Exploring Patzcuaro and Janitzio, Mexico

Following on from the recount of my time in Mexico (last stop Guadalajara), the next stop on our Mexican adventures was to a pueblo blanco Patzcuaro. On first impressions, I thought this was the inspiration for the Pixar movie Coco from the white and red building facades. It is indeed, not the town that inspired the movie but the towns are on opposite sides of the Lake Patzcuaro, so I was close.

Patzcuaro is in the state of Michoacan, a state that is also famous for its’ gangs and avocadoes. In fact, prior to leaving Australia, our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had classified this state as a ‘do not travel’ and I stared at that for alittle while. It is safe to say that our group was fine, there was no trouble and we carried on without a problem.

The main historical city centre of Patzcuaro is easily covered on foot. The cobblestoned paths and colonial styled buildings made this town so different from the others that we had stopped at earlier on our trip. There were market stalls, outdoor food and fruit markets, restaurants and cafes dotted around the squares. We walked to the Basilica de la Nuestra Señora de Salud (Basilica dedicated to the Virgin of Health) and Templo El Sagrario, which is the oldest church in Patzcuaro. There was also the Casa de los Once Patios where there are small artisan stores housed in a double storey building.

Purple bougainvilleas in the Plaza Grande
Basilica de la Nuestra Señora de Salud
Casa de los Once Patios- showcasing artisans and their works
Templo del Sagrario
Templo El Sagrario


The next day, we took a colourful boat to the island of Janitzio. As we got closer to the island, we were delighted to a show of traditional butterfly fishing by 3 men in their boats. Fishing use to be the main trade in town but Janitzio is now famous for the Day of Dead (Dia de Muertos) festival where candle lit boats make their way to the island and people spend the night at the church and graveyards on the island.

When we arrive on the island, it is clear that it’s a tourist destination and the only direction to go is up. Winding up the island are restaurants, cafes and souvenir stores. The incline is steep and also slippery at times. At the top, the 40m statue of Jose Maria Morelos awaits. Morelos is one of the leaders of Mexican Independence and hoped to abolish slavery and racial distinctions. A former Priest, he joined in on the call to arms to free Mexico from Spanish rule and rounded up recruits to his army. He was a true believer of equality for all Mexicans, and is greatly honored by having the state of Morelos and city Morelia were named after him and he is appears on the 50 peso note.

The base of Morelos where there are cafes and bars which weren’t open yet

Inside the body of the Morelos, there is a winding staircase that takes you up to the raised fist which is also a look out. The walls leading all the way up are painted with the timeline of Morelos life. At the very stop, you can catch a 360 view of Lake Pátczuaro and surrounding mountains.

Catch Up On The Other Mexico Posts:

Top 8 things to do in Mexico City
Day trip from Mexico City to Teotihuacan
Day trip to Teotihuacan from Mexico City
Spending a day in Queretaro
First Impression of Mexico
Day trip to Bernal
Exploring Guanajuato
Mexican Food: Cactus (Nopal)

12 thoughts on “Exploring Patzcuaro and Janitzio, Mexico

  1. Lovely photos of lovely places in Mexico! I haven’t seen much of the country so far, but your adventures there show that there’s definitely more to Mexico than just the hyper-touristy spots like Cabo San Lucas or Cancún!

    1. Thank you! I’ve not even heard of Cabo San Lucas and I did not even want to see Cancun at all. Would love to head south next time, plenty of more archeological sites that way and indigenous culture.

  2. I’ve never been to Patzcuaro and Janitzio, but I would love to visit there during Day of the Dead festivities. I’ve heard it’s beautiful during that time. I hope to travel there after the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. Michoacán, though very dangerous is a beautiful state. Patzcuaro is a pretty little town, but I was very disappointed by janitizio. Such is life. Have you been to Parangaricutirimicuaro? (Try to say it in one breath) 😉

    1. What a mouth full! I have not, the only other place in Michoacan I went to was Morelia. Yes, I thought Janitzio was ok for a 2ish hour stop. I found it quite peaceful. It would be amazing to see (or at least the lit up boats) during Dia de Muertos though.

      1. It would. Though we had a similar – and possibly much better experience in San Juan del Río, one November night. We’d stopped there en route, and went out at night. The streets were packed with people walking slowly to the graveyard. We followed the flow. They decorated the tombs. Put food on the stones. Sang and played music. We stayed a while. very impressive.

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