During a weekend break in Mexico City this summer, I had the chance to visit the beautiful pueblo magico Tepotzotlán, about an hour outside of the city.
Lets just get one thing clear before we move on. I went to Tepotzotlán, not Tepoztlán. After my visit, this was a common exchange whilst telling friends about where I went:
‘Fuiste a Tepoztlán?’
‘No, fuimos a Tepotzotlán’
‘Mmmmm…..creo que quieres decir Tepoztlán…lo estas pronunciando mal’
No, I don’t mean Tepoztlán! I’m not being a silly extranjera struggling with the words. It seems the two places are commonly confused – they sound so surprisingly similar, they are both pueblo magicos near to Mexico City and they are both favourites for Mexico City residents to ‘dominguear’ , puebleando. (Yes, ‘to sunday’ and ‘to village visit’ are both verbs here! Life is sweet).
Tepotzotlán is towards the North of the Estado de Mexico and its really easy to get to. 40 kilometres North of Mexico City and 2300 meters above sea level, it feels like a million worlds away from the big city. The name of the town comes from Nahautl and means ‘place among humpbacks’ – referring to the shape of the surrounding hills and mountains but bringing to my mind ridiculous visions of a town full of Quasimodo-esque characters.
The town is picturesque; cobbled streets, lovely green parks, colourful houses, a lively market and imposing Jesuit 17th Century church.
As expected, when we visited on a sunny Sunday, the town was packed full of people enjoying the markets, food and music of this charming pueblo.
We had a wander around, ate some snacks and people-watched for a while.
The town was lovely, of course, but on our Sunday city-escape what we were really craving was to escape the crowds and find a bit of green. After some asking around we were told about the ‘arcos de sitio’ or the Aqueduct of Xalpa, an impressive aqueduct built by the Jesuits in the late 18th Century to take water to their schools in nearby Tepotzotlán.
The drive was only about 25km further along and that journey in itself gave us wonderful views over the fields of maize towards the far-away mountains.
Arriving at the Arcos de Sitio you immediately see what an impressive structure the aqueduct really is, divided into rows of majestic arches, hanging over the otherwise sparse landscape. It is 400 meters long and over 60 meters high and reminded me a lot of Ronda, in Andalucia.
There is an official route that you can walk, taking you along the aqueduct and up and around some of the surrounding area, dipping down into the rio de oro. However, as you can see in this next photo, whilst standing high up on the aqueduct we noticed a secret waterfall off in the other direction – and on that hot and sticky August day, it was calling us to try and find it loudly and insistently.
So, after clambering over a wall and walking down the steep slopes of the river we managed to make it to this tiny hideaway; pools of crystal clear and freezing water, huge boulders surrounded by cactus and breakthrough rock-flowers. We felt so far away from the families up on the aqueduct. One other family had made their way down to the waterfall and between us we shared that magic space for a while.
What a way to spend Sunday – sat feeling the cool of the water and with the warmth of the sun on our backs.
We tore ourselves away from the little waterfall eventually and climbed back up and over the wall to re-join the walking route. Over tarzan bridges and past baby goats, napping and snacking along the way, we had a lovely walk in the sunshine and enjoyed the stunning surroundings. It was a beautiful day. We arrived back in Mexico City at night, with that lovely feeling of a tired body and refreshed and relaxed mind, that sensation that is unique to the night after a day well spent outdoors.
Entry to the Arcos de Sitio costs 35 pesos and there is a camping area if you so wish to spend the night.
Special thanks to Alice and Claudio for this great day!