Departure approaches at a fast pace and although you want to stop it, you know you won’t succeed. After almost five years in Mexico it is time to go back to Europe. So this is the time when you also try to revisit some of the places that touched you. To hold on a little bit longer and maybe rediscover them with different eyes. The eyes change your perspective the longer you stay in a place. You are no longer the hesitant visitor of the first time, who knew little and was trying to take it all in at once. You are now a more experienced traveller, who has learned to appreciate the culture, the food and the diversity of the country that has grown on you. You look for different things now in a much more relaxed approach. You can slow down, appreciate your surroundings, look at the faces more attentively and enjoy flavours in the street without fear.
Malinalco is an ancient land, this beautiful valley in the state of Mexico full of vegetation at the foot of a mountain range is known to have been settled in the 12th century by different pre-hispanic indigenous groups. But it is most famous for its Aztec warrior sanctuary built in the 16th century for the Eagle and Jaguar warriors. Called the “Cerro de los Idolos” this archeological site is considered one of the most important ceremonial sites for the Aztec warriors. After an exhausting climb of about 400 steps you reach the main temples.
Here the warriors participated in initiation ceremonies and other types of rituals like the sacrifice of prisoners.
The main attraction is the temple Cuauhcalli or house of the Eagle Warriors. It is world famous for its monolithic architecture, entirely carved out from a single rock as you can see here.
It is an impressive temple with part of the carvings still preserved like these jaguar and eagle heads on the main altar. It was here that the warriors performed their initiation ceremonies.
Or this representation of a jaguar head and a war drum
The site is at 215 m (705 feet) high and you have the most beautiful views over Malinalco.
When you return down to the “pueblo” you walk through the cobblestones streets and can admire the colourful colonial houses and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. On wednesdays and weekends you always find the market in the main square. All the seasonal fruits and vegetables are on display for picking. Each vendor tries to display their produce to best attract costumers.
It is always a pleasure to stroll around the market and see what you can find
There are also beautiful handicrafts and household items in various materials
And something I truly recommend is to try the traditional market food. It is usually done fresh before your eyes and you can sit and enjoy the bustling market activity while you eat. This time as an aperitif before lunch we decided to try the tlacoyos. These are oval shaped dough pockets usually filled with beans, fava beans, cheese or pork.
My favourite restaurant in Malinalco is Los Placeres situated in the main square. Here you can find great Mexican cuisine. We love to sit outside in the small interior garden and enjoy the sunny afternoons. One of my favourite dishes is the “Super Nopal”. The prickly pear cactus leaves are a very traditional food in Mexico, one that I have grown to love. In the super Nopal, the cactus leaves are filled with squash and hibiscus blossoms and gratinated with cheese.
But you can also have other Mexican dishes like this Chile relleno, filled with plantain.
This year in April, the first Malinalco cultural festival took place. The idea was to showcase some of the culture and art that you can find in this wonderful pueblo. Also bring the culture to the streets and to the people. We loved it and I really hope they will keep it up. Artwork was on display in various forms and you could stroll the streets and appreciate the cheerful and relaxed mood in the air.
And enjoy nice music as well
There were also theatre pieces, concerts and other organized events like the “Cavalgada”, a horse riding expedition through the beautiful outskirts of Malinalco.
Finally, you can’t leave Malinalco without visiting the 16th century former Augustinian convent and church of the “Divino Salvador”. The convent played an important role in the conversion and evangelization in the area and has one of the first examples of indigenous art in its beautiful murals.
If you want to discover the real Mexico, its people and its wonderful cuisine, you need to venture out of the obvious touristic circuits and visit the pueblos. The “pueblos magicos” are usually very safe and worth your time. Some of my happiest moments in Mexico were spent visiting these wonderful places, their markets, talking with the local people, eating their food. This is how you get to know this great country.