When a mystical, magical partner of mine was celebrating another year around the sun, I felt I had no choice but to seek out the most mystical and magical place in Mexico to celebrate together. It was in that search that I stumbled upon Tepoztlán. A few quick + easy travel-planning days later, the rest+reset adventure was booked.
So, let me start off my saying that travel-within-Mexico gets a big TWO THUMBS UP from me. Five stars on Yelp. Highly recommend. I used GoogleFlights to snag our impressively-affordable airfare and AirBNB to book one of the most beautiful, artistic spaces I've ever slept in... EVER. Prices were hilariously low, the airline experience was shockingly good (Thank you, VivaAerobus!) and the AirBNB host absolutely blew my mind with her attentiveness, responsiveness, and overall amazing energy and connection (not to mention that she left not a single detail out when designing her guests' experience in her beautiful mountain getaway home).
Early morning taxi ride to the ADO Alterna bus station in Playa Del Carmen... a quick, easy, and comfortable bus ride to CUN airport. An 11 a.m. departure to MEX and an equally quick and easy 2-2.5ish hour flight. This adventure was truly the stuff digital nomad dreams are made of.
Landing in CDMX (Cuidad De Mexico) - Mexico City - is an experience unlike most. It's one of the largest cities in the world nestled in between massively sprawling mountains on all sides. The mountainpeaks above the clouds were a particularly impressive phenomenon to witness!
A short, 1.5 hour drive south of sprawling Mexico City, nestled in the Tepoztlán Valley, is a small pre-colonial town dubbed Pueblo Mágico - 'magic town'. It was kind of like driving into Jurassic Park. Truly a 'land before time'. And within a moment of our arrival we knew this tiny piece of the globe would live up to - and even surpass - its name.
Note: for timing + convenience we took a taxi from CDMX. It wasn't the cheapest option available to us but it made sense for the situation we were in. There are buses from Mexico City that can bring you into the Tepoztlan Valley for less than 1/10 what we paid.
About 20 minutes outside of Tepoztlán Centro is Montaña Sagrada, ('Sacred' or Holy Mountain) where our AirBNB was located.
The energy of this space is undeniable, unignorable, and palpable with every step and breath. This is pre-hispanic Mexico.
This is the untouched, the wilderness, the local. These are un-mapped roads and lovingly designed homes for retreat. Both of us can openly attest to the fact that something shifted deep within us the moment we arrived. The landscape is like candy for the eyes and long, nurturing hug for the soul. Mountains stretch out in every direction to literally as far as your human sight will absorb. The land before time.
Our host's home, like most of them in this area, are designed to reflect and introspect these most mystical, magical natural surroundings. Earthly elements are honoured and old Mexican designs are carried throughout.
The inside reflected the outside and back again. (And for this particular AirBNB, this was only one of the THREE living spaces the property offered. Here is the listing for those interested to book. Of course, I highly *highly recommend (and do check out their photos... they do the space much more justice than mine!)
In terms of ease and convenience/accessibility, Montana Sagrada isn't ideal. Yes, the stunning vistas were worth it 10x over, but we did need to hop and skip through a few tricky hoops to get into 'town' to buy basic groceries et al. The hillside is about 20 minutes away from Tepoztlan centro by local bus - and the buses running down the mountain to bring us there do so on their own schedule (it's assumed that every 15 minutes but largely not guaranteed). The first night we ended up accidentally hitchhiking with two Mexican men who offered us a list down the hill in their semi. They'd just finished dumping a load of construction sand at a nearby plot of land. When they pulled over to stop for us as we walked on the side of the road I quickly observed their frail hands, big hearts, and the bag of plum tomatoes on the truck's dashboard. These guys weren't going to rape or rob us... so we hopped in. Turns out they didn't speak a sliver of English.... chattered to us in Spanish the whole way down... and when they stopped at the bottom of the hill to let us out they wouldn't even accept a small peso Thank You. Kindness (and adventure!) prevailed.
Our first grocery stop was Casa Azul, a beautiful authentic local store that stocks incredible local and foreign products including an impressive selection of milk (animal and plant), wine, breads, cheese, meat, even teas. Definitely moreso expat pricing here - though we were willing to pay a premium for special snacks like aged brie and charcuterie meat. I can't imagine it's cheap to get these things so far into the innards of the mountainous countryside.
Believe it or not, the real magic happens outside of the charcuterie though.
This town is SEEPING with sacred.
They honour, celebrate and maintain their pre-colonial roots and fiercely protect that which is magic here.
Local artisan shops are lined with shelves upon shelves of crystals, artwork, magical fairy and gnome figures. It's even believed that UFOs frequent this area and have been photographed circling the Tepozteco mountain. (Spoiler alert: Anna and I did not see any aliens.)
We did climb the mountain though.... despite the pyramid at the top being closed to visitors courtesy of the times. A couple of miles long, yet a basically vertical hike, this ancient Aztec walkway was sacred ground leading toward a once cultishly significant temple to Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of the alcoholic beverage pulque as well as the god of drunkenness and fertility (HA!). Could this be what the UFOs are drawn to? - I mean... that's a whole rabbithole I won't go down.. but seriously, I couldn't figure out why the alien / UFO symbolism throughout the town? Research it. Apparently the photos were lab-validated...? But that's for another trip.
As we weren't planning on hiking this particular day, both of us were in flip-flops. Highly not recommended for a nearly 90-degree steep stone path. So, we did the only thing we could to make it up the mountain - with a slight nod to how our Aztec ancestors would have done it themselves: barefoot. The neat stone staircases at the trailhead were definitely not how the path unfolded...
There wasn't much of a view, either from in between the trees or from the "top" - since the actual top couldn't be reached. Clearly this mountain hike was never meant to be about the view but rather about the challenge of the climb itself.
The Shamaness who took up a small group of followers was my favourite. She took off her shoes when she saw us barefoot and we heard her singing, chanting, and could smell her copal all the up the mountain. A seriously lovely sacred touch!
And as for the town itself.... I mean... the magic speaks through the pixels pretty well:
Along one of the side streets of this sleep, mystical town I found a small Mexican family selling hand-crafted musical instruments. Among them, a drum with two tiny handprints on it - the symbolism wasn't lost on me. I'd been calling in a shamanic drum, handmade by a local (my own buffalo hide drum, while amazing, just didn't have the deep resonance I was looking to feel when guiding our sunset circle drum journeys)... and it seemed most appropriate that a piece of this energetically powerful space come home with me. So it did.
I have so much more to write and share about this place. No amount of words in this language can sufficiently convey the power of this space. But I will do my best to honour its magic with my own... this is only the beginning of the transformation this tiny town brought to my soul. ... to be continued....