Huasca de Ocampo
A carousal of color amid an ancient landscape once teeming with archaic haciendas, Huasco de Ocampo in the Central Mexico region of Hidalgo promotes an enchantment in keeping with its immaculate township. The first of Mexico's hidden treasures to be recognized by the Tourism Secretariat's “Pueblos Mágicos” Program, Huasca de Ocampo retains an archaic charm that has existed since its founding back in 1505.
Located 34 km (21 miles) from the South-Central city of Pachuca, the compact town enjoys a coveted situation within a mountain corridor, bounded on either side by the forested Sierra de Pachuca Mountains. It is for these imposing canyon landscapes that Huasca de Ocampo first found favor among trekkers and backpackers during the 1950's - keen to explore the rural magnificence of Mexico.
The canyons surrounding Huasca are full of ancient mystical symbolism and have fed a number of myths among the locals. One of the most recent stems from the experiences of a group of backpackers, who camped beneath the towering landmark of basalt rock known as Peña del Aire in 1994. Rising 800 m above the canyon, nature's tower is purported to be the meeting place for goblins whom inhabit the rugged wilderness of the Sierra Pachuca Valley. It's alleged the four campers were awoken shortly before dawn, to a group of goblins intent on taking a stand against “man's destruction of the environment”. While some may be hard to convince, the locals take such visitations in their stride, since Huasca has long been a place of mysterious happenings.
Huasca de Ocampo's nomination for the “pueblos mágicos” title has little to do with the contrived myths of the mountains. In fact, the awarding of the accolade had far more to do with the enthralling mountains themselves. One of the most iconic attractions is that of the Prismas Basálticos (Basalt Prisms) – a formation of basalt rock columns within the Barranca de Alcholoya ravine. The canyon walls rise above the ravine for around 60 feet, giving way to a number of cascading waterfalls like the Cascada de la Rosa - the water is said to have been responsible for a number of miraculous healing incidents. Santa Maria Regla Hacienda is an ethereal monument; the former home of 18th Century silver mining aficionado Pedro Romero de Terreros lies feet from the basalt ravine and was once used as a backdrop for the box-office smash “The Mask of Zorro”.
Historically, the captivating town of Huasca de Ocampo is affiliated with silver mining and agricultural economy, however the elaborate web of cobbled streets and narrow alleys exude a certain magic of their own. San Juan Bautista Church was built to commemorate the life and work of St. John The Baptist, however became a place of pilgrimage to honor the Archangel Michael, owing to the ornate fixture above its entrance – a donation from the wealthy mining entrepreneur Pedro de Terreros. White villas with their red laminate roofs and carved balconies line the central plaza of Huasca – the final compliment to its magical idyll.