Dispatches From Mexico City: Trips To Tepoztlán
Friends, I’d like to introduce you to a little city called Tepoztlán.
Well, it’s little by Mexican standards. According to one man I spoke with who operates a WC (water closet, or public bathroom) and sells single cigarettes out of his home, when the last census was done 10 years ago, there were around 14,000 people living in the city. He predicts that, by now, there are closer to 25,000 people.
As I’m about to head back to Canada for a few weeks for some much-needed family time and my girlfriend is preparing to return to her teaching job, we thought it was a good idea to get out of the city for a few days. It was also a chance for us to celebrate three years of living in this beautiful country. After asking around about nice places to visit, we decided on Tepoztlán. The pictures looked beautiful, we found a hotel with a pool, and it was less than two hours by bus to get there.
We decided to take the cheap route and opted for a two-star hotel on the edge of town. Despite its low rating, the hotel had all the necessary amenities and was only a 15-minute walk from the city center. After ditching our things we made our way down the winding road into town.
The first thing you’ll notice about Tepoztlán, and indeed its most famous feature, is Tepozteco Mountain, at the top of which sits an Aztec temple. The town was built into the foot of the mountain and has spread out from there. Interestingly, experts are uncertain who the area’s first inhabitants were, but early ceramic findings have been dated to around 1500 BCE.
On the Go
Even on a sleepy Monday afternoon there was still a lot of activity on the streets. The central market was full of people selling foods and crafts from around the country. We grabbed a quick dinner and decided to go back to our hotel room because we knew what was in store the next day.
I was woefully unprepared for climbing a mountain. Having read that, during certain festivals, it wasn’t uncommon for people to ascend the mountain in high heels, I figured it couldn’t be too difficult and decided to undertake the expedition in my traditional dress shoes and jeans. My girlfriend – the one who actually enjoys exercise and goes running on the regular – opted for shorts and running shoes. Our disparity in dress and preparedness was evident as Macey would at times decide to run up the mountain, getting cheered on by locals who make the trip regularly. They would then turn around to see me slowly climbing upward, limping from an old mosh pit injury, cursing, and dripping sweat. But eventually we made it, and the view was worth it. Despite my fear of heights we soaked in the view, took pictures, and watched the brazen coati approach people for food (it was also my first time seeing these animals in real life).
What Goes Up…
Going down was easier on my respiratory system, but harder on the knees. After the hour-long descent, my knees were shaking and my watch was somehow broken. It seemed like the perfect time for a michelada, which we drank alongside an early dinner before heading back to the hotel for a swim.
The next day we explored the local shops (me limping the entire way), buying various souvenirs from indigenous artisans, local bookstores, and clothing makers. We were also surprised by the amount of vegan-friendly food we found. The ramen restaurant was one of the better I’ve tasted in this country, while the Indian restaurant served a delicious veganized traditional Mexican breakfast.
We shouldn’t have been too surprised by the variety of food options, given that the town bears a striking resemblance – at least in pace and feel – to many of the beach communities we’ve visited. Only after visiting here you don’t have to deal with any pesky sand.
One of the other main attractions of the city is former convent Dominico de la Natividad. A lot of the structure was damaged in last September’s earthquake, but the structure was still impressive. The former “Convent of the Nativity” was built between 1555 and 1580 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
The Good Earth
This is perhaps the second place I’ve visited in my life where I’ve decided that I want to own property (the first was a small fishing village on Prince Edward Island, Canada). The fresh air and views make it the perfect getaway from the noise and congestion of Mexico City.
Here are a couple other fun facts about Tepoztlán: This is where indie rock darling Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes fame) recorded his first solo album.
The city is well-known in the country for its UFO sightings. Everyone we talked to seemed to have their own story about seeing lights circling the mountains. Indeed, I almost got a UFO-themed hand-poked tattoo while visiting, but alas our time didn’t permit.
Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey, M&A and business continuity for ChannelE2E. On the occasional Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City. Oh, but sometimes he pops up in his home nation of Canada.