimages to this chapel consists of crawling on knees under the weight of the sun, as a punishment for sins committed. If you should visit San Sebastian Bernal, the Temple of San Sebastian Martir is recommendable, due to its beautiful bell tower and series of stained glass.

pena bernalBut not everything in San Sebastian is history. Those of a more adventurous nature will find magnificent natural landscapes for rappelling, mountain climbing or extreme sports. For that adrenaline rush and a unique experience to boot, climb the monolith Pena de Bernal and admire the phenomenal vista of the city of Queretaro in sublime silence.

rappel bernalA halo of mystery and myth surrounds this great rock that, according to locals, was a meteorite. Made up of obsidian, quartz and other minerals, it is said that these rocks possess special properties which allow one to enter a state of relaxation as well as keen perception. Whatever you may believe, the Pena is a unique part of the landscape that can be admired from any point in town.

bernalSan Sebastian Bernal, land of the Otomi, is now a labyrinth of beautiful colonial-style streets and home to unique handicrafts and 18th Century buildings. The landscape is filled with symbols, legends, history and beauty. In September 2006, it was named "Pueblo Magico" (Magical Town) by the Mexican Department of Tourism and pertains to the Municipality of Ezequiel Montes. It is located two hours from Mexico City.