Michoacan Attractions | Things to do in Michoacan
Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
When you visit Michoacan don’t pass up the opportunity to see its fir forests and witness one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world: the arrival of the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies spend the winter in these forests living in colonies of up to twenty million. They arrive in Mexico after traveling more than 3,000 miles from the border between the United States and Canada. The drastic decrease in temperatures each October causes them to fly to warmer latitudes.
During their long journey, the butterflies take advantage of air currents, only flapping their wings when the wind slows or changes direction. Using this flight technique they are able to travel about 75 miles per day. The Monarch butterflies arrive in Michoacan in late October. By mid-February, they begin to mate. In early March, they lift off simultaneously flapping their wings in a thunderous clap and begin their journey home.
Designated a Magic Town by the Mexican government, Patzcuaro has monumental churches, a spectacular central square, and beautiful buildings built of adobe and tile. In pre-Hispanic times, Patzcuaro was one of the main ceremonial centers of the Purepechas, whose descendants still live in the region and maintain their traditions. The fishermen of Lake Patzcuaro are famous for using butterfly-shaped nets to catch the delicious white fish that is characteristic of Michoacan cuisine.
The atmosphere in Patzcuaro will make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time, while still enjoying all the comforts of modern life. It offers first-class entertainment, excellent cuisine, and a wide variety of tourist attractions, both architectural and natural, in the city and surrounding area. Furthermore, in Patzcuaro you’ll find a variety of hotels, a wide selection of handicrafts, and the famous "Nieve de Pasta", a type of caramel-flavored ice cream that was created in the town.
Basilica of Nuestra Senora de la Salud
The basilica in Patzcuaro is a partial version of the original Great Cathedral project proposed by Spanish Friar Don Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Michoacan. It is located in the center of town. Construction began in the mid-sixteenth century and wasn’t completed until the late nineteenth century. One of the most important and beautiful churches in this Magic Town, the Basilica emanates history and sacred works of art. It has a modest facade, but you won’t want to miss the elaborate ornamental interior.
Plaza Vasco de Quiroga in Patzcuaro
Considered one of the most beautiful central squares on the continent, the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga is the second-largest and one of the most symmetric and orderly in the country. Unlike the majority of central squares in Mexico, the buildings that surround this plaza are neither civil nor religious, that it to say that there is no church or temple on the square. This square has pathways and places to sit and relax. You can also see traditional dance performances and enjoy a rewarding cultural experience. At the center of the square is a statue of the first bishop of Michoacan, Don Vasco de Quiroga, after whom it is named.
Folk Art Museum
With a casual and friendly atmosphere, this is one of the best museums in Patzcuaro. It showcases paintings and sculptures from the eighteenth century, religious artwork, and a large selection of handicrafts that have been produced in the state for generations. Each of the exhibit halls displays artistic works from different regions of Michoacan, including textiles, carved woodwork, pottery, jewelry, copper, and other techniques in danger of disappearing. One of the halls features temporary exhibitions by local artists, where you can also buy some of the items on display at reasonable prices.
This museum also houses a collection of original masks made by craftsmen from different parts of the state. On one side of the museum you can see the remains of a Purepecha ceremonial center, as the building was built on an important pre-Hispanic structure.
Located 20 minutes from the dock in Patzcuaro, Janitzio is a small island with a monument that stands 130 ft. tall and honors Don Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon. The community living on this beautiful island continues to practice their indigenous customs, among them the “Noche de Muertos” (Night of the Dead), which takes place in late October and early November. On these dates, they solemnly decorate the entire island and fishermen show up with their butterfly nets on boats illuminated with candles.
According to legend, “Princess Zirahuen cried so much that it formed the lake.” Located about 30 minutes from Patzcuaro, this lake is smaller than Lake Patzcuaro, less crowded, and therefore more peaceful and serene, making it a great place to get in touch with nature. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and can be crossed by kayak or by renting a boat. A place of dreams, legends, and tradition, Lake Zirahuen offers the possibility to dine at one of its quaint restaurants located in the surrounding hills, where in addition to delicious food, you can also enjoy spectacular views.
Located about 60 miles from Morelia, you’ll find the second most important city in the state of Michoacan: Uruapan, also known as the “avocado capital of the world” since it’s a major international exporter of this fruit. Among the top attractions in Uruapan are magnificent historical monuments, parish churches, and colonial chapels. In various spots throughout Uruapan you can also find murals by important artists from Michoacan.
Due to its location in one of the most fertile regions of the state, Uruapan has numerous natural attractions that you can visit in the city and surrounding area. The Cupatitzio River flows through Uruapan, and there is a nature park and designated National Heritage Site where you can see the source of this river, waterfalls, and other natural attractions.
Cupatitzio Canyon National Park
This nature park has, among its attractions, the source of the Cupatitzio River, which means “river that sings” in the Purepecha language. It is full of lush vegetation, natural and man-made waterfalls, bridges, trails and walkways. This national park is one of the main attractions in Uruapan and a great place to visit on a family vacation. Here you can rediscover the value of nature and experience the peace that comes from being in touch with it. Inside the park you’ll also find beautiful handicrafts, paintings, and other crafts from the region, as well as a café and a shop selling local candies.
Zamora is one of the major industrial cities in Michoacan. The offices of numerous companies doing business in the state are concentrated here, making it a popular destination for business travelers, executives, and representatives of the various companies. In addition to business and industry, Zamora offers a wide variety of natural and cultural attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options for visitors. In addition, the Zamora region is a major producer of strawberries, and it’s always possible to find this delicious fruit in the city. Zamora features one of the most architecturally stunning cathedrals in Mexico, which ironically, remains on the verge of completion.
The Unfinished Cathedral
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also known as the “Unfinished Cathedral” has a striking gothic revival style. Construction on this impressive church began in the late nineteenth century, but it was suspended during the Mexican Revolution. The conflict ended some years later; however construction of the cathedral was not resumed until about 60 years later. After a painstaking restoration process that was needed after so many years of neglect, the cathedral now looks stunning with a new facade and fine accents. Inside, you’ll find beautiful stained glass windows. And while it remains unfinished, it will be one of the largest cathedrals in the world once it is finally completed.
Zitacuaro is located in the part of Michoacan known as “Monarch Butterfly Country,” very close to the nature sanctuaries that the butterflies visit each year. Close to 140 million Monarch butterflies fill the massive fir forests in the region creating a spectacle that’s a feast for the senses and an example of will. A short distance from the city, you’ll also find natural attractions, such as lakes and hot springs, as well as mines and archeological sites from the ancient indigenous cultures that inhabited the region.
San Pancho Church
Located a few minutes from downtown Zitacuaro, this is one of the oldest churches in Michoacan. Despite its age, this temple has been beautifully restored and is now visited by large numbers of Mexican and international tourists. This small church has simple, austere decor with beautiful details and artwork by different artists. Another remarkable feature is the way that the light enters through the stained glass windows and illuminates the part of the church where the altar is located.
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