Complete travel guide to Patzcuaro, Mexico

Founded in 1320, the town of Patzcuaro, Mexico is best known for its Day of the Dead celebrations but it’s also a fascinating year-round destination thanks to its indigenous Purepecha and Tarasco traditions, colonial architecture and the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, an important pilgrimage site. It’s also growing in popularity as a retirement destination (and shopping mecca) for  expats. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a trip to Patzcuaro on Day of the Dead or any other time of the year:

Mailbox in Patzcuaro, Mexico

Mailbox in Patzcuaro, Mexico decorated for Day of the Dead

When to Visit: Semana Santa (Easter Week), Christmas  and  Day of the Dead (October 29-Nov. 2) are peak times for visitors. Get the full Semana Santa schedule or Day of the Dead line-up of activities at the official Visit Michoacan: The Soul of Mexico website. Although you can sometimes find  last-minute accommodation (like Colleen Friesen and I did), you should begin making hotel bookings six months in advance if you want to get your hotel of choice.

The historic Hotel de San Antonio

The historic Hotel Meson de San Antonio

Where to Stay: You really can’t go wrong with the Hotel Meson de San Antonio. Located in the heart of the colonial centre on Benigno  Serrato (the same street as the Day of the Dead flower market), it is just steps to the Basilica and the popular La Lupita restaurant and a short walk to the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga. Due to its location on the historic Camino Real, the hacienda-style inn was formerly a stop for mule drivers and has retained its lovely courtyard ( the largest in Patzcuaro), fireplaces and architectural traditions. Rates for two are under $80 a night and include a modest continental breakfast.

Day of the Dead sugar candies

Day of the Dead sugar candies

How to Get to Patzcuaro: If you’re arriving at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, book a flat-rate taxi to the long-distance bus station Camionera Poniente de Observatorio from one of the kiosks in the airport arrivals area. They are safe, secure and fast (Nueva Imagen offers reservations at 5716-16-16 but you really don’t need a reservation). Count on 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic) to get to the bus station.

Once at Camionera Poniente de Observatorio, book a bus to Patzcuaro on the ETN or La Linea bus line. The first-class bus lines are very comfortable, offering movies, snacks and washrooms onboard. The cost is 409 pesos per person. The bus will make a brief stop at the bus station in Morelia and the trip takes about 5 hours.

Tarascan Soup

Spicy Tarascan soup

Where to eat: Explore the daily market set up at  La Plaza Chica every day from  8:30 am to 5 pm  and be sure to try Michoacan ice-cream, the local Tarascan soup and corundas (pyramid-shaped tamales). A popular spot for lunch, dinner and cocktails is Lupita restaurant ( on Calle Buena Vista near the cathedral) featuring  live music, original art and local cuisine.

Fishermen on Lago de Patzcuaro

Fishermen on Lago de Patzcuaro

What to see: Don’t miss  Tzintzuntzan with its straw crafts, ceramics and atmospheric Ex-Convento de San Francisco and  the Purepecha ruins  of Las Yacatas. It is also the spot to be for Dia de Muertos.  In town, make a visit to the Virgin, Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Our Lady of Good Health), where she is said to perform miracles. The island of Janitzio and the village of Santa Fe de la Laguna are  also worthy day trips. Plan on a minimum of five days for your visit.

If you are going for Day of the Dead, be sure to arrive for October 30th, when the Artisan Market begins. Vendors arrive from all over Mexico to set up their stalls filled with religious icons, reed weavings, embroidery crafts and fantastical Ocumicho ceramic sculpture. This is a top shopping spot for residents of San Miguel de Allende and dealers so go early to get the best selection.

What to Wear: Be sure to pack sturdy shoes, a rain jacket and a warm jacket  if you’re going for Day of the Dead. The high altitude brings fog and chill so you’ll be happiest with lots of layers ( and a room with a fireplace). A flashlight will be handy for Day of the dead where you’re literally be tripping through graveyards in the middle  of the night. .

If You  Go

Michoacan Tourism Board 01-800-450-2300

Pueblos Magicos of Mexico

 

 

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Showing 19 comments
  • Lesley Peterson
    Reply

    Really useful tips! And gorgeous photos. I’d like to book into the Hotel Meson for about a month. The overflowing garden planters are enchanting.

  • esperanza
    Reply

    Patzcuaro looks like the place to see authentic crafts and age-old celebrations like Semana Santa, walk in the rain to celebrte the Day of the Dead and then retire to the lovely hotel Meson de San Antonio to warm up by a cozy fireplace!

  • Sand In My Suitcase
    Reply

    Just came across your article on Patzcuaro – we’re planning to visit the town when in Morelia on an upcoming visit of some of Mexico’s colonial towns. Trying to decide whether to do it as a daytrip from Morelia, or to overnight in Patzcuaro. Either way, we’re excited… Thx for the post!

    • Michele
      Reply

      Thanks for stopping by! The villages that circle Lake Patzcuaro and the island of Janitizio make it really worthwhile to stay in Patzcuaro. It’s a very walkable, atmospheric and economical town. I’m looking forward to hearing about your visits to Mexico’s colonial towns.

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply

    Like always, your posts are filled with highly practical and interesting advice. The crafts here look amazing!

  • noel
    Reply

    Looks like an interesting place to visit – I would so love to enjoy this on their special event, it must be quite colorful!

  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    Reply

    I feel like we could easily get along doing exactly what you suggested, though we’ve not planned a visit to Mexico in the near future. This is a great lot of helpful detail. Lovely photos. The hotel looks especially inviting.

  • Juergen
    Reply

    Another option is to visit by RV; there is one campground at the edge of town which doesn’t let Mexicans in, so you can almost always get a space for an RV and it’s relatively quiet. It only takes a short collectivo ride into the center of town…

  • Michelle
    Reply

    Looks like a very interesting and beautiful destination. I would like to explore this area of Mexico. Your photos are amazing!

  • Michelle da Silva Richmond
    Reply

    Your post makes me realize just how much I miss living in Mexico! Thanks for the memories..!

  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    Reply

    It’s so fun to learn about other traditions and I love Mexico’s celebration of their deceased and beloved family members. One of my favorite things are the Catrina dolls and your photo of the them decorating the mailbox is great!

  • Marilyn Jones
    Reply

    Thank you so much for showing me a new destination to visit! I loved the sugar candies photo, and your photo of the fishermen is beautiful!!

  • Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it
    Reply

    I will be bookmarking this story for the great details you listed. The sugar candy shows a pretty side with out the black coloring sometimes used. I can’t help but wonder if the fishermen are catching very small fish since the nets are so huge. Beautiful photos capturing the ambience of this area.

  • Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it
    Reply

    I will be bookmarking this story for the great details you listed. The sugar candy shows a pretty side with out the black coloring sometimes used. I can’t help but wonder if the fishermen are catching very small fish since the nets are so huge. Beautiful photos capturing the ambience of this area.

  • Suzanne Fluhr
    Reply

    Your post, and particularly your evocative photos, brought back memories of the Day of the Dead celebrations in San Miguel de Allende when I was a child. We were invited to the cemetery by some Mexican friends. There was a disturbing amount of real bones lying about.

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    Thanks for the useful tips. Those Day of the Dead sugar cookies are certainly elaborate.

  • The Gypsynesters
    Reply

    Very interesting. We haven’t spent any time in the central part of Mexico, just the north, Baja, and the Yucatan. Hope we can see this someday.

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)
    Reply

    This makes me want to go to Mexico! Thank you for sharing!

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