Pueblos Mágicos: What are Mexico's 132 magical cities and are they value visiting?

It doesn’t matter the place you go in Mexico, chances are high you received’t be removed from one of many nation’s ‘magical cities’ – or ‘Pueblos Mágicos’.

There are 132 Pueblos Mágicos dotted throughout Mexico – rising from simply 4 initially in 2001 – with at the very least one in all the 31 states.

Although there’s nothing supernatural about these cities, they’ve every been hand-selected for his or her distinctive allure and dedication to custom.

For guests eager to expertise the richness of Mexico, these magical cities are must-visits – though they arrive with a strict algorithm for residents.

How does someplace turn into a Pueblo Mágico?

So as to turn into designated as a Pueblo Mágico, a city should meet sure standards:

  • Have a inhabitants of at the very least 5,000
  • Be not more than 200km away from a significant vacationer vacation spot
  • Have demonstrable symbolic or cultural relevance
  • Have named historic monuments
  • Have accessible public transport
  • Have a delegated space devoted to native tourism
  • Crate a particular Pueblo Mágico committee
  • Set up a ‘Tourism Improvement Program’ for the city
  • Assure public well being and security providers

Regardless of a lot of functions to the programme, solely a handful of recent Pueblos Mágicos are ever accepted. The final time any new cities got the title was 2020, when 11 Pueblos Mágicos have been created.

It’s potential to lose this standing too. So as to retain the Pueblo Mágico identify, cities have to take care of their cultural significance and protect the traditions that earned their spot on the listing.

In 2009, two of the unique Pueblos Mágicos, Tepoztlán within the state of Morelos and Mexcaltitán within the state of Nayarit, have been faraway from the listing. Tepoztlán had its standing restored a 12 months later, whereas it took an extra decade for Mexcaltitán to regain its title.

Pueblos Mágicos may also be upgraded. It’s solely occurred as soon as, however San Miguel de Allende within the state of Guanajuato turned a UNESCO World Heritage web site in 2008.

The programme practically stopped a number of years in the past, attributable to a scarcity of help at a federal degree – one thing that has virtually occurred a number of instances. Nevertheless, the scheme was as an alternative partially decentralised and now’s supported at a state degree as an alternative.

What are Pueblos Mágicos truly like?

Thankfully, I can inform you firsthand what these magical cities are like – or at the very least what certainly one of them is like.

I visited Izamal final 12 months, one of many first Pueblos Mágicos, as a part of a wider journey throughout the state of Yucatán.

It’s one of the well-known cities within the scheme due to its distinctive color palette. Actually, earlier than I even knew a go to to the Yellow Metropolis (as Izamal is affectionately recognized) was on my itinerary for the journey, a colleague pointed me to an article he had beforehand written for Euronews Journey that highlighted the great thing about this city.

After I first discovered of the Pueblos Mágicos scheme, I used to be involved that these cities would really feel like mannequin villages or theme parks – virtually trapped by their standing, and unable to really feel like an genuine place.

Izamal, nonetheless, feels very actual. It’s completely gorgeous in fact, however it’s not so polished in pursuit of perfection that it ever seems pretend. As an alternative, it’s a stunning city with a robust sense of historical past and custom, the place regular folks stay and work.

The town dates again to round 750 BCE and has been constantly occupied since that time. Izamal has seen civilisations rise and fall, pyramids constructed, colonial forces arrive – and all this extraordinary historical past is mirrored all through the city.

Izamal’s different nickname is the Metropolis of Hills as a result of it’s flanked by the ruins of historical pyramids. It’s additionally dwelling to a Sixteenth-century monastery (which is, in fact, yellow too), with the second-largest open atrium on the earth after the Vatican.

After exploring the streets of Izamal by quadbike (which I extremely suggest as a mode of transport in a city like this), I used to be in a position to stroll by the monastery because the solar set. The sunshine all through the Yellow Metropolis right now was extraordinary – and it’s nicely value timing a visit to Izamal to see this.

Are Pueblos Mágicos factor?

Although my expertise with Izamal was resoundingly constructive, on the finish of the day the Pueblos Mágicos programme is designed to draw vacationers – not essentially to enhance the lives of residents. In fact, boosting tourism is meant to assist create extra jobs within the space, however this doesn’t at all times result in materials enhancements for locals.

Tourism is a crucial a part of Mexico’s economic system, with over 41 million vacationers every year making it the seventh most-visited nation on the earth (pre-pandemic). The sector represents virtually 10 per cent of Mexico’s GDP, so tourism schemes like Pueblos Mágicos are a significant a part of distributing that funding all through the nation. As an alternative of travellers solely specializing in main cities and resort areas, the programme encourages folks to go to smaller cities and expertise the variety inside Mexico.

The Pueblos Mágicos scheme has been credited with preserving many historic websites, offering much-needed funding for the restoration of “historic centres, monuments and church buildings”, in keeping with Raul Valdez Muñoz, a researcher who has analysed the impression of the programme.

However Valdez Muñoz additionally discovered that the economies of smaller cities within the programme haven’t benefited a lot, as an alternative the bigger close by cities have financially gained as vacationers want to remain within the greater cities and do brief journeys into the Pueblos Mágicos.

It’s additionally been discovered that some cities have used funds on “initiatives that concentrate on interesting to vacationers by ‘earlying up’ buildings – modifying them to make them seem older or making them extra grandiose than they have been initially,” says neighborhood planner Gibrán Lule-Hurtado.

Lule-Hurtado stresses that although the Pueblos Mágicos programme undoubtedly has advantages, there may be an ongoing danger that cities could choose to give attention to inauthenticity that’s extra interesting to vacationers, over truly preserving real-life traditions.

“This sample of change could also be noticed within the look of buildings designed to attract in vacationers, however with out a lot consideration for the city’s cultural previous,” says Professor Anna Winiarczyk-Raźniak.

“For instance, some buildings are made to look colonial – although they might don’t have anything to do with Mexico’s colonial previous.”

Winiarczyk-Raźniak additionally concludes in her analysis that’s no proof to counsel the lives of residents in Pueblos Mágicos have considerably improved – however she stresses that with slightly extra oversight, it’s fairly potential folks might begin to see extra concrete advantages.

Lule-Hurtado agrees. He notes that many different nations have checked out launching comparable schemes and that with the proper administration they might show to be very helpful at an area and nationwide degree.

General, no specialists appear to be saying that Pueblos Mágicos must be averted – with many noting how nicely the programme has labored at redistributing vacationers by Mexico, facilitating journey to areas many worldwide guests would by no means usually go to. 

So when you’re on the lookout for a approach to discover Mexico slightly in another way, it’s undoubtedly value seeing when you can add some magic to your itinerary.