by Lupita Franco Peimbert
The town is known in Spanish as “Zacatlán de las manzanas,” and it has to do with the land and climate, good for growing apple trees. But the “Pueblo Mágico,” offers a lot more!
A friend and I recently visited Zacatlán, Puebla, and we were amazed with its natural beauty, culture, and most of all, the local, wonderful people.
I am sharing with you just five of the many reasons why I recommend visiting Zacatlán de las Manzanas.
I am also sharing important travel information. By the end of this article you’ll know a little more about Zacatlán, and at the end of your reading, you’ll find suggestions for getting there and an idea of how much it would cost.
Zacatlán de las manzanas is located in the Northern Sierra of the state of Puebla, in Mexico, a few hours east of Mexico City. At a high altitude, it is a jungle where fog covers the towns, back and forth, every afternoon. Sometimes the “neblina” (fog) covers the town all day, and funny enough, it sometimes doesn’t appear at all. It rains plenty, but there are many sunny days. The land is fertile and so agriculture abounds.
Here are 5 reasons to visit Zacatlán de las Manzanas (of the apples). Please note, I am not providing more details on each one of the reasons to visit Zacatlán, so that you’ll be surprised when you visit. I am just giving you little hints, and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
Locally produced Sidra (Cider), fruit wine, and liquors are delicious!
Local artists and volunteers are making outstanding Vitro-Murals.
Enjoy Pan de Queso, Tlacoyos, Mole, and other antojitos.
Meet the inhabitants of indigenous roots who speak Nahuatl.
Absorb the views, the weather, and the surroundings.
And here is important information to help you plan your trip:
How long should my visit be?
Zacatlán is worth visiting for more than a day. I’d say a weekend trip is perfect. Depending on how much you’d like to explore, 3-4 days sound great. If you’d want to be close to nature for a while and/or explore “Indígenas,” communities –there are about 200 small towns or rancherías around–, I would suggest visiting for a week in the area, based in Zacatlán.
How much does it cost?
The costs for lodging in Zacatlán are reasonable, whether it is through local hotel, hostels, or Airbnb. Prices in March 2021 were in the range of $500 to $1,200 pesos or $25 to $60 dollars. *Please note this is just to give you an idea.
What are the prices for food?
Costs for food vary, but a decent breakfast can cost you $80 to $160 pesos or $4 to $8 dollars; that is, considering a 1 dollar for 20 pesos equivalency. Dinner could be in the range of $200 to $400 pesos or $10 to $20 dollars and for this you may want to add the cost of drinks. It is safe to say that one person can dine handsomely for $30 dollars. But…
Many travelers prefer the price and the feeling of local markets, where you can buy Chalupas or a delicious soup and a drink for $30 to $50 pesos or $1.5 dollars to $3 dollars. You can find those prices at the local markets, or from vendors in the corner, or at mom & pops restaurants.
There are excellent tour guides in Zacatlán, offering a wide variety of trips to nature, archeological sites, and more. You may want to make sure the tour guides or companies explain what the cost/price includes, and if tips or others expenses are included. Sometimes I like to wander on my own, and sometimes it is safe and practical to trust the local guides who can show you the best places to visit in the area.
How long does it take to get there?
If you are driving from Mexico City, I suggest to take the route to the city of Puebla, which takes approximately 2-3 hours; you may want to consider having lunch or antojitos (snacks) in Puebla. From Puebla, drive North to the Sierra Norte, you’ll pass the towns of Apizaco and Chignahuapan. Once you pass Tomatlán, you’ll be very close. From Puebla to Zacatlán is about 3 hours by car. By bus, it takes approx. 3 hours and 45 minutes.
If you are taking the bus from Puebla (that is what my friend and I did) make sure to check the schedules. You’ll have to go to a bus terminal known as the “CAPU.”
Buying crafts locally made
Local artisans abound on the streets, usually of indigenous descent; they are sellers by default as sometimes this is the only income, and sometimes visitors get annoyed too many offerings.
I invite you to see it differently: What local artisans make is precious: embroideries, pottery, ornaments, furniture, accessories, and more. It is all part of a tradition, a creative way of living, and a nature inclination to art and culture, because “culture,” is everything man (or woman, of course!) creates. The price doesn’t pay for all the value they provide, because the value of what they make is beyond the way it is valued. Think about that a little more. Pay what feels reasonable to you, buy as much as you can.
Is it safe?
Contrary to what international news and other reports say about Mexico, it is a country as safe as many so-called safe countries. To be honest, I wish the Depart of Tourism and the government would invest in showing and branding Mexico as a safe destination.
The state of Puebla is in general a safe place for tourists. Specifically, the towns in the Sierra Norte, which Zacatlán de las Manzanas is part of, are safe. Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos,” have a focus on making sure tourists feel welcomed and safe. Many towns like Zacatlán have a “policía turística” or Police for Tourism. The towns are well-lit and people appreciate visitors. One can safely walk the streets, especially the ones near landmarks and other tourism-focused destinations.
Of course people must take reasonable precautions, but that is everywhere in this world. And so, is it safe? It was for me and my friend in our visit in March 2021.
One final thought, for your consideration:
In Zacatlán and its surrounding communities, the majority of the people come from indigenous ancestry. In towns like San Miguel Tenango, approximately 20 minutes by car from Zacatlán, more than 95% of its inhabitants speak Nahuatl. In other towns locals speak Totonaca. In most places in the Sierra Norte, indigenous men and women still wear typical dresses although they are integrated to society, and that is something to respect and be amazed by, whether you are Mexican, Latin American or a foreigner.
COVID RESTRICTIONS: At the time of my visit to Zacatlán, the town strictly followed the COVID-19 restrictions set by the Governor of Puebla, Miguel Barbosa Huerta. Masks are required everywhere, including wearing a mask when walking throughout the main streets. Restaurants and other locations check your temperature and provide hand sanitizer. But at the end of the day, every one must be responsible for following COVID restrictions.
Lupitanews is an online publication aiming to promote travel and culture. It is published by Lupita Franco Peimbert, a former television news reporter and currently a senior public relations manager specialized in social media. Content can be in English or Spanish.
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Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos,” have a focus on making sure tourists feel welcomed and safe. Many towns like Zacatlán have a “policía turística” or Police for Tourism. The towns are well-lit and people appreciate visitors. One can safely walk the streets, especially the ones near landmarks and other tourism-focused destinations.Tweet