Mexico’s Pueblo Mágico program has done a lot to drive tourism to many small towns throughout the country. In most instances, these towns really are something special. My favorite? Bernal, Querétaro.
Why? Read on!
The Wine and Cheese Trail
The state of Querétaro is the second-largest producer of wine in Mexico–behind Baja California, of course. For those who scoff and say, “Mexican wine?” I say, “keep scoffing–more wine for me!” There really are some quality wines here.
But don’t believe me, try for yourself!
The number of vineyards and wineries has exploded in Querétaro in the last few years. Which wineries should you visit? Whatever piques your interest!
As time is limited on any vacation, I’ve only visited three: Viñedos Azteca, Freixnet, and La Redonda. I do recommend them, but am looking forward to visiting others on my next trip. (But we will ALWAYS stop in at the Azteca! The wine was excellent and the vineyard itself lent itself to a relaxed, afternoon stroll.)
The Wine and Cheese trail wouldn’t be complete without the cheese. While we love cheese, we haven’t been very adventurous. We just go to the Hostal de los Quesos, and go a little hog wild, buying up fancy-pants cheeses that are normally difficult to find in Mexico. The fact that they’re made in Mexico is a huge bonus.
Peña de Bernal
Bernal’s most notable feature is the Peña (or sugarloaf mountain) that dominates any view of Bernal.
It’s possible to hire a guide and rent equipment to scale to the top of the Peña. But, for less ambitious hikers, it’s possible to get a good way up without a guide or equipment. Bernal maintains a well-marked trail. Be warned though, even the hike through town to get to the bottom of the Peña isn’t for the faint of heart–just getting to the top of the town is quite steep!
The view is worth it, though!
Be warned, only go as far as feels safe. The first time I tried to climb it, it was raining, and it became clear that there was only so far we could climb safely that day. This last time, we went a great deal farther. But once the trail ends, it is completely possible to misstep and fall off the mountain. That could result in severe injury or death. So be careful!
Also, the crowds can be thick during the weekends. It can be a steady stream of people climbing up and going down on some fairly narrow paths. Whenever possible, spend a weekday in Bernal, get up early, and enjoy the Peña in peace.
It’s so worth it!
Being a Pueblo Mágico, Bernal has all the touristy-trinkety shops you’d expect. A store attached to Gorditas el Negrito is packed with gorgeous wood carvings–most religiously-inspired, but some secular. My favorite was a 2 meter tall fat friar, clutching his tarro of beer. He was standing precariously close to a wooden crocodile.
A store specializing in artesanias from Michoacán had miniatures for Day of the Dead altars and wall decorations. My daughter’s doll house is now very well stocked!
Where To Eat
Right next to the fountain in the central plaza is an Italian restaurant, Piave. It was the most memorable meal I’ve had in a long time. Being in wine country, we asked for a jar of their house wine (which didn’t disappoint). The entrees were simple, yet hearty and packed with flavor–everything I expect from a quality Italian meal.
The owner had the appearance of an older, Italian man. Given the quality of the food (and the reasonableness of the prices) was confirming that guess. But I never did work up the courage to ask him!
For a quicker meal, but equally hearty, head to Gorditas El Negrito. They have a wide variety of fillings, and they are precisely that–FILLING! The gorditas go perfectly with a ice-cold bottle of beer. For less than one hundred pesos you can be fed, watered, and ready to go again!
Unless you order five or six, of course!
Where To Stay
We stayed at the Hotel Rancho San Jorge and loved it! It’s a short walk to the downtown area and very close to the entrance of the town, so the location is ideal. For those who’d rather be farther in the country and really get away from it all, they do have cabins (which I bet do not deserve the rustic description of cabin) a little ways out of town. But my husband wanted to walk downtown.
I wanted a nice bathtub. Bathtubs are usually hard to find in hotels in Mexico, but the one at San Jorge went beyond my wildest expectations. A jetted tub, nestled in its own little nook in the room, with a great view of the trees surrounding the hotel–it was the perfect way to finish off a tough day of wining, dining, and wandering around town!
Some Pueblos Mágicos are honestly too big to deserve the distinction of “pueblo”. Some Pueblos Mágicos don’t have enough attractions to deserve to be labeled a tourist attraction. Some have too many.
Bernal, Querétaro is perfectly balanced in all the above categories.
It deserves the title of My Favorite Pueblo Mágico!