Mexico is of course a memorable destination, but not many may know that it’s a magical one as well.
The word magic isn’t being used as hyperbole here; the Mexican government has created a special designation for “Pueblos Mágicos,” that goes beyond just a mystical or supernatural quality. These towns are recognized for their cultural, historical, and symbolic significance, as well as their exceptional beauty and unique identity.
In order to receive the official designation as a “Pueblo Mágico” (Magical Town) by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism (SECTUR), qualifying towns must meet a series of criteria that evolve and change over time, magically some may even say. We’ve rounded up the parameters a town must meet to be considered magical here:
To be considered magical, a town should possess a rich cultural heritage and traditions, reflected in its festivals, arts, crafts, cuisine, folklore, and historical significance.
The town should boast the presence of historical sites, landmarks, architecture, or ancient ruins that showcase the town’s history and contribute to its cultural value in order to be considered for magical designation.
The town should be located in an area with exceptional natural beauty, such as stunning landscapes, unique geological features, or significant biodiversity, as nothing is more magical than nature.
The town and its administration should be able to demonstrate their commitment to preserving and promoting its cultural heritage, traditions, and environment to preserve the magic within.
The town and its residents should show active involvement and participation in their local community, by maintaining cultural practices, organizing events, and contributing to the town’s magical identity.
The town should showcase the potential to attract visitors while maintaining the authenticity and cultural integrity of the town, and avoiding over-commercialization.
There should be adequate infrastructure and services for tourists, including accommodations, restaurants, transportation, and facilities for leisure activities to support the tourism potential of the town.
To be considered a for this designation, an application must be submitted by the local government to SECTUR, and the town is then measured up against all of the above requirements and more. To be sure, the process is rigorous and the designation is incredibly desirable. When a town is granted the prestigious “Pueblo Mágico” designation, it’s a cause for celebration, as it often leads to increased tourism and support for local economic development.
There are 177 magical towns in Mexico that fit the above qualifications, and several are within a short drive from Guadalajara, which is surrounded by six “Magical Towns” within a two-hour radius – Tequila, Tlaquepaque, Lagos de Moreno, Mazamitla, San Sebastián del Oeste, and Tapalpa. While I was exploring Guadalajara, I had the chance to visit 2 of them: Tequila and Tlaquepaque.
Located within an easy driving distance from Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque is a beautiful town filled with art, music and, of course, magic.
A must visit is the studio of Paco Padilla, an artistic haven dedicated to ceramics. Here we got the chance to paint our own sugar skulls under the watchful eye of the artist himself. Paco taught us some traditional painting techniques passed down through generations of his family, and as we painted, he accompanied our brushstrokes with an intimate live performance of his original folk songs.
From there we wandered the quaint cobblestone streets of Tlaquepaque, wandering in and out of art galleries of all styles and mediums, and local shops and boutiques, including a tour of the Mis Dulce candy workshop, learning and tasting different traditional Mexican sweets throughout.
Next, we stopped for lunch at one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever eaten at, Casa Luna. With its ethereal décor, live music and delicious food it was an altogether magical dining experience.
The town is filled with art and music, with galleries lining every block and mariachi music filling the air every evening. Walking around Tlaquepaque was a treat for all of the senses, a memory making experience for the ages.
The magical town of Tequila is located just an hour outside of Guadalajara, and it makes for a wonderful day or overnight trip from Jalisco’s capital. It’s also within easy distance of Puerto Vallarta, should you want to include some beach time on your magical mission to Mexico.
Tequila is a lively and colourful town rich with art, music and history; all the things that make a town officially magical. There are tequila distilleries large and small, old and new all over the town, interspersed with fragrant cafes and restaurants, bustling markets all along the mural covered walls that weave their ways along the winding streets.
We had the opportunity to tour the Jose Cuervo distillery. Founded in the late 18th century, this beautiful edifice is now dedicated to the edification of tourists and tequila lovers alike.
From the first Tequila distillery in the town that shares the spirit’s name, to one of the newest, most modern establishments, we got the chance to visit the El Tequillano distillery. In fact, the distillery boasts its own hotel, recently opened by a Canadian businessman who wanted others to fall in love with Tequila just as he had. The Casa Salles hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel nestled in Tequila, a luxurious place to rest after a long hot day of sight seeing and tequila tasting. Casa Salles boasts a gourmet restaurant, sun-soaked pool, star studded rooftop patios and cozy firepits, and the most comfortable beds in all of Mexico among the rest of their luxe accommodations. And the town’s namesake spirit happens to be distilled right on the same property.
There’s so much more magic to explore in Mexico, and I for one can’t wait to return. To learn more about the magical towns of Mexico, visit their tourism website below.