Buoyed by its status as the playground for Hollywood's rich and famous, Santiago has gone to great lengths in recent years to encourage eco-tourists to its emerald forested surrounds. Located within the Monterrey municipality of the central Mexican state Nuevo León, the white-washed colonial town is situated on a breathtaking plateau between the soaring Sierra Madre Mountains - formerly known as the Cuarisezapa Valley. It is now simply referred to as the Santiago Valley. Spanning the Western territory is the Parque Nacional de Cumbres Monterrey – a protected mountainous national park popular with thrill-seekers and a haven for wildlife. Bridged by a dam of 19th Century creation, the vast expanse of lake known as Laguna Boca spans the entire length of Eastern Santiago – affording spectacular views from the main plaza at sunset. With blissful panoramas and an air of colonial tranquility, Santiago finally achieved its deserved accreditation as a Pueblos Magicos in 2006.
Ever since the 1930's, Villa de Santiago has charmed the neighboring residents of Monterrey with its quintessentially Mexican authenticity and cool, comfortable climate. As a holiday destination, Villa de Santiago offers a wealth of exciting prospects, including hiking tours into the Parque Nacional de Cumbres Monterrey and white water rafting upon the many rivers that flow into Laguna Boca. The lake itself lures visitors from far and wide with its beauty and ever burgeoning populations of Golden Eagles and Red Admiral butterflies.
Rated among the ten most picturesque Mexican Pueblos Magicos by on-line reviewers, Villa de Santiago lures with stunning examples of colonial and baroque architecture, coupled with some truly unique festivals and rites celebrated each year. The town's main square Praza de Quinta is bizarrely divided into two areas – Quintana des Mortos (Quintana of the Dead) and Quinta de Vivos (Quintana of the Living.) Locals explain the reasoning for this is the Quintana of the Dead's proximity to the Parroquia de Santiago, where it is said the spirits return in pilgrimage to their beloved city. Elegantly lit by subtle neon up-lighting every evening, the Parroquia takes on an ethereal glow, befitting of its central location.
Stepping into the Santiago Municipal Palace is a journey back in time, for every cornice, mural and painting has been impeccably preserved by its heritage body. Following an extensive refurbishment in 2007, the baroque Municipal Palace now invites visitors to experience the beauty of its interior, along with stunning exhibitions showcasing the evolution of the mountain town from Nahuatl settlement, to present day achievement. Little has changed in terms of the town's physicality. Most of the buildings remain little changed from the days they were first built – some over 500 years in age.
Inherent to Santiago's appeal are the breathtaking natural formations to be found hidden among the forested exterior of the town. Cascada Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Falls) is a divine natural cascade, located just 1 km from the town. Reaching heights of 75 feet, Horse Tail Falls is the highest in Nuevo León and one of the most photographed in Mexico – a dramatic conclusion to a usually peaceful river flowing down from the Sierra Madre crag.
Attractions & Things To Do in Santiago
Santiago Municipal Palace – built in the nouveau Baroque style of the 1800's, the Santiago Municipal Palace is a stunning reminder of the town's prominence in Neuvo Leon during the 19th Century. Once the seat for the regional government, it now houses the regional museum, showcasing variegated exhibits ranging from archaeological finds to costumes, pottery and examples of indigenous tribal art. Open: Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm.