Hasta Los Huesos?
May 3, 2007 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Can you give some advice on going to Mexico for El Dia de los Muertos?

I'm interested in traveling to Mexico for El Dia de los Muertos. I have been to Mexico many times but will claim no special knowledge that might help me answer my own question. I want to avoid the common tourist traps. Can you recommend a state/city/town/village that I might travel to that would be good for El Dia de los Muertos? I have not yet decided if I will be traveling by car (from Midwest USA) or plane (then rental/cab/otherwise upon arriving). In answering you can assume an American with enough Spanish language skills to get by. Can you give any other pertinent advice, ideas, or suggestions for this trip (even places to stop along the way if I drive)? I know there is much info available through Google but I am hoping for some first hand experience (or advice from those generally knowledgeable about Mexico).
posted by horseblind to Travel & Transportation around Mexico (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oaxaca. But make sure it's a safe time to go first. Previously.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:16 AM on May 3, 2007

The Panteon in Oaxaca is one of my favorite alltime places. I have to believe that you would get deals on lodging because of the downturn in tourism.

But yeah, make sure it's safe.
posted by Danf at 10:18 AM on May 3, 2007

The two key places for this would be Isla de Janitzio, which is on the Lago de Patzcuaro near the city of Morelia (which is a beautiful colonial city by the way), state of Michoacan; and San Andres Mixquic (which many know simply as Mixquic), a small town southeast of Mexico City.

IMHO these are the two most traditional, less commercialized celebrations of the Dia de Muertos. If you're planning on attending and don't have a place to crash prearranged, I'd start booking reservations asap, as both places tend to be booked to the gills.

Hope you can make it, and say hello to my deceased for me.
posted by subajestad at 10:44 AM on May 3, 2007

Answering your question poses a paradox. Everyone will tell you to go to Oaxaca or Janitzio or perhaps San Miguel de Allende. And I guess that is where you should go.

But be warned that the tradition as it is practiced in those places has been a bit corrupted by the great interest in Day of the Dead - a victim of its own success. A friend told me that its sometimes like 10% celebrants and the rest gawkers and photographers.

That doesn't mean the tradition still does not exist. It's alive in many of the small towns. I know that the small villages of Nahua people in Popocatepetl cling fiercely to traditions but that area is really rough and so under-touristed I wouldnt send you there without a guide. Although Patzcuaro/Janitzio is over-touristed, some of the surrounding small towns in the Purpecha Indian region may be better. I've spent days with my family hiking through the Meseta Purepecha - its this series of Indian villages where you'll still see women in colorful skirts. Besides Dia de los Muertos, there seems to be a festival there every other day - accompanied with large puppet heads and a band of musicians with trombones and tubas.

I know that doesn't sound helpful. But I think the way to do it is to go to Patzcuaro and then strike out into the surrounding regions, making more and more of a tradeoff between touristy and rural:

1. the "lago de Patzcuaro" towns (Tzintzuntzan, Ihuatzio)
2. The Meseta Purepecha (mentioned above)
3. The Once Pueblos "Eleven Towns" (really rural but also really authentic - not much info on the Web)
posted by vacapinta at 10:51 AM on May 3, 2007

Seconding Isla de Janitzio. It is fun, crazy and beautifil on those days. I believe the lake is drying up, so go while you can the fishermen do their thing.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2007

I was in Puebla and Cholula (both in the state of Puebla, about 1.5 hours from Mexico City) for it a couple of years ago. Puebla has a crapload of churches that all decorate like crazy, and while the town has been modernized and is very clean and safe, they have lots of traditional celebrations for the important Mexican holidays. The markets were full of candied pumpkin, massive marigold boquets, and sugar skulls... it was pretty awesome.

That said, Morelia in Michoacan, which someone suggested above, is a really gorgeous city that I would definitely go to again. I don't remember exactly what the right time of year is, but Morelia is near the mountains where the monarch butterflies migrate (and for $20 you can get a horseback ride up the mountain to see them... amazing sight), so check for sure to see when the high monarch season is and see if your trip might coincide there. That'd be totally worth it.
posted by olinerd at 11:03 AM on May 3, 2007

If you're in that region, I'm also thirding Morelia which is a gorgeous city. I'm "introducing" someone to Mexico and my plan right now is: Morelia -> some of the backroads of Michoacan -> Guanajuato. Forget the tourist trap seaside resorts. This is the Mexico of movies: lush jungles, Spanish colonial architecture, pre-Columbian villages.
posted by vacapinta at 11:11 AM on May 3, 2007

Ok. Your title is ┬┐hasta los huesos? and you say you want to avoid tourist traps. So here is my advice: Pomuch.

There, people dig up the remains of their relatives, clean their bones, spend the day with them and then do a reburial ceremony. I have a couple of friends who've gone and say the whole situation is as out-of-this-wordly as you can imagine.

This, needless to say, may not be what you are after (or something most people would like to see), but I figured you'll get tons of the regular advice, so there was no harm in adding this one.

In case you chose to go there, I think driving there might be out of the question, which is a shame, as it would be a lovely trip. Perhaps you can drive up to Mexico, fly to Pomuch, spend the day there and then drive back from Mexico City. If you have further questions, you know, email's on profile.
posted by micayetoca at 8:58 PM on May 3, 2007

« Older 64-bit n00b, doesn't want to be a b00b.   |   How long after the end of a lease can the landlord... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.