Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What? I've Taken a Turn to Central Mexico...Malinalco

Somewhere in the heart of the Province of Mexico, south of Mexico City in a broad valley surrounded by beautiful scenery and Aztec Ruins sits a city known as Malinalco.  Why on Earth would anyone go there?  Excellent question, and the answer is because no one else does.  This is one of those old world towns that has more history than Paris that is a weekend getaway for the Mexican folks.  This spot is little known to the outside world, and is visited even less since Americans are afraid to travel to the dangerous land of cartels and drug lords that we now known as Mexico.  Well, bad news for the people in charge that want us all to be afraid of traveling.  Malinalco is one of the magical towns of Mexico.

Malinalco's history goes way back.  In the area are caves and ancient temples.  There are drawings and carvings from prehistoric times.  They are in the hills outside of the town.  There are archaeological sites all over the area and a museum in town at the university that covers several different time periods and the history of the people of this area.

The museum covers all kinds of cultures from the Mexica People to the Aztecs to the Conquistadors and beyond.  There are even gardens outside where the local flora is grown.  In the time of the Aztecs, flowers were a sign of prestige.

The Aztec City outside of Malinalco is one of the largest and best preserved cities in the Aztec Empire.  Not only will you find the temple here, but you will find houses, theaters, and statues.  There are local guides that can tell you all about the culture and why it went away.  The experts have compared the place to Ellora and Petra.  Of course, the Spanish are the ones that came along and ruined a lot of the great civilizations of Mexico and South America, so it's no surprise that they wreaked havoc in Malinalco as well.

Then came the Benedictine Monks who brought Catholicism to the area.  The monastery, church, and chapels that came with them were specifically designed to combine the cultures of the Aztecs with the Catholic Church in order to draw the people into the religion.  The paintings and general decor around the monastery is one of flowers and the tree of life, appealing to the power and prestige that the locals gave to the flora and fauna of the area.  The church is still in use today, and the town has become primarily Catholic.  There are many churches from post 1500 in the area, and most of them are definitely worth a visit.

One of the great things about the area around Malinalco is the natural landscape.  This area is trying it's hand at adventure tourism.  Gotcha is a company that is getting people to come to Malinalco and take a flying leap into adrenaline.  They offer paintball and ATV riding.  They, along with other companies will take you rappelling, rock climbing, zip lining, hiking, hang gliding, kayaking, and even across a Tibetan style hanging bridge.  The landscape is great for all of it, so take the time and have a real adventure while in the area.

If you want to get your fix of Mexican village while you're there, no problem.  Malinalco has all the open plazas, cobbled colonial streets, colorful stone houses, and outdoor shopping that you would expect to find in a little Mexican town.  The stereotype is not lost there. The trinket shopping is magnificent, the food is everywhere and fabulous, and you can watch the wood carvers do traditional work any day.  There are churches to visit, art galleries, little hotels, and unique restaurants like The Trouts.  The Trouts serves trout.  No surprise.  But not only can you eat trout, but you can make arrangements to go and fish for trout and they will cook it for you.

So, if you want to get away from the typical Mexico without getting away from the charm of a Mexican town, this is a great stop.  There's a lot to do.  There's a lot to see.  There's a lot to learn.  This spot showcases more history than most spots in Mexico.  While you're there, you can do some adrenaline junkie activities, visit temples, learn about the local wildlife, and do it without a ton of tourists in your face all the time.  This is pure and real.  This is how they live in this town.  They do have tourist attractions, but their lives go on as usual around town.  It's a beautiful spot, and it's away from the normal places.  Take a look at Malinalco before it becomes more popular and the Americans find out that you can still have a good time in Central Mexico.  Come, see the flowers, the temples, the paintings, the churches, the locals, and the view.  Enjoy!

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