La Ruta del Sol al Corazón

           One of the most recent tourist routes being promoted in Mexico is that of the “Sol al Corazón,” referring to the “sun” of the Pacific coast, and the “heart” (inland) of Mexico.  The route incorporates San Miguel de Allende, Celaya, Morelia, Pátzcuaro and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo – destinations that provide rich tastes of local history, culture, nature, and cuisine, topped off with the breathtaking beauty of the Mexican Pacific coast. 

San Miguel de Allende

For those already living in San Miguel de Allende or Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and wish to enjoy the entire gamut of Sol al Corazón, Pátzcuaro is the ideal midway stopover, due to its excellent location and proximity to the various freeways along the route.
We begin our trek early morning from San Miguel de Allende – one of the most popular destinations in Mexico, and a world heritage site – followed by a stop in Celaya, famous for its dairy sweets.  Before reaching Morelia, we find Cuitzeo (a Pueblo Mágico), with its recently restored ex convent Santa María Magdalena (Sixteenth Century). 
Ex Convent of Santa Maria Magdalena in Cuitzeo

Minutes away from Cuitzeo, we find ourselves in Morelia, a city that played a major role in Mexico’s Independence, and which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1991.  Morelia is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico, with its stunning Cathedral, ancient aqueduct, Governor’s Mansion, the Clavijero Palace, the renowned school of music Conservatorio de las Rosas, House of Artisans, and Market of Sweets.
In the Historical Center of Morelia, we can enjoy regional dishes from many different restaurants, most of which have outdoor service where we can leisurely enjoy the temperate climate of autumn and winter.
Downtown Morelia

Less than an hour west of Morelia we find Pátzcuaro, another “Pueblo Mágico.”  Pátzcuaro is the ancient ceremonial center of the Purépecha (indigenous).  Don Vasco de Quiroga called it “the City of Michoacán in 1534, and now we, the visitors, can experience one of the loveliest pueblos in the entire country.  The title “Pueblo Mágico” was bestowed on Pátzcuaro in 2002 in recognition of the fine colonial architecture with its exquisite neoclassical features.  Cobblestone streets and fabulous buildings of adobe and tile roofs – not to mention the spectacular Plaza Vasco de Quiroga (“Plaza Grande”) – make Pátzcuaro one of the principal cultural attractions in Mexico.    

Dance of the Little Old Men in Patzcuaro

Casa de los Once Patios in Patzcuaro

Hopefully, we have the time to get to know the many attractions of Pátzcuaro and its environs.  If our time is limited, we must place the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga, one of the most beautiful plazas in the whole region, at the top of our list.  Notably, we find the Hotel Mansión Iturbe facing the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga directly across the street.  That’s right:  We cross the street and we are in the famous Plaza Vasco de Quiroga!

  We walk several cobblestone streets in any given direction, and find the centuries-old structures of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, the Museo de Artes Populares, the Public Library with its gigantic, floor-to-ceiling Mural de O’Gorman, the  Templos del Sagrario and Compañía, and Casa de los Once Patios. 

Downtwon Patzcuaro

We can’t miss a visit to the open-air market (busiest on Fridays and Sundays).  The colors and aromas and cheerful vendors selling their locally-grown fruits, vegetables, spices, and other products, are ingredients for an unforgettable experience.  Hand-embroidered blouses and scarves, wooden kitchen implements, and copperware abound.  Freshly baked bread, corundas, beef tacos, pescado blanco, and other taste treats await the drooling customer.  

Shopping in Patzcuaro

Friday is market day in the Plaza de San Francisco just a block  west of the Plaza de Vasco de Quiroga, where the indigenous community from around the lake – such as Tzintzuntzan and Santa Fe de la Laguna –  sell their hand-made/hand-painted goods, including plates, flower pots, coffee mugs, etc.  Local nurseries also bring many typical plants of the area (geraniums, rose bushes, jacarandas, impatients, ferns, etc.) to sell.

After a morning of shopping, we relax under the eaves of Hotel Mansión Iturbe in Pátzcuaro, and enjoy a traditional libation and snacks of Michoacán, or we go inside to the Restaurante Doña Paca for a more sumptuous dining atmosphere, where we order delicious chiles rellenos, sopa Tarasca, fillet of fish from Lake Zirahuén, and other finely prepared dishes.

Pátzcuaro has many nearby visitor attractions for our amusement and edification:
·         Lake Pátzcuaro with its four enchanting islands;
·         Towns on the lakefront, where we find a large number of artisans specializing in their own arts and/or with their unique reasons for visiting:
o       Tócuaro:  Masks.
o       Erongarícuaro:  Embroidery.
o       Opongio:  Mezcal (liquor).
o       Quiroga:  Carnitas.
o       Santa Fe de la Laguna:  500-year-old hospital founded by Vasco de Quiroga.
o       Tzintzuntzan:  The first capital of the Purépechas, now an important architectural ruins site.  Ex convent de San Francisco (sixteenth century, nearing completion of restoration).  Outstanding cantera carving.
o       Ihuatzio:  Woven reeds (also another architectural ruins site). 

We are ever aware that it is thanks to the organizational triumphs of Vasco de Quiroga, 500 years ago, that the separate villages in the Purépecha Basin now concentrate on one speciality without the duplication of effort that existed before Vasco de Quiroga’s arrival.

Other areas we will touch on at another opportunity are Tupátaro, Cuanajo, Santa Clara del Cobre, Lago de Zirahuén, Tingambato (architectural ruins), and Uruapan (known primarily for its lovely Parque Nacional), Volcán Paricutín (erupted in 1943, half burying a seventeenth century church, which itself is an intriguing and very popular destination).  All these destinations are located, generally, to the west of Pátzcuaro, and could be visited on the way to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.
We can get a healthy sampling of Pátzcuaro in just a matter of days (the main part of town can be traversed in less than an hour on foot, although there is always a taxicab at your beck and call at the blink of an eye).  Pátzcuaro’s strategic location and tranquility are principal reasons why we return again and again.   
Autopista Siglo XX

But to get back to our trip:  our last stop is Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo (State of Guerrero).  We get a little boost of energy with breakfast at Mansión Iturbe with an order of Purépecha tortillas, chilaquiles, or our favorite traditional dish.  It’s time to get back on the highway (Autopista Siglo XXI).
Not long ago, it took more than eight hours to get to the coast from Pátzcuaro.  Now, thanks to the new freeway, we can get there in about three hours.  The landscape changes gradually from pine to palm – from mountainous to semi tropical.  We drive past the beautiful Zicuirán-Infiernillo (declared a protected area in 2007 by the federal government). 

Before we know it, we’re looking at the Pacific beaches of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo – a tourist destination noted the proximity of the modern, luxurious Ixtapa, and the peaceful, rural atmosphere of a traditional fishing village, Zihuatenajo.


Consider making this fascinating journey, becoming acquainted with pueblos mágicos, colonial cities, lakes and mountains, as well as the lovely beaches of Mexico’s Pacific coast.

By the way, this is not a “tour,”  It is just a recommended itinerary that introduces you to a wide variety of attractions and landscapes in a relatively short time.  You can drive yourself, or Hotel Mansión Iturbe can arrange for your transportation (taxi or van).  Contact HotelMansión Iturbe for prices, which will vary depending on how long you want it to last.

Portal Morelos 59
Plaza Vasco de Quiroga
61600 Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.

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