Many travelers head north-east from Guadalajara to the picturesque towns of Guanajuato & San Miguel de Allende, or just bee-line to Mexico City thanks to Mexico’s immense bus network.
Although tempted to head to Guanajuato and beyond, Jonny had his heart set on heading off the beaten track, and checking out the world’s youngest volcano; Paricutin. Alex also decided she wanted to check out the picturesque capital of Mihoachan state, Morelia. Getting to these cities is easy thanks to that bus network we just mentioned, with Uruapan a 5 hour journey from Guadalajara, and Morelia a further 2 hours from there.
Uruapan is the closest city to Paricutin so we booked in for two nights at Villa de Flores Hotel. This is a great budget spot right in the centre of town, but is by no means on the backpacker scene (nor is the city for that matter). We arrived at the main bus terminal, and after a bit of research the day before, Jonny took us down to try our luck on a local bus. Buses here don’t exactly have firm routes or stops – simply throw an arm out if you think a passing bus is going where you need to go, and it will stop. They are also dirt cheap – $0.40USD per trip. Needless to say, we nailed it, and simply asked the driver to tell us when to get off for the Plaza in our best Spanglish.
With Alex still under the weather, we hunkered down and found some dinner to snack on.
As we mentioned, Jonny’s main goal here was to see Volcan Paricutin, and more importantly, San Parangaricutiro church, which is buried in, and surrounded by, a vast field of craggy, solidified lava. Unfortunately, Alex was still under the weather, so Jonny headed out bright and early to the bus terminal.
To get to the volcano from Uruapan, you need to catch a local bus to the small town of Angahuan, about an hour out of the city. From here, you are relatively on your own, so a little info or research prior is key.
Upon arrival, Jonny was approached with a few half-hearted offers for guides. Backing his navigation skills, he kindly refused, and started trekking through town.
Angahuan seems to be a truly authentic slice of Mexican life – kids running around with dogs, woman dressed in traditional clothes, carrying outrageous amounts of goods or food on their heads, and one horse to every person in town. Having found his way to the entrance to the volcano’s national park, Jonny descended a cobblestone road to the right, which he was sure took him to the church. After 10 minutes, he could see the steeple and volcano through some tree’s, so was confident he was on the right track. 45 minutes later he arrived at a small collection of shacks, nestled below the lava field above.
If you are interested in doing this walk, good shoes are pretty important, as you need to navigate sharp, craggy lava to see the church up close. It’s an awesome and surreal sight, and something he highly recommends doing if you end up down this way.
Unfortunately, the hike onward to the volcano seemed a little too much, as it was either a 6 hour return horse trek in a wooden saddle, or 8 hours by foot, and you need a guide. Jonny’s ankle was pretty sore after making his way to the church and back, so it was a good decision to skip the volcano trek.
The following day, Alex was feeling a bit more chipper, so we headed to the national park first thing. This park is smack bang in the centre of the city, and has a beautiful river which originates from underground within the park.
They have done a great job of creating a number of cascades and waterfalls, walking paths and infrastructure while not ruining the parks beauty. As with most tourist attractions, early birds get the worms, and we were some of a handful of people to enjoy the park without merchants and hordes of tourists (which we had seen the evening before).
We really liked Uruapan, and it exceeded any expectations. It also helps that it isn’t a tourist magnet, so you essentially get to enjoy the city like it should be.
That afternoon we headed to Morelia. Morelia is a stunning colonial city, and was arguably the best city we had seen to date. The streets were lined with beautiful colonial buildings, and the Centro Historico was lively. Again, while Morelia has its share of tourists, it isn’t a big destination for most, so we really enjoyed wandering through the streets here. We stayed at The Only Backpackers, which while very basic and humble (basically a large family’s home which they have converted into a backpackers), it was cheap and cosy. We met a couple of other travellers, Sean & Jeremy, and we spent our day there checking out the sights, sampling tasty street food and just spinning some yarns. Unfortunately due to this, we actually ended up with limited photos of the place, which we are quite sad about. Definitely add Morelia to your trip if you have time in Mexico.
Our budget for four days was $280 USD ($400 NZD). Our expenses for 4 days;
Food & Drink: $53.00
Total: $204.50 USD / $286 NZD
So we were well under budget. We did a lot of walking around the cities, and food and accommodation in these slightly less touristy areas are veeery cheap.