Perched atop a sheer ridge, around 1,800 feet above the quaint old town sprawl sits one of Mexico's most beautiful Aztec sites – the ruins of Malinalco. So well preserved, they appear to be the dwelling place of current indigenous mountain settlers; the carved remains of Cuauhcalli (House of Eagles) face the once powerful volcano Nevado de Toluca and remain one of Malinalco's premier attractions. The Aztecs knew how to construct a path that would test the worshipful, since Cuauhcalli sits upon the peak of the Cerro de los Idolos (Hill of the Idols) at the climax of a 400-step climb from the town. The panoramic vistas are well worth the effort, since the Hill of Idols overlooks the entire Malinalco Valley, along to the hill where it is alleged the sorceress Malinalxóchil is entombed.

Malinalco's other great legend extends to the tiny village of Chalma located 11 km North of the municipality. An ancient cave, once the focus of pilgrimage for the Aztecs to pay their respects to Oxtoteotl “God of Darkness” has become the second most frequented shrine in the whole of Mexico. Legend tells of a vision, said to have appeared to locals in 1647 of a “Black Jesus” upon a crucifix. During the Spanish conquest, a huge colonial shrine and church were erected beneath site by Augustinian monks, subsequently named the Sanctuary of Chalma. The “Vision of The Christ of Chalma” hangs in replicated, ebony marble glory above the gold leaf altar, in the main nave. To its left sits the Shrine of St. Michael, which sat mounted upon the East Wall of Chalma Cave from 1683 to the mid 1800's. Those who kneel before the depiction are said to be purified from all evil and cleansed of “darkness.”

Engulfed by the misty mountains of the Sierra Norte and Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in the South West of Estado de México (Mexico State), the “lap of the Gods” has enjoyed a relatively isolated seclusion from the rest of the region until the late 80's. Highway 55 was constructed to connect the charming urban spread of Toluca de Lerdo (slightly North of Malinalco) with the archaic heritage of Chalma, subsequently linking Malinalco to the route in the 1990's and paving the path for tourism to the Westernmost area of Estado de México. Despite these ambitious plans, Malinalco continues to enjoy a tranquility and quietude rare for such a culturally enriched town. Swathed in the legends of dueling sibling deities, dark sorcery and vivid visions, Malinalco remains one of the most curious towns in the entire state of Mexico, recently being honored with the Pueblos Magicos accolade (2010) for preservation of its mythical heritage.

Often overshadowed by the winding rivers, natural springs and abundant rainforest landscapes, the quaint rural town of Malinalco conceals a wealth of architectural delights beyond the evergreen perimeter. Rising above the red tiled adobes in united majesty are the spires of the “Six Chapels”, built between the 16th- 17th Century in the baroque and neo-Classical styles. Each is dedicated to a canonized saint – including San Augustin and San Juan. Noted for its Augustinian reliefs of monks and conquistador Cristobal Romero, the Chapel of San Juan holds superior esteem for its gardens, planted with plumeritos, blue blossoming trees and featuring a stunning arc of stone overrun with creeping vine species. Over 35 sites of archaeological interest lie scattered throughout the municipal area of Malinalco, ranging from the cavernous chambers of Las Caritas with its Aztec carved faces, to the ruins of Matlalac near the Cursed Boulders. Each is entwined with the next in some legend of sorcery, mystery or spirits – a magical allure than no amount of touristic increase can ever destroy!

Attractions & Things To Do in Malinalco

Tlakuikani Gallery - a museum and retail gallery combined, the Tlakuikani Gallery is a popular stop off for tourists seeking to absorb a little of the artisanal culture of Malinalco. Paintings rescued from the old Municipal Palace grace the walls beside the contemporary efforts of Malinalcan artists still living among the mossy hills. Open: Daily, 9 am – 4 pm.

More on Malinalco from Advantage Mexico

Spanish version of this page: Malinalco


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