How to get thereFrom Mexico City by rail along a beautiful country route in approximately 12 hours; by bus and by car on the MEX 15 about 350km/217mi via Morelia.Lago de Pátzcuaro (Pátzcuaro Lake) has a length of 19km/12mi, an average width of almost 5km/3mi and lies at a height of 2050 m (6725 ft).The lake is surrounded by forested mountains and extinct volcanoes and contains a string of islands, of which Janitzio, Jarácuaro, Tecuén, Yunuén and Pacanda are the most important. Numerous picturesque Indio villages, which have managed to retain to a great extent their old way of life, are situated along the banks and in the surrounding area. Its location and surroundings make Lago de Pátzcuaro one of Mexico's most popular tourist attractions which can sometimes lead to overcrowding. Pollution, however, has also affected the lake detrimentally during recent years.
The pretty Tarascan village of Erongaricuaro (Purépecha: "viewing tower of the lake") lies on the west side of the lake about 18km/11mi from Pátzcuaro. During the Second World War a group of French Surrealists lived in the village.
Janitzio Island, Mexico
From Pátzcuaro town centre it is 4km/2.5mi to Kai (Muelle). Boats can be rented here for trips to the various islands. On and around the lake are some thirty attractive Indian villages. Their inhabitants live predominantly by fishing, mainly using boats hollowed out of tree trunks and a variety of nets to catch delicate whitefish (pescado blanco) as well as various types of perch and trout. The famous "butterfly nets" (Uiripu) are now only used for the benefit of tourists.Tecuén is the most beautiful island in Lake Pátzcuaro. Janitzio, reached by boat in half an hour, is the most important but most crowded. The picturesque fishing village of Janitzio, with its narrow winding alleyways and tile-roofed houses, is dominated by a grandiose memorial to the Mexican hero of independence José María Morelos. Steps inside the monument lead up to the head of the statue from where a marvellous panoramic view of the lake can be enjoyed. On the walls of the staircase are frescos depicting scenes from the life of Morelos by Ramón Alva de Canal.
Janitzio - All Souls' Day Festival
Janitzio is also famed for its All Souls' Day Festival (Spanish: "Dia de los Muertos"; Tarascan "Animecha-Kejtzitakua" = "gifts for the dead"). This very lively celebration takes place on the night of November 1st-2nd and combines Catholic and pagan elements into a particularly impressive religious form. On the morning of October 31st the ceremonial Wild Duck Hunt (Kuirisi-ataku) is held on the lake. Heavy spears (Atlatl) approximately 2.5 m (8 ft) in length, are hurled at the ducks.
Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico
20km/12.4mi south of Pátzcuaro is Villa Escalante or Santa Clara del Cobre (2140 m (1330 ft); population 30,000; fiesta August 15th, Assumption and copperware fair). This little old Tarascan town is widely known for its beautiful beaten copperware. This craft had been well-developed in the pre-Spanish period and was then promoted and encouraged in the 16th c. by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga. The craft museum documents this development.
National Museum of Copper
The National Museum of Copper displays a variety of copper objects.
Quiroga (1996 m (6551 ft); population 25,000) is situated on the northern side of the lake, approximately 25km/16mi north of Pátzcuaro and 8km/5mi from Tzintzuntzan. It boasts a 16th c. Franciscan convent and is well-known as a sales centre for the folk art of the region.
A road leads west from Villa Escalante for 11km/7mi to the beautiful Lake Zirahuén (Purépecha: "Tzirahuén" = where it steams), more than 4km/2.5mi long.
Church of Santiago Apostol, Tupatero
15km/9.3mi from Pátzcuaro in the direction of Tiripetío and Morelia, a right-hand turning to Guanajo leads in 4km/2.5mi to the village of Tupátero. Here visitors to the modest adobe Church of Santiago Apóstol are surprised by the altar dedicated to St Jacob and a remarkable Mudéjar-style vault. This is embellished with unique wood carvings which impressively depict the life of Christ and the Madonna as described to the Indians in the 16th c. by missionaries. Comparable religious paintings were found in two churches near Cuzco in Peru.
The small lakeside resort of Chupícuaro is reached by following the MEX 15 towards Guadalajara for a few km/mi. The town of Zacapu (Purépecha: "stone square"; 1980 m (6498 ft); population 80,000) lies 40km/25mi from Quiroga. It is believed that during the 12th or 13th c. it was the first capital of the Tarascans (Purépechas). The 18th c. convent church has a Plateresque façade with Mudéjar elements. Near the town are several excavation sites (Malpais and La Iglesia) in which a large number of tombs were found.