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The Top 4 "Magic Villages" in Mexico

Magic Villages in Mexico

If you are traveling to Mexico, and want to get an inside look of the real Mexican experience, from the magic villages and towns to the culture, history and food, this is the perfect list for you to find your way around Mexicos top nooks and crannies that the majority of people dont even know exist.

Mexico is known for having a wide variety of beautiful natural ecosystems, from beautiful sandy beaches to great rocky mountains, jungles, and forests. In movies, TV, and popular culture, Mexico is often represented as a small desert country inhabited mostly by cacti, or as a relaxing beach destination that makes a perfect getaway for younger spring breakers and middle-aged parents as well.

And what they practically never show you (outside of Mexican cinema) is the incredible list of small, or sometimes even minute towns that carry the torch of our ancient traditions and lifestyles.
What they often don't show in these iterations of our country, however,  is the sprawling cities like Mexico CityGuadalajara, and Monterrey, where everything runs twice as fast as anywhere else and industry leaders build the homes for most of the largest companies in Mexico.  And what they practically never show you (outside of Mexican cinema) is the incredible list of small, or sometimes even minute towns that carry the torch of our ancient traditions and lifestyles. 

Mexico has a government-run program called "Magic Villages" which has made it its mission to preserve the culture and aesthetic of these towns and villages without throttling their economy and expansion. And the towns have actually flourished. So without further ado, here's our list of the top towns and villages that you have to visit if you want to see the real Mexico.

1. San Juan Chamula - Zinacantan

Often grouped together because of their proximity to each other, in this case we're going to focus mostly on San Juan Chamula, maybe the smallest yet the  most impactful of all the names on this list. Only about 10 kilometers out from San Cristobal, there is a region that was (and is) inhabited by many different ethnic groups originating from the Mayan culture, including the  Tzotzil, the Chole, and the Tzeltal. Here it is, 2,200 meters above sea level, that San Juan Chamula is found. It is one of the only towns in Mexico where pre-hispanic traditions and culture have survived. Many of the small ethnic groups> inhabiting it have  merged over time into what people now call "Chamulas, after the town itself. This group has a mixture of many of the beliefs of the larger groups from which it formed, all mixed in with some catholic traditions and beliefs that were imported by the Spanish and imposed onto the town after the Conquista. The locals became used to hiding their pagan prayers and worship within the catholic traditions and this slowly became a tradition of its own. 

Due to this mixture San Juan Chamula has the only "idiosyncratic" church in Mexico. The church is kept open to the public, although entrance costs a small fee, and any beliefs are welcome as long as the local rituals are not disrupted. Pictures and phones are not allowed inside the church, as part of the Chamulas' beliefs.

If you want to experience one of the most iconically Mexican places on this world, San Juan Chamula might just be the perfect town for you. 

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2. Antigua - San Juan de Ulúa 

Located 28 km from the  Port of Veracruz, Antigua is a small town surrounded by huge trees that grow on the banks of the river Huitzilapan, (which means hummingbirds) providing shade for the original town. This town is widely considered the very first real town that the Spanish founded in Mexico, and as a result the legacy of the Spanish conquest is very much alive within its walls. Many buildings have been historically preserved, such as “La Casa del Cabildo,” the first municipality in New Spain,and the “Chapel of the Rosary,” the first Catholic church in Mexico, and the previous home of Hernán Cortés. 

Very close to the small town of Antigua lies San Juan de Ulúa, one of the oldest fortresses in America which is has been linked to some of the greatest events in Mexican history during the Colonial times, the  Mexican Independence, the "Reformation" and the Revolutionary War.

It also has played various roles throughout its 400 years of existence. First, it was used as a grain warehouse, but was later reinforced as a fortress, a prison and eventually even a presidential residence. This site is full of Spanish and Mexican history and culture that can be found nowhere else. Highly recommended for history buffs or if you have enjoyed visits to the BahamasNassau and their military forts and history. Please note that La Antigua is not a Caribbean or beach destination, however.

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3. Taxco

Taxco is a colonial city that holds hundreds of years of history within its walls and streets. The city is located on a hill with winding cobblestone streets, tile-roofed buildings, cozy squares and a strong atmosphere of old world it has survived through hundreds of years. One of the largest churches in Mexico, La Iglesia de Santa Prisca, was built there in 1759 by French immigrant Jose de la Borda, who had into a huge silver deposit and made a fortune. Taxco is known worldwide for its silver mines and quality shopping, so this is the perfect place to view and purchase fine art of Mexican artisans.
At the very top of the town, there is a large statue called "Cristo." The view from the mirador up there is amazing and worth the walk, although there is also a teleférico that provides beautiful views for about $60 to $90 pesos.

There is also a silver "museum" in a beautiful building called Casa Borda which also serves as a cultural centre, located right on the main plaza itself. In 2010, much of the building was being renovated, but there was a nice exhibit of silver jewelry.
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4. San Sebastian del Oeste

The mining village of San Sebastianwas founded in 1605 and located on the western side of Jalisco, lying dormant and almost entirely walled in by the surrounding mountains. This town is a great place to experience true Mexican culture through the valuable legacy, history and tradition that spans over a thousand years of agricultural and mining history, the effects of which we can still see to this day. You can enjoy beautiful views of the mountains, hills and forests while walking through the town in which the San Juan mine was the last to close back in 1921.
San Sebastian is also known for its local crafts of coffee and agave, which are both largely owed to the altitude of the town. "San Sebas" proudly continues to produce quality organic products, such as coffee and coffee based deserts and candies,  mostly through families who farm and process their own coffee beans. Among the streets of the town you can also find tequila houses where you can try a variety of traditional agave-distilled products.

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