Patzcuaro is an incredibly beautiful colonial city that is located in the center of some of Mexico's most picturesque countryside. A visit to this quaint lakeside town is like a trip back in time, if it weren't for the cars and trucks. The town sits in the hills above the shores of Lago Patzcuaro and the whole area is a photographers dream come true. The cobblestone streets, small plazas, whitewashed homes, shops and mansions, red tile roofs and old churches of the town all seem like something out of another era.
Patzcuaro has two main plazas, around which most of the towns activities take place. The bigger of the two plazas is Vasco de Quiroga and this is also the more active of the two. Sidewalk cafes, restaurants, hotels and craft shops surround the square, all situated in colonial era buildings. The absence of any religious buildings adjacent to the square make this plaza unique. If you are lucky you will catch a performance of the Dance of Los Viejitos (Dance of the old men), being performed near the fountain. There is a local tourism office across the street from this plaza where you can get maps and information. Most of the attractions are just a short distance from the plaza and are easily reached on foot. Patzcuaro is an easy 40 mile drive from Morelia, less than an hour, through some really incredible countryside.
Patzcuaro makes a great base for exploring the towns and villages that surround the lake, most of which date to pre-Hispanic times.
There are more than a dozen small towns and villages that surround the lake and each is unique and each is worthy of individual exploration. Each of the small towns specializes in a different craft and there is usually a special area where the crafts are displayed and sold. You will need a few days to do a good lakeside tour but I am sure you will find that was time well spent.
Isla Janitzio is an island that makes a pleasant side trip, by boat, from Patzcuaro. An island where life seems to be based around eating, most of the year. The islands main landmark is a 130 foot statue of the local hero Jose Maria Morelos, which has a viewing balcony in his fist that offers nice views of the lake. Restaurants are abundant on the island and most specialize in the tiny fish that are caught locally and corn that is prepared in a variety of methods from recipes that have been passed down for generations. The boat trip from Patzcuaro to the island takes about 20 minutes and may include entertainment in the form of a local band or at least a singer with a guitar. When you get close to the island look for the local fisherman with their unique butterfly nets.
Isla Janitzio is the location of what may be the most elaborate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in all of Mexico. The holiday dates back to Aztec times and on this tiny island it is celebrated just as it has been for centuries. On the 1st and 2nd of each November this is "the place to be" for many worldly travelers, as the tiny island comes alive in celebration of the dead. It can get very crowded around this time of year, if you want to visit make sure to make reservations well in advance.