The Monastery, Museum, Pyramid Hike, Tepoznieves, Walking Tour and How to Get There
Here it is the long-awaited second half of this article. Now you can make your plans to bring the whole family to Tepoztlan.
To the left of the church is the old monastery (Exconvento de Tepoztlan), now open to visitors Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. free of charge. INAH (the National Institute of Anthropology and History) has been in charge of the monastery since 1939 and the recent restoration of the original paintings on the walls makes it a captivating place to visit.
A sign in Spanish at the entrance to the convent informs visitors that a few years after the Spanish conquered Tepoztlan in 1521, the Franciscans began their evangelization of the local people. Between 1530 and 1550, the Dominicans took over and, by 1580, the convent had been built and was in use. By 1857, religious life at the convent stopped and the monastery was abandoned. It was used as an occasional barracks by French troops of Maximiliano de Hapsburgo between 1864 and 1867 and much later by Zapatistas and Constitutionalists.
The monastery is cool, and shaded. A peaceful patio complete with orange trees blooming and bearing fruit reminds the visitor that it was once a home to monks. If you are lucky there will be an art show on display upstairs. Sometimes local artists display their impressive, international quality work in the upstairs hallways of the monastery. The gift shop is bursting with interesting, quality items and the views from upstairs are settling to tired travelers.
To make an appointment for a guided tour of the monastery you can call 739-395-0255. Dial 01 first from inside Mexico and 011-52 from the U.S. or Canada or write to [email protected]
The colorful Tepoznieves shop is a famous and extravagant ice cream store. It offers hundreds of tempting original flavors created from local fruits and other ingredients. © Julia Taylor 2007
MuseumThere is a small museum in Tepoztlan with pre-Hispanic artifacts on display. It is a cool, quiet refuge perfect for spending a few moments contemplating the passage of time in Tepoztlan. Named after Carlos Pellicer, a poet who fell in love with Tepoztlan and donated his private collection to the people, the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (cost $10.00 pesos).
Pyramid HikeFor those interested in strenuous, high altitude exercise rewarded by a dramatic view, the pyramid hike is a perfect way to spend a few hours. The trail starts where the main street of Tepoztlan ends and the columnar basalt mountains begin. Hikers in all kinds of crazy footwear follow the wide, clean trail up and up and up a steep ravine in the mountain to reach the top where they can sit on the remains of a pre-Hispanic pyramid and take in the view of the Tepoztlan valley and the mountains beyond. Make sure that you have a little money with you because at the top you must pay a small fee to see the pyramid (and view.) Watch out for the raccoon-like animals at the top. They’ll chase you away from your lunch! Click here to see some photos of the pyramid and valley.
TepoznievesTepoztlan is home to the famous and extravagant ice cream store, Tepoznieves. Hundreds of original flavors, created from local fruits and other ingredients, make choosing your treat a challenge. The bilingual menus posted on the cases help you to figure out what all the tubs of colorful ice cream and sorbet contain, but you can ask for tastes to narrow it down to the flavor(s) you want. Just ask the attendant, “¿Me da una prueba de _____?” and they will give you a small scoop. Be sure to try the flavors that contain fruits currently in season. Some of them are so good they will knock your socks off. The author recommends the sorbets ( de agua).
Walking TourAll of the abovementioned places and sights are within easy walking distance of each other. The highway from Cuernavaca snakes down into the valley then becomes the main street of Tepoztlan, passing along one side of the zocalo and market. Start your tour on this street. The first place that you will see as you arrive in Tepoztlan is Tepoznieves on your left. A couple of blocks further along the road, the zócalo will be on your right. As you stand facing the zocalo, the craft market will be the road in front of you and to your right (it’s really obvious and you can’t miss it.) The market is to the left of and behind the zocalo. Just beyond the market is the entrance to the church and monastery. To climb to the pyramid, follow the main road all of the way to the foot of the mountain and it will gradually narrow and become the trail that leads to the top. You can’t miss it as there are lots of little stands selling things to visitors. Finally, to find the museum, follow the craft fair down hill (the church will be to your left). At the first street turn left. The museum is in a building that connects to the back of the church and monastery. How do you like that? A town in Mexico where you don’t have to ask directions!
How to Get to Tepoztlan
Tepoztlan is about 45 minutes from downtown Cuernavaca (or 20 minutes if you take the toll road and pay 22 pesos). You can get there either by driving or on a bus. If you drive, the highway leads out of Cuernavaca from the Glorieta de la Paz, passing through Ocotepec, curving many times and finally arriving in Tepoztlan (to take the toll road, get onto the highway to Mexico City at the Glorieta de la Paz, then follow signs to Tepoztlan). Parking is easy to find on a side street or in one of the many family-owned parking areas in the small neighborhood surrounding the zocalo.
You can also take a bus from the Lopez Mateos market in Cuernavaca. They leave every 10 minutes and cost $11.50 pesos, one way. The direct bus leaves every 20 minutes and costs $15.00 pesos. Both buses follow the same route, but one stops to pick up people along the way.
If you are in Mexico City you can take a direct bus from the Taxqueña bus terminal (at the south side of Mexico City). These buses leave every 30 minutes and cost $71.00 pesos.