You’ve undoubtedly heard about popular destinations in Mexico, like Cancun and Los Cabos. Still, you’ll be surprised to know there are many hidden gems deep into the country’s territory, and they’re all worth visiting.
One of these beautiful destinations is Zacatecas, and if you’ve never heard about this beautiful 29,067 square mile state, here’s what you need to know. You’ll find this magical place in the heart of Mexico. The hilly scenery is astounding, and traditions here go back for 500 years. Here are five reasons travelers should visit Zacatecas.
Zacatecas Is the Authentic El Dorado
When the Spanish conquerors arrived at Zacatecas, they found some of the most abundant gold and silver mines on the continent. They also found astounding volumes of iron, lead, copper, and quartz. They extracted the equivalent of 800 million dollars from these mines in the following years. Today, the complex tunnels left by the colonial miners are a popular touristic destination, and you can even find restaurants and dance clubs in the most astounding underground settings. It comes without saying these are experiences to remember for a long time! There’s also an underground train at Mina El Edén, where you can ride a minecart deep into mine for a tour and visit its impressive geology museum.
Inspiring Colonial Architecture
Travel back in time walking Downtown Zacatecas, a UNESCO heritage site with buildings and cathedrals built centuries ago — they’re not only still standing, but they’re also in pristine condition. The famous Zacatecas Cathedral is one of the most beautiful and imposing in the country. Built in the 17th century, it covers an astounding 25,769 square feet! The truth is there’s something interesting to see in every corner, Zacatecas appears to be frozen in time. Zacatecas’ cobbled streets are a joy to walk, particularly in the evenings, when people go out to party on the 500-year-old streets and alleys under the moonlight. The callejoneada is all about walking the streets with friends while dancing to live music, following a donkey carrying a barrel of Mezcal. How’s that for a party?
Zacatecas is up high in the clouds. With an average altitude of 6761 feet above sea level and surrounded by even higher mountains, you can surely imagine this is heaven for hiking enthusiasts and outdoorsy travelers. If you don’t feel like walking, take the impressive cable car from the Cerro del Grillo to the Cerro de la Bufa, two of the most remarkable peaks. It travels 2100 feet across the city, offering the most impressive views of Zacatecas and beyond.
Museums on Every Corner
Zacatecas is a museum in itself, but it’s also home to a wide variety of exquisite art galleries, museums, historical and archeological sites. From the Abstract Art Museum Manuel Felguérez to the Archeology Museum La Quemada, Zacatecas will open your eyes to ancient and modern art. The Pedro Coronel Museum, the famous Zacatecan sculptor, is housed in an exquisitely renovated 17th century Jesuit college. It features a host of works by renowned vanguard, surrealist, and Bauhaus artists who spent time in Mexico, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Vasili Kandinsky, Josef Albers, among others.
Food in Zacatecas is authentic Mexican food; it has deep roots and offers a merger of techniques and ingredients from the old and new world. Mezcal and craft beer are well represented as well, and with extraordinary eateries and world-class restaurants, having a good meal in Zacatecas is easy. Try the enchiladas mineras, supposedly the favorite of the region’s miners. Filled with juicy pulled pork and topped with the creamiest hot sauce, this colorful dish is truly unique, and you’ll find them on almost every menu. Broths, stews, slow-cooked meat, gorditas, and tacos are also bountiful, so be prepared for one hearty meal after another. One of Mexico‘s most stunning hotels and restaurants is the Hotel Quinta Real, in what is quite possibly the most luxurious bullfight stadium makeover in history. Guest rooms include private patios, but you don’t need to stay there to have an exquisite dinner outside above the old corrals, looking up at the city’s 18th-century aqueduct.
Zacatecas is Still Uncharted Territory
Although Zacatecas receives thousands of visitors every year, whether it’s for buying silver at great prices or enjoying the city’s traditional charm, the town is still under the radar. If you enjoy spending the holidays in less crowded destinations and want to experience Mexico’s most authentic side, then Zacatecas is for you.
The best part? Zacatecas is entirely tourist-friendly and safe. And people there are always happy to share their traditions with those willing to learn more about their customs. Forget about going to a crowded beach; visit Zacatecas instead! It’s a life-changing experience.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com