“Deep in the heart of rural Mexico, you’ll find the Pueblos Mágicos, a select group of Mexican villages whose cultural, historical, or natural treasures have been deemed, well, magical. They transport travelers to a realm of colonial churches, surrealist gardens, virgin beaches, and mountaintop sanctuaries, far from the all-inclusive resorts and cheap fruity cocktails. This is the Mexico you’ve always wanted to discover.”- The Huffington Post, TRAVEL
With exciting patriotic festivities ahead–Mexico’s 205th Independence anniversary on September 16th–I got myself interested, and did some extensive research on the country that despite being my own, has still lots of unexplored territories just waiting for me to discover.
Little did I know, I found a list of 83 Pueblos Mágicos–or Magical Towns, as it translates to English. I knew of their existence, and was aware of one of them, located just a 30 min drive away from my house, and had visited three or four others, back when I was about 10 years old, but had no idea about the other 3/4 of magical destinations that were also part of this program.
What is the Program Pueblos Mágicos de México about?
The program was created by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Mexican Government to recognise the pieces of land that have managed to keep all the cultural, and historical riches they contain; making them genuine treasures of Mexico, and the places reaching travel wish lists of not only foreigners, but nationals as well.
Villa de Santiago belongs to this program, and lucky me, is just a half hour drive away from my house. I’ve been here countless times since I was a little girl, but it was not so long ago that I fell into such state of curiosity for this place. So I made a journey out of my wanderlust, and suddenly found myself with a task that would eventually lead me to a magical discovery.
Santiago, Nuevo León is nestled in the valley that forms between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra de la Silla, allowing incredible mountain views from the town, and making hiking, together with other scenic activities–like a visit to the amazing Cola de Caballo waterfalls–main attractions of the area.
Its architectural style is european; its church, colourful houses, restaurants, and main plaza will transport you to colonial times, and will make you forget about the mere definition and existence of the word: stress.
The church is located in the heart of the town, front to the main plaza which is surrounded by ice treat shops, restaurants–both traditional and international, and other cultural and traditional spots. Take a look at some of the snaps I got while being there!
But I’ve been saving my favourite for last. Santiago is a place to amaze at beautiful scenery, practice hiking, and to feel the true and unique Mexican vibe; but what is a true Mexican vibe without indulging in its world of gastronomic options?
The restaurant you mustn’t miss is Las Palomas de Santiago. For me this is a top-choice when visiting this traditional destination–I somehow manage to eat there every time I’m around–it mostly is the reason I go there in the first place. Las Palomas de Santiago is also a hotel, and has recently added extra terraces and dining areas that truly add up to make every stay there, a magical getaway.
Here’s a snap from the table setting before ordering our food. All salsas are made with fresh tomatoes, and spices from the land, and are just the perfect way to accompany a totopo, which is fried and crunchy tortilla. Almost every restaurant you visit in Mexico will have totopos, salsa, lemons, and salt ready in your table before you order your food. Perfect to start!
Now take a look at the terraces where you can sit for lunch, breakfast, or just to have some coffee and indulge in good conversation. Just lovely!
This artwork of Don Quijote De La Mancha is part of the decoration at the hotel/restaurant. How great is it to find pieces like this hanging on a wall outside of a museum?
Villa de Santiago is relaxing and inspiring, and is the setting of a true Pueblo Mágico. In the morning you wake up to the birds’ singing, and then get up to drink a delicious cup of coffee, and have a breakfast that’ll give colour to your daily routine.
You’ll go for a walk, and make conversation about art, history, and you’ll listen to stories of legends and sacred tradition. You’ll wander around, and marvel at the use of colours, at the paintings on the walls, and the traditional crafts that the locals offer for sale at the plaza; all original, handmade and unique.
And then…when the sun starts to set, you’ll experience the town in pink and gold tones, mixed with some orange and blue. All of these make Villa de Santiago a true Pueblo Mágico, and the perfect Mexican magical getaway.
…over to you!! Which Pueblos Mágicos have you visited?