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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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