One Saturday last month my boyfriend and I decided to take an impromptu weekend trip to the Pueblo Mágico of Tapalpa. We did a little Google research to find a pet-friendly hotel, packed overnight bags, and loaded the car. By about 10am, Luis, Taco, and I were on our way.
The drive took us over a vast area that was completely flat and treeless. It turns out this was a dry lake. I’m continually astonished by the variety of Mexican topography. This is a beautiful country, although this part of the drive impressed me more for its utter lack of anything than for its beauty.
The last half hour of the two-hour drive took us high into the mountains, where we could look back and see the valley we’d just traversed. It looked better from above.
We got to Tapalpa, checked into the very charming Hotel La Casona a little past noon. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we left our luggage in the car and did a short walk-through of the town to get our bearings. Like most Mexican towns, this one is organized around a central plaza and a church.
Tapalpa actually has two churches adjacent to its plaza, an old one and a newer one. The older church, Templo de San Antonio, was built in 1650, but a new church was needed for some reason. (I say “for some reason,” though I read that the old church was severely damaged. But it didn’t seem damaged at all.) The Templo de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe was constructed in the 1950s. The red brick is an extremely uncommon building material in Mexican churches. I liked the exterior, but the interior struck me as cold (which is maybe suitable for the town’s climate?).
At an elevation of over 2,000 meters (about 6,750 feet), Tapalpa has a reputation for being cold. In fact, the day before our trip, someone on Facebook had posted photos of snow on the ground! Fortunately, we didn’t run into snow, but it was cool during the day and quite chilly at night. If you know me, you know I enjoy cool weather, but Luis didn’t like it as much as I did.
Back at our hotel, we got settled in our room, which was small but lovely. Taco quickly found her spot in the sun out on our tiny balcony, but we didn’t let her linger. We were ready for lunch. So we set out once again and found a nice spot in an arcade overlooking the plaza. We enjoyed watching the parade of people and vehicles.
There wasn’t much to see and do, but we didn’t mind at all. We visited a few shops and marveled at all the street vendors with their huge variety of food and drink options. Eventually we went back to our hotel to relax.
Since we didn’t have lunch until relatively late, we weren’t hungry for dinner until well after dark. We looked for a restaurant, but it seemed everything either was full or didn’t allow pets. Not to worry: street vendors were ubiquitous, selling all kinds of food and drink. We had to pick the taco stand with the longest line, figuring those were the best tacos. It took nearly an hour to get our food, and it was worth the wait: the tacos were fabulous! We sat on a bench in the plaza and chowed down.
The culinary highlight, for me at least, was the atole I got from another street stand. This was something new to me, something I never would have tried except for Luis’s encouragement. Here’s how Wikipedia describes atole:
Atole is made by toasting masa on a comal (griddle), then adding water that was boiled with cinnamon sticks. The resulting blends vary in texture, ranging from a porridge to a very thin, liquid consistency. Atole can also be prepared with rice, wheat, or oatmeal in place of masa.… It is usually sold as street food.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atole
They had a few different flavors, but I went with cajeta (or dulce de leche). I’ve been craving it ever since. It is the perfect beverage for a chilly evening.
The next morning we were awake early, and the hotel breakfast was not yet ready, so we took one final walk around the town. After breakfast (a nice buffet featuring chilaquiles), we packed up the car and checked out of our hotel to visit one of the attractions we’d read about a short drive away.
Valle de los Enigmas is a bunch of big rocks called Las Piedrotas (literally “The Stones”). No one knows how they got there. They are big, but Luis and I weren’t especially impressed. They have a zip line from one group of rocks across the valley to another group of rocks. We didn’t do it. We didn’t stay very long.
I heard Sayula is a nice town. It was just a twenty-minute detour on our drive home, so we decided to check it out.
There’s a nice plaza with a nice church, a mercado and some other shops. We wandered around for a while before heading home. We were going to eat lunch there, but nothing struck our fancy.
Since the route over the boring flat lake beds is also a toll road, we decided to drive on the free route, hoping to find a town with some lunch options. We didn’t, and by the time we were back to Lakeside, we were hangry. So we stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at Viva México, a place I really like in San Juan Cósala.
It was a really pleasant weekend, and perhaps worth another visit during the hot season in May.