Best Things To Do in Michoacán, Mexico

There are so many amazing things to do in Michoacán that visiting this state should be an essential stop on every traveler’s Mexican itinerary. Michoacán has it all: culture, food, handicrafts, hiking, and possibly the cheapest avocados in the world. The tacos aren’t bad, either! With so many places to see in Michoacán, we stayed for three weeks exploring everything we could.

Michoacán is also home to 8 Pueblo Magicos (Magical Towns), a status awarded to various towns by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism for their natural beauty, cultural richness, cuisine, and arts.

In this post, we will write about all the diverse things to see and do in Michoacán, and by the end of this post, we think you’ll be ready to visit yourself.

Love to gorge on some of Mexico’s best tacos? Michoacán has you covered. Are you looking for gorgeous handmade artisan souvenirs for your home? Michoacán’s got plenty of that. Need to stretch your legs and get up close to a volcano? You can do that, too, here!

With so many things to do in Michoacán, we’re about to share our complete list below so you can get the most out of your trip to this beautiful state.

Where Is Michoacán?

Michoacán is a state in Mexico located in the center-west of the country. It is conveniently located between Mexico City and Guadalajara, making it easy to travel to Michoacán from either city.

The name Michoacán does not originate from Spanish but from Nahuatl, meaning ‘Place of the Fisherman,’ referring to those who used to (and still do!) fish on Lake Pátzcuaro.

Best Time To Visit Michoacan

August – February: Temperatures are temperate and reasonable. The Monarch butterflies will also be at the reserve after November.

March – July: Summer can be sweltering, especially in Morelia, the state capital.

Best Things To Do in Michoacán

1. Gawk at Architecturally Rich Morelia: Michoacán’s Capital City

Unsurprisingly, this capital city is one of the best places to visit in Michoacán.

Founded in 1541 by the Spanish, Morelia exhibits some of the best colonial-era architecture outside of Mexico City. The city was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage for its beautiful display of colonial architecture throughout the city.

There are so many things to see in this city, but we condense some of our favorite things to do in Morelia.

Morelia Cathedral (Catedral de Morelia)

One of the largest and most intricately detailed Baroque-style Roman Catholic cathedrals we’ve ever been to. Stunning outside architecture, especially when the lights turn on in the evenings.

Right next to the central plaza, this church is hard to miss.

Morelia Aqueduct (Acueducto de Morelia)

Aquaduct running through the center of Morelia, Mexico
Morelia’s old aqueduct that runs through the city

Completed in 1730, Morelia’s aqueduct was used to bring water to the city. Frequently falling into disrepair and restored, the aqueduct was finally decommissioned in 1910. But plenty of the aqueduct remains for a pretty photo op.

Morelia University Library

Inside the university library in Morelia with books shelves and students studying
Students still studying inside the university library

Constructed initially to become a Jesuit Convent in 1660, the building was redesignated to become the primary library for the University of Michoacán in 1930.

As you stroll through the main hall, look at several fantastic murals painted along the walls.

Santuario De Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe

This stunning little church on the city’s east side might be one of the most beautiful churches we’ve ever visited here in Mexico. It’s worth a visit to come out here and admire the walls and ceiling. Lunch (or coffee) at nearby ORIGO is also recommended.

2. Wander the Streets of Picture Perfect Patzcuaro

Patzcuaro's park in the town center
Central zocalo in Patzcuaro town

Depending on who you ask, Pátzcuaro is one of the most beautiful and authentic Pueblo Magicos in all of Mexico. It’s no wonder visiting this magical town is one of the best things to do in Michoacán.

The town is the center of Purépecha culture and the market hub for many smaller villages to sell their handcrafted goods. Visitors can purchase these handicrafts, such as baskets, copperware, and handmade ukuleles, at all the markets, stalls, and official stores throughout town!

One of Pátzcuaro’s defining aspects is the town’s distinctive architectural style, which is strictly adhered to by almost every building and shop.

This architecture and design consists of a single-story, white-painted adobe house with a red stripe painted along the bottom.

Even the shop signs strictly follow Pátzcuaro’s strict design principles.

Some of the best things to do in Pátzcuaro include:

Walk Through Pátzcuaro’s Central Park / Plaza

Five statues placed in Patzcuaro's center park
Figures placed in Patzcuaro’s center park

Interestingly, Pátzcuaro’s central plaza is the second largest in all of Mexico, behind only the one in the nation’s capital. It is also one of the only central plazas without a church built along the perimeter.

Walk around the park, oogle the handicrafts, and settle down for a coffee at one of the many cafes.

Admire Pátzcuaro’s Three Historic Churches

During your walk around town, don’t miss these three historic churches.

1. Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Salud
Inside of Patzcuaro's Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Salud
Inside of Patzcuaro’s Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Salud
2. Iglesia de la Compañia
Exterior of Patzcuaro's Iglesia de la Compania
Outside of the Iglesia de la Compania
3. Templo de el Sagrario

Fantastic murals, creaky wooden floors, and centuries of history. The arches of the Temple of Sagrario are a popular photo-op location.

Just outside the Templo de el Sagrario
Templo de el Sagrario

Arts & Crafts Shopping at the House of 11 Patios (Casa De Once Patios)

Arts and crafts shop in Patzcuaro selling ponchos and hats
Arts and crafts shop in Patzcuaro selling ponchos and hats

Originally built as a convent around 1743, the structure is now an excellent property to stroll and peruse some of the finest artisanal arts and crafts in Michoacán. Incredible woven rugs, garments, and copperware line the stores throughout the perimeter of the building.

3. Day Trip to Janitzio Island

Janitzio Island in Michoacan, Mexico
Janitzio Island in Michoacan

The island of Janitzio provides a beautiful day trip from Pátzcuaro.

The largest of five islands on Lake Pátzcuaro, Janitzio is home to people of indigenous descent, known as the Purépecha.

Though the island is now an established tourist attraction, a trip to Janitzio allows visitors to watch the butterfly fishermen in action as they fish for the Pescado Blanco on Lake Pátzcuaro and watch The Dance of The Old Men.

To get to the island, you must catch a boat from the pier on the south side of Lake Pátzcuaro.

The top 3 sights on Janitzio Island, Michoacán include:

1. Enjoy the Boat Ride & Fishermen

Janitzio Island fishermen on the waters catching fish
Fisherman working in the morning hours

Just taking the long motorboat to Janitzio Island is a highlight of the trip. Pack in with the many other domestic tourists, feel the beat of the Mexican beat blasting through the speakers, and feel the breeze blowing through your hair.

Just before arriving at the island, if you’re lucky, you might glimpse the butterfly fishermen working their craft on the waters of Pátzcuaro Lake.

2. Scramble up the Lighthouse / Museum

3. Catch an Impromptu Show of Dancing “Old Men”

Old men in traditional costume dancing inside a pagoda
Older men in costume dancing for tourists

Catch the Viejitos (“Old Men”) as they dance and clack their wooden clogs on the stone ground in unison for tourists throughout the island.

There are several theories about the origin of the Old Man’s dance, but the earliest theory is the dance from pre-Hispanic times when the indigenous Purepecha people would dance as part of a ritual to the God of fire.

How To Get to Janitzio Island

Janitzio Island is best visited as a day trip from Pátzcuaro. Most northbound public minibusses (called Colectivos) head to the port, where you can then catch a boat ride to visit the island.

4. Shop for Copper Souvenirs in Santa Clara Del Cobre, Michoacán

Copper chess pieces
Copper chess pieces

A stop at Santa Clara del Cobre is a must for anyone who loves to peruse local handicrafts.

One of Michoacán’s eight Pueblo Magicos, Santa Clara del Cobre’s, claim to fame is their copper craftsmanship, which has been worked on and mastered since the pre-Hispanic times.

Over 80% of the town is employed in the copper trade. And when you stand in the town center, you’re surrounded by shops selling every possible product you could think of, all made from copper.

From copper bowls, cups, and sinks to earrings, clocks, and chess sets! If you cannot find what you’re looking for here in Santa Clara del Cobre, it probably doesn’t exist in this world.

Stroll around the central plaza of Santa Clara, and you’ll find several small kiosks selling copper trinkets and cookware.

Where To Shop for High-Quality Copper Products

Two copper espresso cups and an Turkish copper coffee pot
Two espresso cups and a Turkish coffee pot

For higher quality products (and higher prices), several prestigious workshops are located on the roads just off the central plaza. We shopped at and loved the Turkish coffee pot and cups we purchased there.

How To Get to Santa Clara Del Cobre

From Pátzcuaro, cheap collectivos run from an informal bus station on the south side of the town to Santa Clara del Cobre.

5. Hike up Paricutín Volcano

For nature lovers and those who need to get on a good hike, visiting Volcán Parícutin and the surrounding ruins is worth the trip.

Parícutin is a relatively new cinder cone volcano that erupted in 1943 but has since been classified as extinct.

Though the top of the volcano sits at 2800m above sea level, the total height of Paricutin is only just taller than 400m. This means that a hike from the volcano’s base to the volcano’s summit can be accomplished in just under an hour.

Ruins of San Parangaricutiro church engulfed in volcanic lava rock
Ruins of San Parangaricutiro church engulfed in volcanic lava rock

Though it would take over a year to do so, the lava from the erupted volcano finally destroyed two nearby villages.

All that remains today are the ruins of the San Juan Parangaricutiro church. Amazingly, the church tower and altar remain largely untouched by the passing lava, which has since cooled into lava rock.

How To Get to Paricutín Volcano

Parícutin Volcano is most accessible to navigate with your own vehicle but possible with public transportation.

With public transportation, take the bus to Uruapan, Michoacán’s second largest city, and transfer to Angahuan.

From Angahuan, you can hike towards the volcano or hire a guide from the town.

6. Feast on Delicious Carnitas Tacos in Quiroga, Michoacán

Carnitas is what puts Michocán on the list of best places to eat in Mexico. This slow-cooked pork is a staple and the pride of Michoacán.

Although you can easily find restaurants and food stalls in Michoacán specializing in carnitas tacos, the best place to go is the carnitas food stall market in Quiroga, a town just 40km west of the state capital, Morelia.

7. Barranca Del Cupatitzio National Park in Uruapan

If you are in Uruapan, Michoacán’s second largest city, visiting the National Park of Uruapan provides a beautiful respite from the scorching sun and urban chaos.

The national park is located northeast of Uruapan and encases the Cupatitzio River, which rushes through the park and cascades down in multiple small waterfalls.

What makes the waterfalls of Barranca del Cupatitzio so unique is that most of these waterfalls are artificial. And because they are manufactured, each of the many waterfalls we encountered on our visit was different.

8. Visit Millions of Butterflies at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Thousands of butterflies huddled together in the morning on a tree
Early morning hike through the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Absolutely one of the UNIQUE things to do in Michoacán!

If you happen to be in Michoacán between November and early March, a stop by the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is a must. Millions of Monarch butterflies travel from across the USA and Canada in the fall and settle in this National Reserve until spring.

Several butterfly sanctuaries are within the entire reserve, each with its own entry fee and tourist services.

Monarch butterfly sitting on a bush at the Monarch Sanctuary in Michoacan
Monarch butterfly in the morning

Important Tip: Walking to see the butterflies is best done during the warmest part of the day. Go too early or too late; the butterflies will keep warm on the trees, bunched together. But in the heat of the day, they disperse into the air, millions of them scattered all over the forest. Some may even land on you!

Best Places To Eat in Michoacán

1. Carnitas Tacos at Plaza Don Vasco in Quiroga, Michoacán

Carnitas pork meat roasting in a pot in Quiroga town, Michoacan
Carnitas pork meat roasting in a pot in Quiroga town, Michoacan

There is a large carnitas food stall market located on the southern end of Plaza Don Vasco in Quiroga, Michoacán.

Carnitas is the pride of Michoacán. An entire pig is slow-cooked to perfection and then diced up, spread over a warm tortilla, and sprinkled with diced onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.

For the best carnitas in Michoacán, head over to Quiroga for lunch, a town just east of Morelia that is easy to get there by public transportation.

Just south of the main square, the street is lined with carnitas vendors aggressively pushing their own family carnitas recipes. Take your choice!

2. Birrieria Don Prisci

Location: If you are up for greasy meat taquitos, this is the place to be! 

3. Menudo at a Menudo Market in Pátzcuaro

Pozole soup served in Patzcuaro, Michoacan state, Mexico
Pozole soup served in Michoacan

Location: Southwest corner of the Plaza de San Francisco in Pátzcuaro

Not for the faint of heart, ‘Menudo’ (or Pancita) is a stew primarily featuring the stomach lining of a cow, or “tripe.” We like our menudo with a healthy amount of diced onions and lime juice, which helps to cover the taste.

In Pátzcuaro, the best menudo we ate was in a small food market specializing in Menudo located on the southwest corner of the Plaza de San Francisco. This plaza is just 200m west of the main plaza in Pátzcuaro.

Fun fact: Menudo is known as a hangover cure, so it is often served in the mornings on the weekends.

Where To Sleep in Michoacán

Sleeping in Morelia

Best Budget: Hostal San Fransiskuni – Great views from the hostel rooftop and clean, high-quality bunk beds for those on a budget. Located in Morelia’s historic center. Great deal for those on a budget.

Best Mid-Range: NaNa Vida Hotel Morelia Beautiful tilework throughout this stunning hotel. Perfect location right in the city center.

Best Splurge: Hotel De La Soledad The hotel of choice if you want to stay within Morelia’s historic center. Beautiful stonework, lovely garden and restaurant, and the best hot water showers in Mexico. We stayed here for three days as a Christmas holiday treat.

Sleeping in Pátzcuaro

Best Budget: Villa Pátzcuaro Hotel & RV Park – Simple hotel, but clean and peaceful. Located 3km south of town, but easy access to the town center with frequent public transportation. Large grassy area, swimming pool, and perfect for those with their own vehicles.

Best Mid-Range: Hotel Casa Del Naranjo – Another gorgeous hotel just off the main plaza/park. We had lunch in the hotel restaurant and loved the interior design.

Best Splurge: Casa De La Real Aduana Boutique Hotel – This fantastic boutique hotel is set in a stunning 16th-century colonial manor right in the center of town. Each room is beautifully decorated with artisanal products from throughout Michoacán. A gorgeous and peaceful courtyard garden is in the middle of the hotel.

Sleeping in Uruapan

Best Budget: Hotel Mi Solar Ejecutivo – A no-frills hotel in the middle of the city’s historic center. 

Best Mid-Range: Hotel Plaza Uruapan – Located right in the central historic center of Uruapan. The rooms are clean, and the hotel has a sizable gym. There is also a steam room for guests.

Best Splurge: Mansion Del Cupatitzio – Beautiful swimming pool and a large courtyard for hanging out. Located on the northern end of Urupan’s famous Cupatitzio National Park

Top Tips When Visiting Michoacán

1. Use Pátzcuaro As Your Basecamp

Pátzcuaro is ideally situated to visit multiple spots in Michoacán as day trips. The towns of Santa Clara del Cobre, Janitzio Island, and Tzintzuntzan are easily reached in less than an hour of travel.

2. Grab a Coffee in Hotel de la Soledad

We stayed at the flashy Hotel De La Soledad for three days during the Christmas holidays. It was a fantastic experience, and the hotel is beautiful. But for those on a budget, you can still experience the hotel by ordering a drink in the restaurant and admiring the amazingly lush courtyard decorated with stained glass artwork.

3. Pick Up a Few Avocado Beers in Uruapan

Uruapan is the self-proclaimed “Avocado Capital Of The World”. There is literally a sign that says this in Uruapan. So it’s only fitting that some entrepreneurial soul here managed to brew several Avocado beers. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but we enjoyed them!

4. Sample Around the Quiroga Carnitas Food Stall Market

We loved the carnitas at the food stall market in Quiroa, Michoacán, but each food stall has its own way of cooking this beloved pork dish. Each food stall will happily offer you dish samples so you can sample all the different carnita styles until you’re ready to pick one for your meal.

5. Explore Morelia at Night

Morelia_Colonial-Artitecture

Not only is Morelia the capital of Michoacán, but it’s also the colonial architecture capital of the state. During your visit to this state, don’t forget to wander around the central plaza (Plaza De Armas) and the Morelia Cathedral in the evenings. The city is beautifully lit at night to showcase its architectural beauty.

History of Michoacán

During the pre-Hispanic colonization before the 15th century, Michoacán was occupied mainly by the Purépecha, an indigenous group primarily living around the Lake Pátzcuaro region. Over the centuries, their civilization rivaled that of the nearby Aztecs.

But once the Spaniards arrived in the early 1500s, the Purépechan state, then named Michoacán, was incorporated into the greater ‘Kingdom of Mexico.’ In the beginning, Michoacán’s capital was established in Tzintzuntzan, a former capital of the pre-colonial state of Tarascán. But Michoacán’s capital would move to Pátzcuaro and finally to Morelia in 1580.

Did you know? Morelia’s original name was Valladolid. It wasn’t until after Mexico gained its independence from Spain that the name was changed to Morelia in 1825 in honor of José María Morelos, a native of the region.

Once Michoacán fell under Spanish control, Christian sects arrived in Morelia and the countryside to erect monasteries, churches, and universities. Some of the most famous religious buildings in Michoacán include the Morelia Cathedral and the Michoacán University Library in Morelia.

During Spanish rule, all major economic activities, education, and land rights were held by the Spanish-born rulers and their descendants. Much of the local indigenous population was exploited for work, and many were even enslaved.

Michoacán would remain under Spanish rule until the Mexican War Of Independence in 1821. In 1824, Michoacán would declare themselves the “Free and Sovereign State of Michoacán”.

FAQ – Visiting Michoacán

1. Is Visiting Michoacán Safe?

By and large, Michoacán is a very safe and friendly state. During our three weeks traveling throughout Michoacán, we never encountered a time when we felt unsafe or had anything happen to us.

However, our experiences should not be taken for granted, and it’s worth noting that Michoacán is home to several cartels, namely the violent groups that control the vast avocado business in the state.

But these cartels don’t target foreigners who stay on the tourism trail and don’t venture into the unknown countryside. Most cartel activity is relegated to regions near the coastline. If you stay in the inland part of Michoacán, you will be okay.

2. Is Michoacán Expensive?

We found Michoacán to be very reasonable in terms of cost. Unlike other states in Mexico, Michoacán is relatively under-visited by tourists, and prices reflect that.

We’ve eaten at fantastic places in Morelia, Patzcuaro, and Uruapan without paying too much. Even our 3-day at the famous Hotel De La Soledad was reasonably priced.

3. What Are the Important Festivals in Michoacán?

Día De Los Muertos: One of the best Días de los Muertos celebrations occurs in Pátzcuaro. It is one of the few places in Mexico where this popular celebration is still celebrated, like in the old days. If you plan to attend, make your hotel bookings well in advance.

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