The Magical Village of Cuitzeo and the Monastery of Santa Maria Magdalena
On a gorgeous sunny morning my last full day in Mexico had begun. The last 12 twelve days had been an absolute whirlwind. After barely a full day in Guadalajara I had gone on my first weekend excursion to Guanajuato, a famous silver mining town in the mountains of the same state. Guanajuato is a popular tourist destination due to its history, picturesque colourful architecture and special status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After three days in this beautiful city I spent five days in and around Guadalajara, studying Spanish at the Guadalajara Language Center. I also went on several out-of-town excursions to Lake Chapala and the Tequila region.
Frida Kahlo immortalized on a façade in Tlaquepaque (Guadalaja)
During my second weekend in Mexico I had picked Morelia as my getaway destination, as it is renowned as one of Mexico’s most beautiful cities. With its more than 1100 heritage buildings that date from the 16th to the 19th century, it is a gorgeous destination and has also received UNESCO World Heritage status. I had thoroughly enjoyed the fire works that are launched from the cathedral every Saturday night. My driving tour yesterday got me exposed to so many fascinating places: the market town of Quiroga, Tzintzuntzan – the former capital of the Purepecha empire, Lake Pátzcuaro and the famous island of Janitizio.
Street scene in Janitzio
Today one more destination was waiting for me: the magical town of Cuitzeo which I was going to explore together with my expert local guide Rodrigo Muñoz who was going to pick me up at noon for our driving tour. This left me with a couple of hours after breakfast to take a final walk through Morelia and soak up a bit more of its colonial ambience.
The Colegio Primitivo y Nacional de San Nicolas de Hidalgo
From my convenient hotel, the Hotel Catedral, I only had to cross the road to arrive at Morelia’s Cathedral. The current cathedral, a successor to earlier churches in this area, was started in 1660 and consecrated in 1705. Its 60 metre high spires are the second highest in Mexico. This awe-inspiring building is surrounded by the Plaza de Armas which was originally laid out in the 16th century. A kiosk (or bandstand) graces this picturesque square which replaced a monument to Mexican independence hero José Maria Morelos who was born in this city.
Morelia has more than 1100 buildings that were built between the 16th and 19th century
I continued my walk in a westerly direction and went inside the courtyard of the Colegio Primitivo y Nacional de San Nicolas de Hidalgo. This is a preparatory school of the University of Michoacán, and dozens of students were gathering to chat and get ready for class. Steps away is an ornately designed former ex-convent that has been turned into the university’s library. I strolled around the corner to the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanías, the sweets and crafts market, where merchants were just opening up their stalls. Here you can find anything from traditional Mexican arts and crafts to religious products, shoes, jewellery, clothing and much more.
Catrinas for sale at the Mercado de Dulces y Artesanías
My stroll continued to Las Rosas Square, one of the most beautiful public gathering spaces in Morelia, with its treed canopy, patio cafes, its fountain and the statue of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Walking east I passed by another former convent, the Ex-convento del Carmen, where a large group of seniors was doing calisthenics. Every corner seemed to offer another serene glimpse at life in this historic city. The Templo de San José just minutes away anchors an attractive treed plaza with numerous benches that were being used by the locals.
The Ex-Convento del Carmen, another scenic spot in Morelia
On Morelia’s main street, Calle Francisco I. Madero, I admired the ornate façade of the Templo de las Monjas. I crossed the street and had a peek inside the Templo San Francisco. Strolling past a wide selection of retail stores I arrived at the former convent of San Agustín, Morelia’s oldest church that dates back to the 16th century.
San San Agustín, Morelia’s oldest church
By about 11:30 I was back in the hotel, packed my bags and was ready for my guide Rodrigo by noon time. He scooped me up in his car and we started driving northwards out of Morelia. Lake Cuitzeo is only about 30 km north of Morelia and the town of Cuitzeo is reached across a causeway that bisects a very shallow lake.