I was fortunate to spend two nights in Patzcuaro in early April before Semana Santa. This historic, colonial city on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro, one of the highest in the country, was once an important religious and political center. It is known for its Day of the Dead celebrations on November 1st of each year. Here Mexicans from all over the country gather on the island of Janitzio and in the villages around the lake.
Patzcuaro has lovely squares, old churches, great restaurants and many shops offering the best of local crafts.
I stayed at La Siranda, an amazing boutique hotel right off the Plaza Grande. Once a classic residence in the heart of Patzcuaro, it has been transformed into a cozy, hotel with five suites and picturesque grounds. It combines tradition, refinement and serenity, with the element of exclusivity and therefore has no name on its facade. The lovely grounds were once the orchards of the Santa Caterina de Siena convent. The rooms were large and beautifully decorated with local crafts from Michoacan. The food was the best I had in town!
The owner of La Siranda recommends the following restaurants: La Casa de Naranjo, Restaurant Bigoli for Italian fare, Restaurante La Compania, La Lupita, Restaurante La Surtidora and Mezcaleria el Carajo for great mezcals.
Casa de los Once Patios: La Siranda is a neighbor of the Casa de los Once Patios, the Santa Caterina de Siena convent, which was constructed in the 18th century, but today is home to many artisans who reflect the richness of Michoacán culture in their work. I bought several pieces from one of the great artisans. There are many galleries and folk art stores all over the downtown area.
Casa de los Once Patios is within walking distance from the former Jesuit College, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud finished in 1833, and other magnificent buildings of the 16th and 17th centuries, when Pátzcuaro was the political and religious center of the current state of Michoacan.
If you like folk art, the Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro is turned into a huge market around the time of Day of the Dead with many artisans from the nearby villages selling their creations.
There is also a very nice Museo Regional de Artes Popular showing the wonderful crafts of the region.
You have to come to Patzcuaro during the Day of the Dead celebrations. You can visit the cemeteries of the villages surrounding the Lake and take a boat to Isla Janitzio, an island in the middle of the Lake. I heard it is a little dangerous taking the boat at night as they tend to get overcrowded, so I went the next day and was thrilled to be able to photograph the many home altars on the island. Tzintzuntzan and Ihuatzio both have celebrations at night that should not be missed. Traffic can be horrible so hire a driver for the night.
This trip I also visited the villages of Tzintzuntzan, Tocuaro, Erongaricuaro and Quiroga. Tzintzuntzan has many folk art stores and a crafts market and a wonderful 16th century convent and church in a shady courtyard that you have to see. Tocuaro is known for its award winning wooden masks.
Santa Clara del Cobre is a nearby town that you will want to visit if you like copper. The production of copper art objects is the main activity of the town. The work is really exceptional.
Patzcuaro is easily reachable from Morelia, the capital of the State of Michoacan.