Last Updated on January 21, 2024 by Soumya
Are you looking for the best things to do in Tepotzotlan, Mexico? You’re at the right place.
One of the most beautiful pueblo magicos, Tepotzotlan is an exciting place to visit.
Interesting because this charming town is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site (well, part of it). Yet only some have actually heard of Tepotzotlan in Mexico.
Further, the confusion between Tepotzotlan vs Tepoztlan always leaves us, well, confused! (We will get to that in a while.)
There are many amazing things to do in Tepotzotlan, including marveling at the ornate churrigueresque architecture of the San Francisco Javier Church, visiting the National Museum of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and seeing the tall Tepotzotlan Aqueduct.
But Mexico’s Tepotzotlan is more than just big monuments and historic buildings.
Traditionally populated by the Otomi people, Tepotzotlan was an essential stop on the Royal Silver Trail and is home to many cultural attractions and unique traditions.
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- Tepotzotlan vs Tepoztlan – The Confusion
- Best Things to Do in Tepotzotlan, Mexico
- How to get to Tepotzotlan from Mexico City?
- Practical Information for Visiting Tepotzotlan Mexico
- Loved our Tepotzotlan Mexico Travel Guide? Pin it for later!
Tepotzotlan vs Tepoztlan – The Confusion
It is essential to clear the confusion between Tepotzotlan and Tepoztlan because travelers often think of them as the same town. When planning a trip, this confusion is absolutely unnerving.
Tepotzotlan and Tepoztlan are two different cities in Central Mexico, not different names of the same town.
Tepotzotlan is located in the State of Mexico, about 1 hour north of Mexico City.
On the other hand, Tepoztlan is located in Morelos, near the city of Cuernavaca, about 1.5 hours south of Mexico City.
The only similarity is that both Tepoztlan and Tepotzotlan are Mexican magical towns (pueblo magicos), and both are unique hidden gems.
Tepotzotlan is known as the center of Mexican Churrigueresque architecture. San Francisco Javier Church and the National Museum of the Viceroyalty are stunning examples of churrigueresque carvings.
Tepoztlan is known as the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of Mesoamerican civilizations. Therefore, Tepoztlan is known for its mystical aura.
✦ Pro Tip: Both Tepotzotlan and Tepoztlan can be visited as separate day trips from Mexico City. Find out the details in our Mexico City day trips post.
Now that the confusion is out of the way, let’s focus on our destination here, the Pueblo Magico Tepotzotlan in Mexico.
Best Things to Do in Tepotzotlan, Mexico
Marvel at the Church of San Francisco Javier
Visiting the Church of San Francisco Javier is one of the best things to do in Tepotzotlan, Mexico.
This church is a must-visit due to its intricate architecture and highly detailed carvings in the Mexican Churrigueresque style.
Churrigueresque is a highly ornate baroque architectural style native to Spain that found its way to Mexico during colonial rule.
Interestingly, Tepotzotlan became the mecca of Churrigueresque architecture in Mexico. This ornate style is abundantly used both in the facade and the interiors of San Francisco Javier Church.
As you approach the church, a beautiful baroque facade greets you.
Once inside, be sure to check out the stunning altarpieces that are masterpieces of Mexican Churrigueresque.
The inside of the church is just as breathtaking, featuring intricate altarpieces that are masterpieces of baroque art.
📖 Related Read: Tepotzotlan is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. Find out what the 11 other hidden gems of Mexico are.
Visit the National Museum of Viceroyalty
The church complex also has an old Jesuit college that’s now the Museo Nacional del Virreinato or the National Museum of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
The museum is home to a vast collection of colonial-era artifacts, sculptures, and paintings, making it a trove of historical treasures.
It offers a glimpse into the influence of Spanish rule on Mexican culture and history, especially religious history.
Only a few people know that Tepotzotlan was part of North America’s Royal Inland Road or the Spanish Silver Trail.
The Silver Trail was a trade route for moving silver produced in the Mexican mines to Europe.
Officially known as Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Silver Trail is a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of 60 different sites, one of which is the College of San Francisco Javier in Tepotzotlan.
Quite obviously, there was a lot of intermingling of native Mexican and Spanish cultures on this trail, which is aptly reflected in the culture of Tepotzotlan.
People-watch at Plaza de la Cruz
Plaza de la Cruz is the central public square of Tepotzotlan.
The plaza is located right next to the Church of San Francisco Javier and is a vibrant hub of local life and activities. It is often buzzing with local markets, cultural events, and lively gatherings.
The plaza is named after the prominent cross at its center. Scenes from the Passion of Christ are engraved on the cross.
Plaza de la Cruz is flanked by colorful, colonial-era buildings, which makes a walk around the area very pleasant.
Whether you’re looking for a casual banter with the locals, want to listen to some street music, or bask in the aroma of fresh street food, Plaza de la Cruz is the perfect place in Tepotzotlan.
Taste Mexican delicacies at the Municipal Market
If you’re hungry, I recommend heading to the Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal) right in front of the central plaza in Tepotzotlan.
There’s lots of delicious Mexican food here for a very cheap price. Try tacos, sopes, quesadillas, barbacoas, and carnitas. Do ask for their hot sauces – they’re too good.
In addition to the food, the market is a beautiful hub of local activity, with vendors calling out to you to try their dishes.
Enjoy a glass of clericot
I saw clericot being sold at all street stalls in Tepotzotlan and guessed it must be special. So, when visiting Tepotzotlan, be sure to try a glass of clericot.
Clericot is a delightful, fruity concoction popular in Mexico, particularly during social gatherings and festivities. The origins of clericot, however, go back to Uruguay.
Considered a local variant of sangria, clericot features a refreshing mix of wine (typically red), lemon, chopped fruits, and, sometimes, a dash of sweetener or liquor.
Head to Aqueduct of Xalpa in Teotihuacan
The Tepotzotlan Aqueduct, or the Aqueduct of Xalpa, is an 18th-century architectural wonder.
Also called Arcos del Sitio, the Aqueduct of Xalpa is the tallest aqueduct in all of Latin America. It is 200 ft high and 1500 ft long! The aqueduct is spread over four levels and has 43 arches.
Image courtesy: lazaldeluis from Getty Images via Canva Pro
It was initially built to carry water from River Oro to the Xalpa Hacienda. However, the aqueduct is no longer in use today.
It has become a prominent tourist attraction in Tepotzotlan, offering beautiful views and photo opportunities.
Enjoy Tepotzotlan’s Christmas Pastorelas
The best time to visit Tepotzotlan in Mexico is during Christmas in December. This beautiful Mexican colonial town is all decked up for the festivities.
But that’s not all. Tepotzotlan is one of the best places in Mexico to watch traditional Christmas plays called the Pastorelas.
Dating to the 16th century, Tepotzotlan’s pastorelas are an incredible amalgamation of Spanish and native Mexican traditions.
Head to Tepotzotlan’s Hosteria del Convento to watch Mexican pastorelas every year from 16th – 23rd December.
✦ Pro Tip: Consider this magical Christmas tour of Tepotzotlan for a more immersive experience.
How to get to Tepotzotlan from Mexico City?
Tepotzotlan is located about 30 miles (45 km) north of Mexico City.
The best way to get to Tepotzotlan is by renting a car and driving there. The journey typically takes around an hour, depending on traffic.
Alternatively, you can take a Conexion or ETN bus from the Norte Bus Station in Mexico City. Buses run every two hours, and the journey takes approximately 1 hour. Click here to book your bus tickets.
Another option is to take the Suburban Train from Buenavista Station in Mexico City to Cuautitlan Station in Mexico State. From Cuautitlan Station, take a collective to Tepotzotlan.
You’ll need to purchase a separate ticket for the suburban train. The Mexico City Metro Card does not cover this ride.
✦ Pro Tip: For details on how to get to Norte Bus Station or Buenavista Train Station in Mexico City, refer to our Mexico City Public Transportation Guide.
Another popular way of visiting Tepotzotlan (this is something even we did) is to club it with a tour of the Archeological Site of Tula, the ancient capital of the Toltecs.
This private tour of Tula and Tepotzotlan from Mexico City is a great way to see the best of both places.
Practical Information for Visiting Tepotzotlan Mexico
Best Time to Visit Tepotzotlan Mexico
The best time to visit Tepotzotlan, Mexico, largely depends on what you’re looking to experience.
December is an excellent choice if you want to participate in the festive celebrations. The city awakens with Christmas decorations and traditional pastorelas during this time, offering a vibrant cultural experience.
However, if you’re interested in more comfortable weather for outdoor activities, the months from January to April, known as the dry season, are ideal. This period offers comfortable temperatures and no rainfall, making it an excellent time for sightseeing and exploring historical landmarks such as the Aqueduct of Xalpa.
However, note that there is little rain in Tepotzotlan. So, summer (June – September) is also an excellent time to visit Tepotzotlan, provided you are okay with the heat. The highest temperatures can go up to the early 80s, which is not so bad, anyway.
Best Places to Stay in Tepotzotlan Mexico
Travelers often visit Tepotzotlan and the Tula Pyramids as a day trip from Mexico City.
But Tepotzotlan is also a great place to spend a night or two.
Here are some great places to stay in the historic center of Tepotzotlan, Mexico.
- Posada del Fraille (3-star, Budget)
- Hotel Posada San Jose (Budget)
- Mansion Tepotzotlan (3-star, Midrange)
How to get around Tepotzotlan?
The best way to get around the Tepotzotlan Historic Center is by walking. The historic center is pretty flat and totally walkable, and most Tepotzotlan attractions are nearby.
The only thing not close by is the Tepotzotlan Aqueduct or Arcos del Sitio. You’ll need to rent a car to get to the aqueduct.
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