Not another big cat sighting? Tales of giant prowling felines seem to have increased ten-fold in recent years – particularly within unlikely territories such as England and Western Europe. Conversely, the legends of mountain lion sightings across North America are taken without a pinch of salt – especially within the South East Mexican state of Jalisco. Here, the prospect of coming face to face with a cougar or puma is very real and now a popular draw for tourists on day trips from Guadalajara – less than 124 km North of Mazamitla. Buoyed by stories of big cats roaming the “Orchids in the Trees” around the Sierra del Tigre mountains of Mazamitla, visitors seek the knowledge of wizened indigenous locals for tours up into the densely forested canyons.
Mazamitla has long been regarded an enchanting town, however it is the pine-forested surrounds that have largely influenced its recent inclusion upon the Pueblos Magicos program, incepted by the Tourism Secretariat. Mazamitla translates from the Nahuatl “Mazamitlan” - meaning “land where arrows are made for deer hunting.” Walking beneath the soaring pine tree canopies of the forest, it is difficult to imagine anyone lithe and fast enough to zip between the trunks in pursuit of the Cervidae species. Its a skill that fed the Nahuatl peoples for hundreds of years. Mazamitla became latterly known by the Spanish as “the place of Orchids among the trees”, for here, deep among the scrub and rugged ravines lies the largest proliferation of wild orchid species in Mexico. Among the budding genus are Red Romelia Orchids which hang down from the trees like spindly fingers through the branches and epiphytic variants that look like cacti – known as Encyclia. Flowering Tilandsias (members of the pineapple family) add to the bizarre spectral oddities to be found in the forest.
Colonized by the Spanish during the 16th Century, Mazamitla is not dissimilar in layout to the lake shore town of Pátzcuaro, in the state of Michoacán. A blend of colonial and baroque architecture set the tone for understated grandeur throughout the heart of Mazamitla – the Paroquia de San Cristobal (Church of St. Christopher) being a prime example. Clad in the typical whitewashed limestone characteristic of the native adobes, the Paroquia exudes elegance from every cupola, cornice and carving, yet features a distinctly Chinese aesthetic about its towers.
The magic of Mazamitla is not limited to its lush jungle landscapes and Spanish architecture. In recent years, the town has become renowned for exceptional gastronomy – over 40 restaurants occupying the central district and the residential area of Las Cazas. Entrance to this domestic oasis is via the “Enchanted Garden” - a perma planted city retreat, featuring dense shrubbery, cascading waterfalls and bouncing streams, over which a number of rustic wooden bridges criss-cross. The area is often referred to as “Little Garden of Orchids”, such is its similarity to the exterior wilderness of Mazamitla.
Attractions & Things To Do in Mazamitla
El Salto – a picturesque thundering waterfall which shatters the tranquil calm of Mazamitla's verdant Enchanted Gardens. At 35 feet in height, El Salto is the only high natural waterfall within the immediate municipality of the town. Open: Daily.
Paroquia de San Cristobal – a stunning example of merged styles, rarely seen within Jalisco. The exterior of the Paroquia is thought to be a culmination of both Norwegian and Chinese influences, coupled with the symmetry of colonial stone-work, cut from the mountains nearby. In recent years, the Paroquia has become known for its remarkable floor to ceiling floral displays within the atrium and decorating the altar. Open: Daily, 10 am – 5 pm.