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Best Things To Do In Michoacán, Mexico

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Michoacan-Trave-Guide

Is It Worth To Visit Michoacán?

There are so many amazing things to do in Michoacán that visiting this state should be an essential stop on every traveler’s Mexican itinerary. Michoacán has it all; culture, food, handicrafts, hiking, and probably the cheapest avocados in the world! The tacos aren’t bad either 😋 With so many places to see in Michoacán we stayed for 3 weeks exploring all that we could.

Michoacán is also home to 8 Pueblo Magicos (Magical Towns), a status awarded to various towns in the country by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism for their natural beauty, cultural richness, cuisine, and arts.

In this post, we will write about all the diverse things to see and do in Michoacán and by the end of this post, we think you’ll be ready to come visit yourself.

Love to gorge on some of Mexico’s best tacos? Michoacán has you covered. Looking for gorgeous handmade artisan souvenirs for home? Michoacán’s got plenty of that. Need to stretch your legs and get up close to a volcano? You can do that, too, here!

With so many things to do in Michoacán, we’re about to share our full list below so that you can get the most out of your trip to this beautiful state.

Table Of Contents

Where is Michoacán?

Michoacán is a state in Mexico located in the center-west of the country. It is conveniently located between Mexico City and Guadalajara, making it easy to travel to Michoacán from either city.

Interestingly, the name Michoacán does not originate from Spanish, but from Nahuatl, meaning ‘Place of the Fisherman’, referring to those who used to (and still do!) fish on Lake Pátzcuaro.

Best Time To Visit Michoacan

August – February: Temperatures are temperate and reasonable. The Monarch butterflies will also be at the reserve after November.

March – July: Summer months can be sweltering, especially in Morelia, the state capital.

Best Things To Do In Michoacán

1. Gawk At Architecturally Rich Morelia: Michoacán’s Capital City

Unsurprisingly, this capital city is one of the best places to visit in Michoacán.

Founded in 1541 by the Spanish, the city of Morelia exhibits some of the best colonial-era architecture outside of Mexico city. In fact, the city was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage for its beautiful display of colonial architecture throughout the city.

There are so many things to see in this city but we condense some of our favorite things to do in Morelia.

Morelia Cathedral (Catedral de Morelia)

Mexico Road Trip Guide - Morelia Cathedral
Morelia-Cathedral-Interior

One of the largest and most intricately detailed Baroque-style Roman Catholic cathedrals we’ve ever been to. Stunning outside architecture, especially when the lights turn on in the evenings.

Right next to the central plaza, this church is hard to miss.

Morelia Aqueduct (Acueducto de Morelia)

Morelia - Michoacán Travel Guide

Completed in 1730, Morelia’s aqueduct was used to bring water to the city. Frequently falling into disrepair and restored again, the aqueduct was finally decommissions in 1910. But plenty of the aqueduct still remains for a pretty photo op.

Morelia University Library

University Library Morelia Mexico
Credit: Tim Tendick

Originally constructed to become a Jesuit Convent  in 1660, the building was redesignated to become the primary library for the University of Michoacán in 1930.

As you walk quietly through the main hall, look around at several of the awesome murals that are painted along the walls.

Santuario De Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe

This stunningly beautiful little church on the east side of the city might just be one of the most beautiful churches we’ve ever visited here in Mexico. Worth a visit to come out here and admire the walls and ceiling. Lunch (or coffee) at nearby ORIGO is also recommended.

2. Wander The Streets Of Picture Perfect Patzcuaro

Pátzcuaro-Michoacan-Mexico

Depending on who you ask, Pátzcuaro is one of the most beautiful and authentic Pueblo Magicos in all of Mexico. It’s no wonder visiting this magical town is one of the best things to do in Michoacán.

The town is the center of Purépecha culture and is also the market hub for many of the various smaller villages to sell their handcrafted goods. Visitors are able to purchase these handicrafts, such as baskets, copperware, and hand-made ukuleles, at all the various markets, stalls, and official stores all throughout town!

One of Pátzcuaro’s defining aspects is the town’s distinctive architectural style strictly adhered by almost every building and shop throughout the town.

This architecture and design consists of a single-story, white painted adobe house with a red stripe painted along the bottom.

Even the shop signs strictly follow Pátzcuaro’s strict design principles.

Some of the best things to do in Pátzcuaro include:

Walk Through Pátzcuaro’s Central Park / Plaza

Interestingly, Pátzcuaro’s central plaza is the second largest in all of Mexico, behind only the one in the nation’s capital. It is also one of the only central plazas without a church built along the perimeter.

Walk around the park. oogle the handicrafts, and settle down for a coffee at one of the many cafe’s surrounding the park.

Admire Pátzcuaro’s Three Historic Churches

During your walk around town, don’t miss these three historic churches.

1. Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Salud
Basilica-de-Nuestra-Señora-de-Salud-Interior
2. Iglesia de la Compañia
Iglesia-de-la-Compañia
3. Templo de el Sagrario

Awesome murals, creaky wooden floors, and centuries of history. The arches of the Temple of Sagrario is a popular photo op location.

Arts & Crafts Shopping At The House Of 11 Patios (Casa De Once Patios)

Arts-&-Crafts-Shopping-At-Casa-de-los-Once-Patios

Originally built as a convent around 1743, the structure is now a wonderful property to stroll and peruse some of the finest artisanal arts and crafts in Michoacán. Wonderful woven rugs, garments, and copper-ware line the stores throughout the perimeter of the building.

3. Day Trip To Janitzio Island

Janitzio-Island

The island of Janitzio provides a wonderful day trip from Pátzcuaro.

The largest of five islands on Lake Pátzcuaro, Janitzio is home to people of indigenous decent, known as the Purépecha.

Though the island is now an established tourist attraction, a trip to Janitzio provides visitors with the opportunity to watch the butterfly fishermen in action as they fish for the Pescado Blanco on Lake Pátzcuaro and to watch The Dance of The Old Men.

To get to the island, you must catch a boat from the pier, on the south side of Lake Pátzcuaro.

The top 3 sights on Janitzio Island, Michoacán include:

1. Enjoy The Boat Ride & Fishermen

Janitzio Island Boat Trip Michoacan Mexico

Just taking the long motorboat to Janitzio Island is itself a highlight of the trip. Pack in with the many other domestic tourists, feel the beat of the Mexican beat blasting through the speakers, and feel the breeze  blowing through your hair.

Just before arriving at the island, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the butterfly fishermen working their craft on the waters of Pátzcuaro Lake.

2. Scramble Up The Lighthouse / Museum

José-María-Morelos-Statue Mexico

Standing tall in the middle of Janitzio Island is a 40ft statue of José María Morelos. You can enter the museum at the top of the hill and climb inside the statue to the top and peer out the windows for 360 degree views all around the lake.

As you climb up the statue, there are fascinating murals depicting the history of the Mexican resistance to Spanish colonization.

3. Catch An Impromptu Show Of Dancing “Old Men”

Viejitos_Old-Men-Dance

Catch the Viejitos (“Old Men”) as they dance, and clack their wooden clogs on the stone ground in unison, for tourists all throughout the island.

There are a number of theories as to the origin of the Old Man’s dance, but the earliest theory is that the dance from pre-Hispanic times when the indigenous Purepecha people would dance as part of a ritual to the God of fire.

How To Get To Janitzio Island

Janitzio Island is best visited as a day trip from Pátzcuaro. Most northbound public minibuses (called Colectivos) head to the port where you can then catch a boat ride to visit the island.

4. Shop For Copper Souvenirs In Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán

Michoacan Travel Guide - Santa Clara del Cobre

A stop at Santa Clara del Cobre is a must for anyone who loves to peruse local handicrafts.

One of Michoacán’s eight Pueblo Magicos, Santa Clara del Cobre’s claim to fame is their copper craftsmanship, which has been worked on and mastered since the pre-Hispanic times.

Over 80% of the town is employed in the copper trade. And when you stand in the town center, you’re instantly surrounded by shops selling every possible product you could think of, all made from copper.

From copper bowls, cups, and sinks, to earrings and clocks and chess sets! If you cannot find what you’re looking for here in Santa Clara del Cobre, it probably doesn’t exist in this world.

Stroll around the central plaza of Santa Clara and you’ll find a number of small kiosks selling copper trinkets and cookware.

Where To Shop For High Quality Copper Products

Mexico Shopping Guide - Copper Coffee Pot and Cups

For higher quality products (and higher prices), several prestigious workshops are located on the roads just off the central plaza. We shopped at and loved the Turkish coffee pot and cups that we purchased from there.

How To Get To Santa Clara del Cobre

From Pátzcuaro, cheap collectivos run from an informal bus station in the south side of the town all the way to Santa Clara del Cobre.

5. Hike Up Paricutín Volcano

Mexico-Travel-Guide---Best-Adventures---Volcan-Paricutin

For nature lovers and those who need to get in a good hike, a visit to Volcán Parícutin and the surrounding ruins is absolutely worth the trip.

Parícutin is a relatively new cinder cone volcano that erupted in 1943, but has since been classified as an extinct volcano.

Though the top of the volcano sits at 2800m above sea level, the total height of Paricutin is only just taller than 400m. Meaning that a hike from the volcano’s base to the volcano’s summit can be accomplished in just under an hour.

Though it would take over a year to do so, the lava from the erupted volcano finally engulfed two nearby villages.

All that remains today are the ruins of the San Juan Parangaricutiro church. Amazingly the church tower and altar remain largely untouched by the passing lava, which has since cooled into lava rock.

How To Get To Paricutín Volcano

Parícutin Volcano is easiest to navigate with your own vehicle but possible with public transportation.

With public transportation, take the bus to Uruapan, Michoacán’s second largest city and transfer to Angahuan.

From Angahuan, you can hike towards the volcano or hire a guide from the town.

6. Feast On Delicious Carnitas Tacos In Quiroga, Michoacán

Best Mexican Food - Carnitas

Carnitas is what puts Michocán on the list of best places to eat in Mexico. This slow-cooked pork is a staple and the pride of Michoacán.

Although you can easily find restaurants and food stalls in Michoacán specializing in carnitas tacos, the best place to go is the carnitas food stall market in Quiroga, a town just 40km west of the state capital, Morelia.

7. Barranca del Cupatitzio National Park In Uruapan

If you are in Uruapan, Michoacán’s second largest city, visiting the National Park of Uruapan provides a wonderful respite from the scorching sun and urban chaos.

The national park is located in the northeast part of Uruapan and encases the Cupatitzio River, which rushes through the park and cascades down in multiple small waterfalls.

What makes the waterfalls of Barranca del Cupatitzio so unique is that most of these waterfalls are man-made. And because they are man-made, each of the many waterfalls we encountered on our visit were different.

8. Visit Millions Of Butterflies At The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Monarch-Butterfly-Sanctuary-Michoacan-Mexico

Absolutely one of the most UNIQUE things to do in Michoacán!

If you happen to be in Michoacán between November and early March, a stop by the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is a must. In the fall, millions of Monarch butterflies travel from all across the USA and Canada and settle in this National Reserve until spring.

There are several butterfly sanctuaries within the entire reserve and each has their own entry fee and tourist services.

Monarch-Butterfly-Sanctuary-Michoacan

Important Tip: Walking to see the butterflies is best done during the warmest part of the day. Go too early or too late and the butterflies will be keeping warm on the trees, bunched together. But in the heat of the day they disperse into the air, millions of them scattered all over the forest. Some may even land on you!

Best Places To Eat In Michoacán

1. Carnitas Tacos At Plaza Don Vasco In Quiroga, Michoacán

Location: There is a large carnitas food stall market located on the southern end of Plaza Don Vasco in Quiroga, Michoacán.

Carnitas is the pride of Michoacán. An entire pig is slow-cooked to perfection and then diced up, spread over a warm tortilla, and sprinkled with diced onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.

For the best carnitas in Michoacán, head over to Quiroga for lunch, a town just east of Morelia and easy to get there by public transportation.

Just south of the main square, the street is lined with carnitas vendors aggressively pushing their own family carnitas recipes. Take your choice!

2. Birrieria Don Prisci

Best Mexican Food - Tacos 2

Location: If you are up for greasy meat taquitos, this is the place to be! 

3. Menudo at a Menudo Market In Pátzcuaro

Mexico Food - Menudo 2

Location: Southwest corner of the Plaza de San Francisco in Pátzcuaro

Not for the faint of heart, ‘Menudo’ (or Pancita) is a stew primarily featuring the stomach lining of a cow, or “tripe”. We like our menudo with a healthy amount of diced onions and lime juice, which helps to cover the taste.

In Pátzcuaro the best menudo we ate was in a small food market specializing in Menudo located on the southwest corner of the Plaza de San Francisco. This plaza is just 200m west of the main plaza in Pátzcuaro.

Fun fact: Menudo is known as a hangover cure, so it is often served in the mornings on the weekends.

Where To Sleep In Michoacán

Sleeping In Morelia

Best Budget: Hostal San Fransiskuni – Great views from the hostel rooftop and clean, high-quality bunk beds for those on a budget. Located in Morelia’s historic center. Great deal for those on a budget.

Best Mid-Range: NaNa Vida Hotel Morelia Beautiful tilework all throughout this stunning hotel. Perfect location right in the city center.

Best Splurge: Hotel De La Soledad The hotel of choice if you want to stay within Morelia’s historic center. Beautiful stone work, lovely garden and restaurant, and the best hot water showers we’ve had in Mexico. We stayed here for 3 days as a Christmas holiday treat.

Sleeping In Pátzcuaro

Best Budget: Villa Pátzcuaro Hotel & RV Park – Simple hotel, but clean and peaceful. Located 3km south of town, but easy access to the town center with frequent public transportation. Large grassy area, swimming pool, and perfect for those with their own vehicles.

Best Mid-Range: Hotel Casa Del Naranjo – Another gorgeous hotel just off the main plaza/park. We had lunch in the hotel restaurant and loved the interior design.

Best Splurge: Casa De La Real Aduana Boutique Hotel – This fantastic boutique hotel is set in a stunning 16th century colonial manor right in the center of town. Each room is beautifully decorated with artisanal products from all throughout Michoacán. Gorgeous and peaceful courtyard garden.

Sleeping In Uruapan

Best Budget: Hotel Mi Solar Ejecutivo – A no-frills hotel right in the middle of the city’s historic center. 

Best Mid-Range: Hotel Plaza Uruapan – Located right in the main historic center of Uruapan. Rooms are clean and the hotel has a sizable gym. There is also a steam room for guests.

Best Splurge: Mansion Del Cupatitzio – Beautiful swimming pool and large courtyard for hanging out. Located on the northern end of Urupan’s famous Cupatitzio National Park

Top Tips When Visiting Michoacán

1. Use Pátzcuaro As Your Basecamp

Pátzcuaro is perfectly situated to visit multiple spots in Michoacán as day trips. The towns of Santa Clara del Cobre, Janitzio Island, and Tzintzuntzan are all easily reached in less than an hour of travel.

2. Grab A Coffee In Hotel De La Soledad

We stayed at the flashy Hotel De La Soledad for 3 days during the Christmas holidays. It was a fantastic experience and the hotel is beautiful. But for those on a budget, you can still experience the hotel by ordering a drink in the hotel restaurant and admiring the amazingly lush courtyard, decorated all around with stained glass artwork.

3. Pick Up A Few Avocado Beers In Uruapan

Uruapan is the self-proclaimed “Avocado Capital Of The World”. There is literally a sign that says this in Uruapan. So it’s only fitting that some entrepreneurial soul here managed to brew several Avocado beers. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but we definitely enjoyed them!

4. Sample Around The Quiroga Carnitas Food Stall Market

We loved the carnitas at the food stall market in Quiroa, Michoacán, but each food stall has their own way of cooking this beloved pork dish. Each food stall will happily offer you samples of their dish so you can sample all the different carnita styles until you’re ready to pick one for your actual meal.

5. Explore Morelia In The Evenings

Morelia_Colonial-Artitecture

Not only is Morelia the capital of Michoacán, but it’s also the colornial architecture capital of the state. During your visit to this state, don’t forget to wander around the central plaza (Plaza De Armas) and the Morelia Cathedral in the evenings. The city is beautifully lit at night to showcase its architectural beauty.

History of Michoacán

During the pre-Hispanic colonization before the 15th century, Michoacán was largely occupied by the Purépecha, an indigenous group primarily living around the Lake Pátzcuaro region. Over the centuries grew their civilization to rival that of the nearby Aztecs.

But once the Spaniards arrived in the early 1500s, the Purépechan state, then renamed to Michoacán, was incorporated into the greater ‘Kingdom of Mexico’. In the beginning, Michoacán’s capital was established in Tzintzuntzan, which was itself a former capital of the pre-colonial state of Tarascán. But Michoacán’s capital would later move to Pátzcuaro and finally to Morelia in 1580.

Did you know? : Morelia’s original name was Valladolid. It wasn’t until after Mexico gained its independence from Spain that the name was changed to Morelia in 1825, in honor of José María Morelos, who was a native of the region.

Once Michoacán fell under Spanish control, the different Christian sects arrived in Morelia and the countryside to erect monasteries, churches, and universities. Some of the most famous religious buildings in Michoacán include the Morelia Cathedral and the Michoacán University library in Morelia.

During Spanish rule, all major economic activities, education, and land rights were held by the Spanish-born rulers and their descendents. Much of the local indigenous population were exploited for work, and many were even enslaved.

Michoacán would remain under Spanish rule until the Mexican War Of Independence in 1821. In 1824, Michoacán would declare themselves the “Free and Sovereign State of Michoacán”.

FAQ - Visiting Michoacán

1. Is Visiting Michoacán Safe?

By and large, Michoacán is a very safe and friendly state. During our 3 weeks traveling all throughout Michoacán, we never encountered a single time where we felt unsafe or had anything happen to us.

However, our experiences should not be taken for granted and it’s worth noting that Michoacán is home to several cartels, namely the violent groups that control the huge avocado business in the state.

But these cartels don’t target foreigners who stay on the tourism trail and don’t venture into the unknown countryside. Most cartel activity is relegated to region near the coastline. If you stay in the inland part of Michoacán you will be ok.

2. Is Michoacán Expensive?

We found Michoacán to be very reasonable in terms of cost. Unlike other states in Mexico, Michoacán is relatively under visited by tourists and prices reflect that.

We’ve eaten at fantastic places in Morelia, Patzcuaro, and Uruapan without paying too much. Even our 3-day at the famous Hotel De La Soledad was reasonably priced.

3. What Are The Important Festivals in Michoacán?

Día De Los Muertos: One of the best Días de los Muertos celebrations takes place in Pátzcuaro. It is one of the few places in Mexico where this popular celebration is still celebrated like in the old days. If you plan to attend, make your hotel bookings well in advance.

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