Lit by the glimmer of a hundred thousand tiny diamonds, the narrow passageway leads deeper into the foothills of the Parque Natural Villa Luz. Few locals dare to venture so far into the chasmal subterranean realm, said to be inhabited by the wandering dead and spirits of forgotten worlds. Mayan natives have long been in awe of the connective network of chambers known as Cueva de La Luz, just 2 km from the pretty village of Tapijulapa. An abundance of milk white fish live among the rock pools and tiny springs flowing out from the cavern (said to be a source of enhanced fertility for Mayan women) leading down to the thundering Río Oxolotán, within the valley of the same name. A team of scientists entered the Cueva back in 1999, keen to uncover the reason for the superstition of locals. Their findings would challenge the very foundations upon which science has been built – hundreds of microbial living organisms surviving in a place where oxygen accounts for less than 5% of the atmospheric makeup!

Sheltered beneath the mauve hued mountains of the Sierra Madre del Sur, the compact town of Tapijulapa beckons with a distinctly Porfirian charm. Modest white adobes, crowned with the red clay tiles synonymous with the early architecture of Southern Spain sprawl along the tiered elevations, interspersed with small, tree-lined plazas and the occasional orchard. Agriculture remains a dominant economy for the village, closely followed by weaving and pottery craft. Rattan weaving has been a defining art of the Mayan culture for thousands of years and Tapijulapa regarded the literal capital. Each weekend, the Parque Centro is transformed into a bustling marketplace featuring canopied stalls, vendor grottos and a “rattan village” at the center. Natives travel from far and wide just to peruse the stunning handicrafts, usually leaving with far more than they ever bargained for.

Beset within the central highlands of Tabasco's coolest district, Tapijulapa presents the ideal starting point for nature and hiking trails. Rio Oxolotán meanders wildly from the efflorescent Parque Natural de La Luz, continuing down the hilly forested landscape to its dramatic finale atop a cliff. Here the river divides into small tributaries and streams that run side by side to the cliff edge, before plunging hundreds of feet to a huge freshwater rock pool below. Said to be the meeting place for the spirits of witches from neighboring Tacotalpa, the pool allegedly curses all who dare to venture into its crystal clear waters. Steeped in a myriad of myths and legends from the 15th Century, it is the vivid beauty of such secluded attractions that have led to Tapijulapa's inclusion upon the SECTUR Pueblos Magicos list since 2010.

Attractions & Things To Do in Tapijulapa

Casa Museo Tomás Garrido Canabal – once inhabited by the 19th Century Mexican governor and revolutionary Tomás Garrido Canabal, the French-styled casa continues to be a place of fascination to tourists, owing to the many stunning natural features of its gardens. The Sulfur Pool is alleged to have healing properties, prompting many visitors to strip off and bathe along the warm clear shores. Freshwater Falls also conclude their point some 20 meters above a giant rock pool – now a popular attraction for abseiling enthusiasts and intermediate climbers. The Tomás Garrido Museum houses a number of prolific Mayan art examples and pottery – some in excess of 500 years old. Open: Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5: 30 pm.

More on Tapijulapa from Advantage Mexico

Spanish version of this page: Tapijulapa


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