Settled on a mountainside precipice above the vast Sierra Tapalpa Valley, it's little wonder the “Land of Colors” now enjoys repute as a Magic Town. The small town of Tapalpa, Jalisco, lies around 90 minutes South of Guadalajara, yet in temperament, climate and beauty, is as far removed from the hustle of the colonial city as can be imagined.
The Sierra de Tapalpa mountains have long been compared to the notorious French Alps of Europe, largely because of the pine-laden forests; glacial lakes, hidden among the peaks and wondrous natural springs which feed the towns that have grown up beneath them. Tapalpa has long been loved by the people of Mexico for its old world charm and cooler, altitudinous climate – a welcome break from the humidity of Guadalajara. The Salto de Nogal Waterfall, just 12 km from the town is one of the major draws. At 110 meters in height, it is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the state of Jalisco and well known for its magical setting amid the cool alpine woods of the Sierra mountains.
Surrounded by boulder-strewn meadows, soaring waterfalls and ribbon-like streams, the exterior of Tapalpa is as charming as its heart. Local fable suggests the boulders (Las Piedrotas) haphazardly “dropped” into the fields to the North of the town is the work of extra-terrestrial beings, since no-one can pinpoint precisely when they appeared. Quaint cobble lined streets and whimsical fountains within the Jardin Principal are offset by the grandeur of colonial architecture within Tapalpa – some of which dates back to the 17th Century. The Franciscan Parrochia San Antonio de Padua (Church of San Antonio de Padua) peeps above the red tiled roofs – a reminder of the town's glorious history and upholding of the Christian faith. Market stalls arranged in neat rows around the plaza give the place a sense of traditionalism and old fashioned appeal, along with bijou inns and “posadas” where you're always guaranteed an embracing welcome. A fairytale setting in the heart of Mexico's Lake Chapala country, one can't fail to see why the Tourism Secretariat were keen to add Tapalpa to the list of “Pueblos Magicos” back in 2002.
The pseudonym “Land of Colors” has little to do with Tapalpa's verdant setting and is in fact associated with the ancient Náhuatl settlers of the mountainside - known as the Otomi Indians. A resourceful and naturalistic minority, the Otomi became known for their inspirational cloth-dyeing practices, utilizing the natural minerals of the Earth to achieve brilliant bright colors. The cliffs on the way to the neighboring town of Chiquilistlan house a few interesting wall carvings and glyphs, thought to have been left by the Otomi. Despite the melange of both historical and natural legacies left behind here, Tapalpa remained a relatively undiscovered corner of Mexico, until its listing as “Pueblos Magicos.” With its fantastical architecture and wealth of amenities, it has since become one of the premier spots to visit, outside of Mexico City.
Attractions & Things To Do In Tapalpa
Salto de Nogal Waterfall – a visually spectacular waterfall, located 12 km from the mountain town of Tapalpa. Reached by a short hike from the village of Barranca del Refugio, the Salto de Nogal (105 meters) is well worth the cross-terrain hike.
La Piedrotas – the strewn standing-stones sit 5 km from Tapalpa, within a former farming meadow bounded by alpine forest. Within the adjacent field lie a series of these 12-15 foot stones in clusters, forming caves and chasms, said to be inhabited by spirits.
Parrochia San Antonio de Padua – this Franciscan church is thought to date back to the early 17th Century and features a wealth of stunning tapestries, sculptures and artwork commissioned or produced in the local area. Open: Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm.