Top Ten Colonial Cities in Mexico

Guanajuato
FOLLOW THE COBBLESTONE ROAD: Guanajuato’s maze-like thorough-fares (PhotoDisc)

The colonial cities of Mexico, beginning in the heart of the country and looping steadily southward toward the border, dot the country like a beguiling string of pearls. Each city is unique in its character, but bound to the rest by a shared architectural beauty, turbulent history, and cultural richness.

And like a pearl necklace, colonial cities are beautiful to look at. Take the churches: from the stunning gold-leafed altar in Oaxaca City's cathedral to Puebla's church-on-every-corner layout, there's always at least one good iglesia (and usually several). Plazas and parks are other attractive features, whether you discover a shady buttonhole with a single bench or huge stone-paved esplanades filled with city life. At the very least, you'll get a lot of great photos.

Of course, colonial cities are not just pretty things to admire, but a vital part of Mexico's living culture. Tens of thousands of people, local and visitors alike, participate in annual festivals in Guanajuato, Morelia, Mérida, and elsewhere. In San Cristóbal de las Casas, a resilient indigenous population belies the notion that Maya and other native people disappeared, even as they struggle with lasting poverty (one of the distinctly uncharming relics of colonization).

Above all, colonial Mexico is a reminder of the country's layered attractions. With spectacular beaches on both sides, world-renown archaeological sites sprinkled throughout, and one of the world's largest cities smack-dab in the middle, it's sometimes easy to overlook how magical these colonial cities truly are.


Liza Prado and Gary Chandler are the authors of numerous guidebooks to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, including Yucatán Peninsula and Cancún & Cozumel , both published by Moon Handbooks.

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