Situated on the Pacific Ocean in western Mexico, the state of Michoacán is known for its beauty as well as its history and culture. Michoacán borders the states of Jalisco, Colima, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Mexico, and Guerrero. Michoacán is celebrated for its indigenous peoples, landscape, and major cities like the capital, Morelia, and Patzcuaro. In spite of the state’s natural beauty, the inhabitants of the region are notably against Cancun-like development. Instead, the region boasts a serene air of enchantment—one of many reasons why visitors love to witness everyday life there.
Michoacán became a state of Mexico in 1823. It has an area of 22,642 square miles on the mainland and also retains some marine territory off the coast. The population of the state is 4,383,769; it is ranked the ninth most populous state of Mexico. Large indigenous populations in the state include the Purepecha, Otomi, and Nahua.
Geography and Environment
With mountains to the east and the ocean to the west, Michoacán is revered for its lovely year-round climate as well as its delectable produce. It boasts more than 130 miles of Pacific coastline including stretches of the Sierra Madre del Sur; these mountains cross the state as does the Trans-Mexican Volcano Belt. The area’s best known volcano is Paricutin, a cinder-cone volcano that last erupted in 1952. The state also boasts various waterways like the Lerma River. Beautiful Lake Patzcuaro and its islands attract many tourists. With its varying ecosystems, the state is home to many kinds of animals like mountain lions, foxes, armadillos, and various reptiles. The state is home to conifer forests as well as tropical forests.
The Purepecha Indians are often regarded as the most important of the region’s pre-Columbian civilizations. They were one of the few highland tribes to repel the Aztec expansion. The tribe intrigues modern day historians and linguists because the language of the Purepecha is like none other in Mexico. Linguistically, the closest match is in Ecuador. After the Spanish conquered the area, missionaries began to settle throughout the region. The Spanish retained nearly all the lands and restricted education to those born in Spain or descended from Spanish families. While rebellions were not as common as in other states, the region is known for producing enlightened thinkers such as Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who was a Spanish priest who did lead an army of impoverished peoples against the Spanish. Though he was eventually executed for this activity, his role in the Mexican War for Independence cemented his reputation as the Father of Mexico. The archeological sites and historical landmarks scattered throughout the state draw many visitors as does the colonial architecture of many cities and towns of the region.
The indigenous influence on the cuisine of the state is unsurpassed in terms of longevity. Centuries of regional recipes have been passed down to create what many call Mexico’s most soulful cuisine. Fish from the Pacific as well as the rivers and lakes of the state play a major role in the food of Michoacán. When the Spanish settled in the region, their flavors enhanced, but never replaced the regional staples. Today, a rich cuisine greets travelers to this state. Corn, beans, rice, and popular items like tamales are treated with unique flavors and ingredients of Michoacán to create extraordinary tastes that are not found elsewhere in Mexico.
While Michoacán is revered for its stunning beauty, it has not been commercially exploited in the way that many other areas of Mexico has. For this reason, it attracts tourists who are mainly interested in the culture, history, pristine landscape, and eco-tourism opportunities. Of course, there are a great many international tourists who are greatly interested in those aspects of the state and do come in great numbers to enjoy the many attractions Michoacán has to offer. Miles of lovely beaches and enchanting forestlands make this state a true stand out for those considering a Mexican vacation.
As well as the capital, Morelia is also the state’s largest city. Morelia was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 due to its historic center and wonderfully preserved Spanish Colonial architecture. Located in the eastern part of the state, Morelia contains many important sites that are of interest to visitors. The city’s cathedral, large plazas, and museums offer considerable tourist appeal. While the Museo del Estado and the Museo de Arte Colonial draw many crowds, the unique Orquidario of Morelia is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in botanicals; it contains more than 3,400 species of orchids. With its festivals—especially is film festival—and its myriad of colonial architecture, Morelia is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the state.
Things to See and Do in the Michoacán
El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary: This internationally acclaimed sanctuary is one of the state’s most famous attractions. Located on the state’s eastern border near the village of Angangueo, this haven welcomes migrating butterflies who have traveled south from as far north as Canada.
Maruata: This coastal town is home to a Nahuat indigenous population. This breathtaking area is nesting grounds for Pacific green sea turtles that attract many backpackers to the shoreline.
Patzcuaro: Situated on the shores of beautiful Lago de Patzcuaro, this village is located roughly between the cities of Morelia and Uruapan. Archeological ruins and its contemporary Day of the Dead celebration lure travelers from all over the globe as well as from other Mexican states.
Uruapan: The state’s second largest city, Uruapan is famous for its avocados. It is also one of the country’s oldest cities and attracts many visitors each year.
Parque Nacional Eduardo Ruiz: This unique national park is situated within the city of Uruapan. It is noted for its river spring as well as many fountains and cascades and lush tropical growth.
Paricutin: From academic volcano experts to adventuresome thrill seekers, this volcano offers climbers an extraordinary experience amidst a scenic paradise.
Los Azufres Nacional Parque: With its refreshing pools and curative hot springs, this national park is touted as nature’s spa. It’s situated in the municipality of Hidalgo.
Paracho: This village is known for its centuries-old traditions as well as its hand crafted items. The artisans of Paracho are particularly revered for their skill in instrument-making—especially guitars!