The Delightful Mountain Town of Tapalpa
Old brick arcades line the sidewalk of Tapalpa, a small alpine town in the sierra of west central Mexico. Surrounded by pine forests, lakes and streams, Tapalpa beguiles the traveler with its peaceful landscape, quiet pace of life and tradition of colorful arts and crafts.
Nestled in the hills atop a plateau, Tapalpa is a town of some 16,000 inhabitants sitting high at 1950 meters (6350 feet). A gorgeous two and a half hour drive, 81 mile (130 kilometer), southwest from Guadalajara. When Guadalajara heats up in the late spring, the tapatío (as Guadalajarans are known colloquially) flock to the fresh water and air of this beautiful and restful village. The pueblo’s name is derived from náhuatl word, 'Tlapalpan', which translates as “Land of Colors” and is know locally as by the same appellation in Spanish, Lugar de Tierra de Color. The ascent up the twisty road to the sierra de Tapalpa from the San Marcos valley is quite dramatic; a glance back at the impressive view is best left for the return trip, as this road requires all the driving attention you can muster.
Once there, park where you can, and take to the streets, as Tapalpa is for walking. Stroll along the quiet cobblestone calles, poke your head into numerous small tiendas offering local crafts, take in one of the impressive churches (such as the Templo San Antonio at the right), sample the delightful wares, the wide variety of fruits, nuts and vegetables and tempting aromas of the luscious dishes being served up by the vendors off the jardin principal, that surround the main zacalo (plaza)
We had a fabulous lunch in a delightful courtyard at a nearby restaurant called Girasol (sunflower) that features one of the mouthwatering local specialties, tamales de acelgas, stuffed with swiss chard.
Surrounding Tapalpa are other attractions that will engage the adventurous hiker. In a small village known as 'La Barranca De Refugio’, about six miles (ten kilometers) from the plaza you’ll find an impressive waterfall called El Salto de Nogal that plunges 341 feet (105 meters). Nearby the are the crumbling ruins of the 'Taberna' or saloon, where a mezcal named "Barranda' was produced until the late 1940s. Local guides are available in nearby La Barranca that can assist you in visiting the waterfall.
Four and half miles (seven kilometers-the first being the worst, rut wise) northwest of the town from town is the Valley of the Enigmas, where you’ll find the enormous Piedrotes, an unusual outcropping of volcanic rock. Also nearby are the ruins of the Tula ironworks, destroyed in the revolution of 1917. Numerous hiking trails crisscross the local hills and circle the small lakes located nearby.
Tapalpa is definitely worth a full day trip, more like two or three if you really want to savor this Mexican masterpiece of colonial charm and endurance