Not only can you enjoy stretches of fabulous Pacific Ocean beaches while vacationing in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, but if you’re staying for a couple of weeks or more, you can take advantage of some quick side trips into the interior of Mexico for a change of scene during your visit.
Here are some exploratory weekend-or-longer Zihuatanejo side trips to experience Mexico
Side trips to the Easter Craft Fair at Uruapan, Michoacan, avocado capital of the world
If you’re in Zihuatanejo over Easter, buzz up into the interior to Uruapan, Michoacan, for a couple of days during the holidays (from at least a full weekend before Easter Sunday to a full weekend after). There you’ll experience one of the most impressive craft fairs in the country. Thousands of artisans display their wares that range from intricately-woven textiles through hand-painted pottery to ingenious basketry and wood carving. The drive by car takes about 2-1/2 hours, slightly more if traveling by bus. You’ll also experience a refreshing climate change as you first go through the intense heat of Infiernillo (literally meaning “Little Hell”) and up into the cool mountainsides forested by avocado orchards surrounding Uruapan.
If you’re here at other times of the year, there are plenty of other things of interest in Uruapan, including visits to the San Pedro textile factory, walks through the Barraca de Cupatitzio National Park, and horseback riding in the Paricutin volcano lava field that buried the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro. And don’t forget to eat a few of the best and freshest avocados in the world!
Tingambato Ruins between Uruapan and Patzcuaro
At the town of Tingambato, between Uruapan and Patzcuaro, is a compact archaeological site that has all the incredible elements of many of the larger sites in Mexico: a ball court, a main pyramid, ceremonial platforms, a tomb, and more. To get there, turn off the toll road to Morelia (Highway 14D) at the Zurumucapio toll booth, go through Zurumucapio and carry on until you reach Highway 14, turn right toward Patzcuaro and the town of Tingambato, and follow the signs to the Tingambato archaeological zone (click link for more photos and info).
Patzcuaro and the Day of the Dead
A spectacular cultural adventure in Mexico is experiencing the rites and celebrations of the Day of the Dead in which all of Mexico festoons cemeteries and altars with candles and the flowers of the dead (calendula and amaranth are among the blossoms), and partake of food and drink, tears and song, with their loved ones at the graveside long into the early hours of the mornings of November 1st and 2nd. No place is better to experience this balance of life and death than the streets and graveyards of Patzcuaro, one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos (magical villages) and the island of Janitzio. Just make sure you make your plans and reservations for this side trip well in advance, as the town fills up to capacity and spur-of-the-moment accommodations are almost impossible to secure. Patzcuaro is an approximate 3 to 4 hour drive up into the hills of Michoacan from Zihuatanejo, following the Lazaro-Morelia highway (Carreterra Siglo 21).
Even if you’re not in Mexico for the Day of the Dead festival, Patzcuaro makes a great side trip from Zihuatanejo at any time of the year to enjoy its wealth of arts and crafts, its colonial and native architecture, and the flavor of a small town perched in the cool interior highlands of Mexico.
Side Trips to Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan
Copper is king in Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacan, a small town in the hills above Patzcuaro. The townspeople are expert coppersmiths. The town square has a kiosk in its center with a roof lined in copper, and artisans in copper fashion plates and cauldrons, bathroom sinks, and even pure copper bathtubs in addition to smaller items such as copper jugs and vases, lacquered copper plates, and miniature decorative items. You can access Santa Clara del Cobre via Highway 120 out of Patzcuaro or via a back road that passes Lake Zirahuen and then carries on to Santa Clara through the surrounding high meadows.
Marveling at the Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries
Every year millions of Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada to Mexico, weighing down the oyamel fir trees in the high mountains of Michoacan between Morelia and Toluca. It is a fascinating and awe-inspiring experience to sit silently amongst the trees laden with these delicate creatures and hear the whisper of their wings as they warm up in the sun. The whole forest rustles with mystical energy. The sanctuaries are located near the towns of Zitacuaro and Angangeo, both of which offer accommodations. This side trip takes one a bit farther afield from Zihuatanejo than the others and would probably need three full days or more to fully appreciate the butterflies as well as the town life and surrounding countryside.