The Complete Guide to Tepoztlán, Mexico

The Pyramid of El Tepozteco in Tepoztlán seen over trees
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The town of Tepoztlán is known for its beautiful mountain views, narrow cobblestone streets, weekly craft market, and traditional celebrations. A visit to this town makes for a good weekend getaway or day trip from Mexico City. Located in the Mexican state of Morelos, it's 50 miles south of the capital, a pleasant 90-minutes to two-hours-drive depending on traffic. Tepoztlán is a “Pueblo Mágico” (Magical Town) a distinction granted by Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism which recognizes certain places for their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, crafts, and great hospitality. 

This is the mythical birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god, and is also home to a small Aztec archaeological site located on a nearby mountaintop which contains a temple to Tepoztēcatl, the Aztec god of pulque, a fermented agave drink. The town has a mystical quality that has attracted yoga studios and spiritual centers to make it their home base, offering, besides the usual yoga classes and massages, tarot readings, aura cleansings, temazcals, and other alternative therapies. Tepoztlán is a good destination for travelers seeking calm and tranquility, enjoy spending time in nature, and discovering cultural offerings.

Things to See and Do

Visitors to Tepoztlan enjoy beautiful mountain vistas, traditional food and culture, hiking up to the archaeological site at the summit of Mount Tepozteco, visiting the historic 16th-century church and friary, and more. Here are some of the most popular things to do in Tepoztlán.

  • Visit the Church and Former Friary of La Natividad: Between 1555 and 1580, this church and the former friary were recognized by UNESCO as a Heritage of Humanity site in 1994, along with several other religious sites in the region. The complex has a large atrium, an open chapel, "posa" chapels (quadrangular vaulted structures located in each of the four corners of the courtyard), as well as the church and friary which now houses the local history museum. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Nativity. The Plateresque facade shows the Virgin Mary accompanied by Saint Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican order with Saint Catherine of Siena. The interior of the friary contains numerous original mural paintings.
  • Climb El Tepozteco: The strenuous climb to visit the archaeological site of El Tepozteco is worth it for the nature you can see along the way and the spectacular views from the top. The site contains various terraces and a pyramid that dates to the 13th century and was dedicated to Ometochtli-Tepoztécatl. In its heyday, this shrine attracted pilgrims from as far away as Guatemala. The path is only a little over a mile in distance, but is uneven, and climbs up 2,000 feet in elevation (the peak is 7,500 feet above sea level), This climb should only be attempted by visitors with a good fitness level. It’s best to do it in the morning, before the heat of the day, wear comfortable shoes, and take water.
  • Browse the Market: You’ll find stands selling street food, produce, and handicrafts any day of the week, but on the weekends, the market fills with day-trippers looking for souvenirs. They choose from finely crafted pottery, wooden sculptures, decorated gourds, baskets, and paintings. Wednesday is a farmer’s market day, and the best opportunity to see the wide variety of ingredients and dishes that Tepoztlán has to offer.
  • Visit the Carlos Pellicer Prehispanic Art Museum: Carlos Pellicer was a poet and dear friend of artist Frida Kahlo (he was the original curator of her house-museum), Although originally from the state of Tabasco, he held a deep appreciation for Tepoztlan and decided to donate his collection of pre-hispanic art to the town in 1965. The collection, made up of more than 1,200 pieces, has examples from Maya, Totonaca, Mexica, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, and Olmec cultures. The museum is located in what was the granary of the former friary.

What to Eat and Drink

Tepoztlan has strong culinary traditions and excellent food both on the street and in restaurants. One of the great joys of a visit to Tepoztlán is sampling the amazing variety of tasty food at street stands and in the market. There are quesadillas stuffed with mushrooms, squash blossoms, chapulines (grasshoppers), or quelites (cooked spinach-like greens). Itacates, triangular fried dough pockets made of corn masa mixed with grated cheese, and a touch of lard are split open and filled with fresh requesón (Mexican ricotta cheese) or meat stews. Have some pulque to wash down your street food feast, and be sure to get an ice cream at Tepoznieves for dessert (if you're feeling adventurous, try the cactus or avocado ice cream!)

Of course, there are must-try restaurants as well:

  • Los Colorines is brightly colored both inside and out serving flavorful traditional dishes. The generous servings and warm service make this a favorite among visitors and locals. Try the mushroom soup or Chiles en Nogada
  • El Ciruelo is a more upscale spot, located in a quiet area, but not far from the center of town. Sit at an outdoor table with superb views of the Tepoztlan cliffs.
  • La Sombra del Sabina offers good coffee, simple breakfasts, and they also have a bookstore if you’re looking for reading material.
  • For evening drinks, visit La Cueva, an open-air bar where you can enjoy a pleasant time sampling mezcal and tapas.
Hostal De La Luz Resort & Spa

Courtesy of Hostal de la Luz

 Where to Stay

There’s a variety of boutique hotels, holistic spa resorts, hostels, and AirBnBs to choose from in Tepoztlán, both in the city and in beautiful natural settings in the surrounding area. If you’re sensitive to noise, choose a spot outside the city center. Here are a few favorites:

  • Hostal de la Luz-Spa Holistic Resort is perfect for visitors looking for rest and rejuvenation. The guest rooms are cozy and there are lovely views of the mountains. The large grounds feature a number of pools and hot tubs Enjoy a spa treatment or walk the labyrinth on the grounds as you enjoy some quiet contemplation.
  • Sitio Sagrado has expansive suites decorated in soothing earth tones, each with a private terrace. The grounds feature a heated pool, daybeds for relaxing, bar service, and snacks. The hydro-spa is conceived as a tribute to the planet and the essential elements of life and offers a variety of massages, facials, and other treatments.
  • Tubo Hotel is a quirky budget hotel with an environmentally-friendly bent. Guest rooms are inside sections of reclaimed concrete tubes that are stacked together. Each room has a desk light, fan, and queen size bed with under-bed storage. Bathrooms are separate and the thick cement tubes provide natural insulation. Set among the trees, the unique construction makes this a stay to remember.

Travel Tips

  • The town fiesta, known as La Fiesta del Tepozteco, is celebrated on September 8, the day of the Nativity of the Virgin. Festivities include a ritual at the archaeological site on the hilltop as well as various celebrations in the church atrium and in the streets of the town.
  • Don’t confuse Tepoztlán with Tepotzotlán, which can also be visited as a day trip from Mexico City, and is located in the state of Mexico, 25 miles northeast of Mexico City.