Steeped in the history of colonial greatness, the streets of Mexico City's most popular day-trip locale are a world away from the mish mash of cultures competing for your eye within the capital. An air of timeless elegance permeates every street and alley, whispers of an age when artistic expression was very much at the forefront of architectural fashions. Most of Tepotzotlán's secrets are hidden behind the heavy wooden doors of neo-Gothic churches and grandiose colonial villas – the primary reason for Tepotzotlán's “Magic Town”status, granted in 2002.
Surrounded by “humpback hills” some 113km North of Mexico city, Tepotzotlán lies within an area once the autonomous capital for Aztec and Toltec settlement, in the East Central area of the Estado de Mexico region. The route connecting Tepotzotlán with the ruinous city of Tula, just 37 km South of the city is one that has been the subject of scrutiny and fascination for Centuries, owing to it's importance for trade during the Toltec age. Neither empire left much by way of historic legacy within Tepotzotlán, save for artworks, potteries and hieroglyphic clues now housed within the premier attraction of the town - Museo de Virreinato. The museum itself sits within a former Jesuit complex, established in 1580 as a trio of schools for missionary and priest education. The schools were later merged to become the College of San Francisco Javier until 1914, thus succumbing to their present use as one of Mexico's most important museums for religious culture.
Tepotzotlán's magic lies within the labyrinthine layout of small alleys and winding streets that give the place it's timeless charm. Museo de Virreinato is a spectacle in itself, because of it's ornate facade, a-symmetrical courtyards and acres of grounds, within which can be found a few little clues to the town's Toltec past. The ornate Salta de Agua Fountain is a historical marker, charting the point at which the great Chapultepec aqueduct concluded. Museo del Virreinato also incorporates the spectacular gilded interiors of the Domestic Chapel and Church of San Francisco within it's grounds – a nod to the history of evangelization within Tepotzotlán when the Spanish settled during the 16th Century. With it's 24 karat gold leaf statues, soaring height of 24-feet and heavenly cherubs guarding the Virgin, the Altar to the Virgin of Guadelupe draws audible gasps from all who lay eyes upon it.
Jaw-dropping feats of art and engineering are not limited to the historic center of Tepotzotlán. In fact, part of the town's enchantment is the plethora of attractions which sit just beyond it's boundary. The Arcs of Xalpa (or Tepotzotlán Aqueduct as it is known informally) commands a towering presence above the 54 hectare Parque Sierra de Tepotzotlán. Measuring 440 meters in length, with a height exceeding 63 meters, the 18th Century aqueduct is one of the largest and oldest in the country. An archaic tale concerning the area has taken on a modern twist in recent years, alleging that a giant now guards the monument. Said giant is said to be the last of the “humpback giants” who now form the distinctive hills surrounding the park.
Attractions & Things To Do in Tepotzotlán
Museo de Virreinato - Mexico's premier education facility for theology and Christianity during the 16th Century; the modern day Museo is now regarded the country's finest exhibition hall for religious art and artefacts. The Museo de Virreinato incorporates both the Domestic Chapel and the Church of San Francisco within its grounds – both of which feature some of the finest 16th Century sculptures to be found within Estado de Mexico. Open: Tuesday – Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm.