All Other Destinations and Attractions in Mexico
The small Otomí Indian town of Actopan lies north of Mexico City. Its convent is a supreme example of the fortified ecclesiastical architecture typical of 16th c. New Spain.
San Miguel Arcangel, Ixmiquilpan
Ixmiquilpan (1750 m (5743 ft); population: 60,000; market day: Monday), is about 45km/28mi north-west of Actopan, was the Otomí Indian capital in pre-Columbian times. It has an interesting Augustinian convent dating from between 1550 and 1554, built, like the convent at Actopán, by Pater Andrés de Mata. The church, dedicated to San Miguel Arcángel (the Archangel Michael), has a lovely façade in the Plateresque variant of the Renaissance style, with Corinthian columns and a panel-embellished border around the arch. Some unusual frescos, presumed to be by an Indian artist, were discovered in the church and convent building in 1960. They depict scenes of battle between Indian warriors and figures from Classical mythology. Also worth seeing are the church of El Carmen, which has a Churrigueresqui façade and Baroque retablo, and two bridges dating from the colonial period. Local handicrafts include miniature musical instruments, decorated mirrors and combs and embroidered blouses and bags.There are several thermal baths in the near vicinity, including one at Tzindijeh, 2km/1.3mi from Tasquillo.
About 40km/25mi along the MEX 85 to the north-west of Ixmiquilpan lies the old mining town of Zimapán (1950 m (6400 ft)); population: 8000; fiestas: June 24th, San Juan Bautista; market days: Saturday and Sunday). It has an interesting 17th c. parish church with Baroque façade and Neo-Classical retablo.After Zimapán, MEX 85 continues northwards through delightful mountain scenery to Tamazunchale.
Barranca de Tonaltongo
Barranca de Tonaltongo, a picturesque gorge with attractive waterfalls and rich subtropical vegetation, is located some 45km/28mi to the north-east of Actopan.
At Divisadero (2250 m (7384 ft)) the train stops for quarter of an hour to enable photographs to be taken. Situated on the watershed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans it affords particularly spectacular views of the grandiose scenery of the del Cobre, Urique and Tararécura gorges.The children from the village of Cerocahui (12km/7.5mi from Bahuichivo railway station; population: 600; courtesy bus for hotel guests) still have lessons in the old Jesuit mission school dating from the late 17th c.Beyond Bahuichivo the line begins its zigzag descent to the Pacific coast.
Beyond Francisco Villa MEX 186 continues west for another 60km/37mi to Xpuhil (Mayan: "place of the cattails"), just a short distance
over the border into Campeche. The archaeological zone is on the right, not far from the road. The excavations have been identified as Mayan Late Classic (ad 800-900) though Xpuhil and other neighbouring sites are thought to have been occupied from much earlier. The principal building is a palace-like structure embellished with three towers, - one each end and the third, slightly set back, in the centre - all of which are purely decorative and otherwise functionless. The general design simulates that of the temple pyramids at Petén (Guatemala), but at Xpuhil the towers are solid and the steps too narrow and steep to climb. Originally, monster masks, probably stylised representations of cats, would have decorated the façades above the doorways (bits of masks can still be seen on the lateral towers of the palace-like structure today). This distinctive combination of "false" towers and façades decorated in a similar manner to the Chenes culture, is known as the Río Bec style.There is another large Mayan archaeological site about 15km/9.3mi away at Hormiguero, accessible from Xpuhil by bus (or even on foot).
More Mayan ruins in the Río Bec style are found at Becán (Mayan "moat"), only 4km/2.5mi further down MEX 186 past Xpuhil on the right
, again not far from the road. They include palaces with the typical "false" (in this case, twin) towers, a pyramid with a temple, altars and a ball court. The site was enclosed within a man-made moat or ditch, begun in the Classic period but never completed.Structures I-IV, dating for the most part from the final phase of building (ad 550-830) stand grouped around the first plaza. Structure IV (north side) with its huge external staircase is perhaps the most interesting on the site. Some relief sculptures still survive intact on the south facing walls of the upper building. On the north side are several chambers and terraces, their numerous doorways framed with decorative stonework.The twin towered Structure VIII on the south side of the adjacent Central Plaza has a small entrance leading into several interconnecting rooms. Structure IX on the north side, still to be excavated, is Becán's tallest, rising some 32 m (105 ft) into the air. The great majority of the many buildings on the site are still wholly or partially hidden beneath a blanket of subtropical vegetation.
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Entrance fee in MXN: Adult $13.00
2km/1.3mi further along the MEX 186 highway is a turn off leading to the Chicanná (Mayan: "house of the serpent jaw") archaeological zone, about five minutes' drive from the road. The site comprises several buildings scattered over a wide area. Many of the ornately embellished faáades are either well preserved or recently restored, making Chicanná especially suitable for studying the Río Bec style. The remarkable Structure II, erected between ad 750 and 770, on the east side of the main plaza features a very characteristic monster mask dominating the façade, its open jaws framing the doorway. Equally typically, the entire central façade (i.e. including the lower part right down to the level of the terrace), is decorated with stylised motifs. Note also the stacked masks of the prominently-nosed Rain god Chac on the corners of the temple. Other buildings on the site sport the again typical, purely decorative, lateral towers.
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Entrance fee in MXN: Adult $10.00
The little town of Creel (2345 m (7700 ft); population: 25,000) makes its living from the timber industry. Creel makes a good base for exploring not just the immediate vicinity but further afield as well (though these longer excursions will require extra time). Cuzárare, 21km/13mi to the south, boasts an interesting 18th c. Jesuit mission church decorated with Indian paintings.Other attractions near by include Indian cave paintings and a delightful waterfall which can be reached either on foot or by 4-wheel drive vehicle. Worthwhile detours can be made to Basíhuare and Humira (52km/32mi) and the mining town of La Bufa, as well as to Batopilas and the San Ignacio mission. Rocheáchic, Norogáchic and Guachóchic are among Tarahumara settlements in the area.
Casa de las Artesanías del Estado de Chihuahua
This museum features exhibits on the local tribes and their customs.
Address: Gobierno del Estado, Secretaría de Desarrollo Cultural y Turismo, Avenida Juárez 705, Chihuahua, Chihuahua 31000, Mexico
Opening hours: 9am-1pm, 3pm-7pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee in MXN: Adult $5.00