Mexico’s popularity as a tourist destination keeps increasing year after year as more travelers are drawn to the pristine coastal nature of its Pacific coast and the Caribbean-bounded Yucatán peninsula’s world-class amenities.
Though they are indeed incredible and the main reason why visitors flock to Mexico, there is more to Mexico than just its collection of five-star resorts lining thin white-sand beaches.
Demand for beach vacays may be on the rise, but so are cultural expeditions, and Mexico is arguably the cultural heart of North America, boasting a high concentration of ancient ruins, historic towns, and the sort of manmade wonders you simply couldn’t find elsewhere.
If combining both a sunny getaway and culture sounds appealing to you, without excluding either, perhaps you should consider visiting this hugely underrated Mexican city this fall:
The Colonial Treasure Of Central Mexico
The capital and largest city of the small Mexican state of Querétaro, Santiago de Querétaro, most commonly shortened to just Querétaro, is a nationally renowned center for the culture and arts in Central Mexico, yet not that many foreign tourists have heard of it.
That is because a majority of culture-based tours in Mexico are centered in the much larger Mexico City, or in certain instances, Guadalajara, due to the accessibility of nonstop flights and more developed tourist facilities, but this doesn’t mean Querétaro would pale in comparison.
Like many major Mexican cities, it has a fascinating History worth revisiting, even if briefly.
Home to around 794,000 residents, it was founded by the Spanish Conquistadores in the early 16th century, around the time the United States was settled.
Querétaro was built on indigenous land around the sacred Sangremal Hill, which is ironically where the colonial center is today.
While the Spanish erected forts and protective walls around the hill to enclose themselves from external threats, at the same time as they built monasteries and Iberian-style churches, the natives were forced to live outside the economic zone in the suburbs.
Discover Beautiful Colonial-Era Monuments
This division can still be seen today, as the historic center concentrates a majority of Querétaro’s stately buildings and traditional architecture, whose beauty in a way rivals other colonial cities, particularly Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende.
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized by the international entity for the well-preserved state of its colonial structures and post-Columbian heritage.
All around the Centro Histórico, tourists will find an abundance of colonial gems, colorful houses, and charming gardens and squares, as well as municipal museums where they can dive deeper into the local History and acquire more knowledge on the colonization of Mexico.
Some of the most beautiful colonial treasures can be seen in the Temple of Santa Rosa de Viterbo, an 18th-century Baroque church with a distinct red dome and a richly-decorated golden interior.
The Plaza de Armas is the oldest part of town, flanked on all four sides by outdoor eateries and colonial mansions and a popular starting point for exploring the numerous cobbled paths.
In the Plaza itself, you shouldn’t miss the Libertad Gallery, Casa de Ecala, a baronial house easily recognized for its ornate, large balconies, and Palacio de la Corregiadora, a historic building that houses the State Government.
The Regional Museum is particularly impressive, as it is housed within a 16th-century convent, featuring 6 exhibition rooms.
La Zacatecana Museum is yet another window into the past and a 17th-century colonial mansion that has remained virtually unchanged as the country modernized.
Other important landmarks include the three main monasteries, San Felipe Neri, Santa Rosa de Viterbo, and La Santa Cruz, the Museum of Art, located in the former monastery of San Agustin and one of the most impressive Baroque efforts in Mexico, and the City Museum.
Santiago de Querétaro is also the perfect homebase for exploring the wider Central region of Mexico, as it sits only 132 miles away from Mexico City, 39 miles from San Miguel de Allende, perhaps the prettiest colonial town in the country, and 120 miles from fellow UNESCO-listed San Luis Potosi.
Stay In Charming Boutique Hotels
If you’re staying in central Querétaro, you will also find an excellent selection of boutique hotels and guesthouses.
These include the three-star Casa Loreta, in the heart of the Historic Monuments Zone, where an overnight will set you back by $88 this October, Stadía Suites, the top-rated listing with rooms starting at $78, and Hotel Criol, at an even cheaper $71.
If you’re not on a stricter budget, and you would ideally prefer a more luxurious experience when exploring Querétaro, perhaps the landmark Patio Santiago should be your pick, as it is equipped with 24-hour front desk service, a fitness center, and a rooftop bar overlooking the picturesque Old Town.
The Historic Center is indisputably the best area to base yourself, as it is where a majority of the tourist-friendly restaurants and cafes, as well as traditional food and craft markets routinely take place.
Querétaro Is Safe To Visit
As a destination, Santiago de Querétaro is very safe, being listed as a Level 2 city by U.S. authorities – the same as Cancun, Los Cabos, Mexico City, and most tourist destinations in Mexico.
This means Americans must simply ‘exercise increased caution’ when visiting, as pickpocketing and scamming may be an issue in touristy zones. On the other hand, they are not urged to reconsider travel as crime levels are under control.
As it is the capital and the seat of the Government, Querétaro is well-patrolled, and violence rates are generally low. With that being said, Americans should still exercise their usual precautions when visiting, such as leaving valuable items like jewelry in their hotel safe and avoiding suburban districts.
How To Travel To Querétaro From The U.S.
The Querétaro Intercontinental Airport hosts flights from two U.S. hubs, namely Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston-Intercontinental. By any standards, it is a small international airport.
For a majority of Americans, unless they are living in Texas, the easiest way to get to Querétaro is by booking a connecting flight through Dallas or Houston, or flying first into Mexico City, and then using public transportation, or arranging a private transfer to reach the city.
There are regular daily buses leaving from Mexico City (Poniente 112 stop), calling at Querétaro only 3h35 later, for only $19.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com