Zempoala

You don't have to travel far from a Mexican metropolis to find complete peace and solitude; in fact, the land mass of the world's second most populous country is still over 60% rural. From semi-arid volcanic plateaus in the East, to dense jungle sprawls along much of the Yucatan Peninsula; this diverse, topographical land of mountain and desert is ripe for exploration and adventure – and there's nowhere quite like Zempoala National Park to get started. Nahuatl for “Place of Twenty Lagoons”, the 4,700 hectare park in North-Western Morelos State has formed part of an extensive protected biosphere since 1936. Bounded by thickset forests of cedar and pine, the ancient volcanic craters of Zempoala are fed by tributaries of Rio Ajusco, forming huge lagoons of varying size and habitat for all manner of native wildlife species. Despite the unparalleled tranquility to be found here, there are no end of adventures to be had – starting at Laguna de Zempoala.

A smooth-edged laguna of glacial calm, Zempoala bears little indication of the once sputtering volcano cone from which it was formed. Dotted along its longest shore, visitors will find a humble promenade of vendors, offering everything from key-rings to hot tacos (rumored to be the best in this part of Morelos.) Tourism vendors offer guided hiking tours to higher elevations around Laguna Zempoala (over 9,560 feet above sea level) and rowing boats bobbing beside several wooden piers may also be hired. Fractures cut by several mountain streams present a great opportunity for ghyll scrambling in the woods, however, visitors tend to be more inclined toward gentler sightseeing activities, such as horse riding, climbing and sailing. A myriad of walking trails criss-cross the National Park, including several adapted for cyclists. Ajusco Pass to Zempoala is one of the most popular, spanning just under 6 km at its longest.

Less than 20 km from Cuernavarca and Tres Cumbres, Zempoala National Park is easily reached for a day of respite, adventure or recreation. The nearest village – Huitzilac, offers a few well-established accommodation options, however most tend to pitch up at Zempoala for short camping breaks. In keeping with conservation efforts, camping areas are restricted to certain areas of the park – currently Zempoala, Compila, Tonatihua and Seca. Policed by State officers, these areas are relatively well patrolled, with few security issues or instances of crime. If you're keen to experience the wonders of Mexico's endemic flora, fauna and wildlife, Morelo's verdant volcano park is the place to start!

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