One of the many things I love about Mexico is the little towns, practically all of which have names that take me a while to learn how to pronounce. Tepoztlán, located in the state of Morelos and less than an hour away from Mexico City, is one of them. Tepoztlán is not to be confused with another town called Tepotzotlán (I bet you looked twice to find the difference…). The name of Tepoztlán is a Nahuatl word and either means “place of abundant copper” or “place of the broken rocks” – I prefer the former, myself. Legend has it that this town is the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent god that was worshiped in ancient Mexico.
The small town is an appealing place to spend a day and it has a lot of charm. You don’t really have to do much other than just wander around taking in the cobblestone streets, the shops and market, the colonial architecture, the people, and the stone temple far up on a hill. However, I do suggest actually visiting some of these things and not just wander as if you’re in a sensory overload daze:
- Ex-Convento Domínico de la Natividad: Lying in the centre of town, this Dominican monastery was built in the mid to late 16th century. Poking around here is a great way to spend about an hour, seeing what details you can find in the form of carvings, frescoes, figures, and old bells. In random places around the monastery you can find indigenous symbols, celestial symbols, floral shapes, and the usual Roman Catholic symbols. In terms of structures, keep an eye out for the peaceful courtyard with its simple garden as well as the old bathroom where monks used to go potty. And don’t forget to find some windows and admire the hilly views.
- Seed Sign: Yep, there is a large mural made out of seeds. The mural stands at the monastery’s gates and is a really different but cool way to depict various aspects of pre-Hispanic history. Apparently, the mural changes every year as artists create a new one using many different varieties of seeds.
- Market: You won’t miss it as it is located in the main square of Tepoztlán. Here you can find all sorts of things, including fresh foodstuffs, incense, clothes, hammocks, arts and crafts, and random foods. Don’t miss your chance to have fresh honey or a roasted grasshopper!
- Food: Check out one of the several restaurants along the main street. I tried a little one that had no walls or door. My food was cooked, along with everyone else’s, on a big round iron structure called a comal. I had a blue corn tortilla (which looks grey rather than blue) stuffed full with Oaxacan white cheese. Queso Oaxacan is what you want, trust me. Though, if cheese really isn’t your thing (sacrilege), then you can get quesadillas stuffed with a plethora of other fillings – meats, veggies, chorizo, etc.
What I wished I knew before going:
- Go to Tepoztlán on a weekend day – there is supposed to be a fantastic weekend market with all sorts of unique handicrafts from across the entire country.
- Bring walking shoes and a hat – There is a temple that can be visited. Unfortunately, it is up a steep steep hill and if you don’t have proper shoes or plenty of time, you’ll have to give it a miss like I had to. If you do go up, even though the temple is to the Aztec god Tepoztecatl (god of pulque, an alcoholic drink), keep in mind that there won’t be a bevvy with a tiny umbrella in it waiting for you up at the top. So bring water!