Sunday, December 8, 2013

January 2012 - Malinalco, a "Magic Town"

Beginning in 2001, the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism began the "Pueblo Mágico" ("Magic Town") program to highlight the fact that there is much more to tourism in Mexico than beach resorts.  Small towns throughout the country have been awarded the status of "Pueblo Mágico" for their scenic, cultural and historic qualities.

I have visited several "Pueblos Mágicos", and all have been worthwhile visits.  One of my favorites is the town of Malinalco, located a couple hours to the southwest of Mexico City.  My friend Alejandro and I visited it in January of 2012.

(image from the web)

Malinalco was inhabited by various native tribes prior to the Spanish Conquest.  In 1476 the area was conquered by the Mexicas (the tribe that we know as the Aztecs).  On a hill overlooking the town, the Mexicas built a ceremonial center.  The remains of this site can be visited by visitors today.  It involves a fairly strenuous climb up 426 steps to reach the ruins.

There are various structures in the archaeological site, but the star attraction is the House of Eagles.  This building, dating back to 1501, was built for ceremonial rites, including initiations, of the elite Eagle Warriors of the Mexica army.  What makes this structure so noteworthy is that it is carved out of the sheer rock of the hillside.  It is the only building like it in the Americas.

The remains of feline images stand to either side of the entrance.

Just within the ceremonial chamber is a carving of a serpent.

From the ruins there is an excellent view of the town of Malinalco and the surrounding mountains.

Malinalco is a very pleasant, picturesque town.  It has become a popular weekend getaway for wealthy families from Mexico City.  They have built homes here, and there is even a country club.  There are a number of small, fine hotels, restaurants and art galleries.  But because the drive from Mexico is still somewhat difficult on a winding 2 lane mountain road, development has not run amuck.  Malinalco still retains the charm of small town Mexico.

After the Spanish Conquest, the Augustinian order made Malinalco the center for the conversion of the natives in the region to Christianity.  Their church and monastery, built between 1540 and 1560, are the principal colonial monuments in the town.

The monastery is exceptional for the beautiful frescos painted by native artists.


  1. I knew almost nothing about this place until you mentioned it in my Cuernavaca post. I'll have to check it out - it looks cool!

    Thanks William!

    1. I hope you get there sometime. It really is a very special place... definitely lives up to it's designation as a "Magic Town"!