Queretaro

Travel Guide North America Mexico Queretaro

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Introduction

Querétaro, officially Free and Sovereign State of Querétaro, is one of 31 states that, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 18 municipalities. Its capital city is Santiago de Querétaro. It is located in North-Central Mexico, in a region known as Bajío. It is bordered by the states of San Luis Potosí to the north, Guanajuato to the west, Hidalgo to the east, México to the southeast and Michoacán to the southwest.

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Geography

The state is one of the smallest in Mexico, but it is also one of the most heterogeneous geographically, with ecosystems varying from deserts to tropical rainforest, especially in the Sierra Gorda, which is filled with microecosystems. The area of the state was located on the northern edge of Mesoamerica, with both the P’urhépecha and Aztec empires having influence in the extreme south, but neither really dominated it. The area, especially the Sierra Gorda, had a number of small city-states, but by the time the Spanish arrived, these had all been abandoned, with only small agricultural villages and seminomadic peoples inhabiting the area. Spanish conquest was focused on the establishment of the Santiago de Querétaro, which still dominates the state culturally, economically and educationally.

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Cities

  • Santiago de Queretaro is the capital and largest city of the state of Querétaro, located in central Mexico. It is part of the macroregion of Bajío.

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Sights and Activities

  • Cerro de las Campanas, or Hill of the Bells, is a hill and national park located in Querétaro City, Mexico. It is most noteworthy as the place where Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and Generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía were executed, definitively ending the French intervention in Mexico. The mountain gets its name from rocks that, according to legend, make bell sounds when struck. The hill on what was formerly the outskirts of Querétaro was the site of the end of the Second Mexican Empire. After being intercepted by the republican generals on May 15, 1867, Maximilian, who had been besieged in the central city of Querétaro since March, surrendered on the mountain to General Mariano Escobedo. He was jailed on the mountain along with his two generals: Miramón, who had been the president of Mexico for most of 1859 and 1860, and Mejía, a Querétaro-born cavalry general. After a court-martial in Querétaro in which all three were sentenced to death, the sentence was carried out atop the hill on June 19, 1867, when Maximilian, Miramón and Mejía were executed.
  • Franciscan Missions of the Sierra Gorda. These were declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2003. They are credited to Junípero Serra of the Franciscan Order, who also founded important missions in Alta California. The five missions are: Santiago de Jalpan and Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol in the municipality of Jalpan, Santa María del Agua de Landa and San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco in Landa, and San Miguel Concá in Arroyo Seco. The facades of these churches are important because of the “Mestizo Baroque” style, which shows significant indigenous influence by the Pame Indians who built them. The region is on a branch of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range and consists of a series of mountain chains that run northwest to southeast. Within Querétaro, the ecosystem extends from the center of the state starting in parts of San Joaquín and Cadereyta de Montes municipalities and covering all of the municipalities of Peñamiller, Pinal de Amoles, Jalpan de Serra, Landa de Matamoros and Arroyo Seco, for a total of 250km2 of territory.
  • Peña de Bernal, Bernal's Boulder or Bernal Peak, is a 433 m tall monolith, one of the tallest in the world. Peña de Bernal is located in San Sebastián Bernal, a small town in the Mexican state of Querétaro. It is one of the most touristic sites near the capital of Queretaro and considered one of the 13 Wonders of Mexico. The porphyrytic monolith was thought to have been formed during the Jurassic period. A recent chemical analysis by researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico has determined that it is considerably younger, likely formed about 8.7 million years ago. Many people perform a pilgrimage to the small chapel located at the highest point accessible through hiking.

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Events and Festivals

Most of the fiestas of the state of Queretaro are related to the anniversaries of the foundation of municipalities, the celebration of local Roman Catholic patron saints or exhibitions of the most popular produce of the particular region. The majority are observed at the local level and, given that the greater part of the municipalities have few inhabitants, the festivals can be a bit austere.

Most traditional festivals are tied to the Catholic religion, with some of the most important being Candlemas, Holy Week and Day of the Dead. Locally important are the myriad of festivals to patron saints of towns, villages and municipalities. In addition, the number of civic and economic festivals and fairs include celebrations of the founding of the various cities, regional fairs in Cadereyta, El Marqués, Jalpan de Serra and others to showcase local products and culture.

The Feria Nacional del Queso y el Vino in the town of Tequisquiapan began in the 1980s as a means to promote the region's wine and cheese production. The fair promotes the 1,200,000 million bottles of wine and 400,000 kilograms of cheese the state produces each year. Most of the activity occurs at the La Pila Park, in the town center, but there are also cultural events, conferences, contests, charreadas, concerts and more associated with it. The main tent contains wine and cheese producers from the local area as well as the rest of Mexico and international companies. The event crowns a festival queen, who is crowned by the municipal president.

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexico where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Other Events and Festivals

  • Grito de la Independencia - September 15th is Mexican Independence Day! A massive celebration involving plenty of singing, dancing and fireworks takes place in the Zócalo. Everyone here awaits an appearance from Mexico's president who rings a bell from a central balcony of the Palacio Nacional overlooking the Zócalo. The president then shouts out the Grito de Dolores, or the Cry of Dolores which was Father Hidalgo's famous call to arms against Spanish rule in 1810.
  • Dia de la Candelaria. Candlemas is held February 2nd and commemorates Jesus being introduced into the temple 40 days after his birth. This nationwide celebration sees many different ways of celebrating and many towns in Queretaro State hold processions, bullfights and dances. Of course, plenty of delicious, traditional foods are served during Dia de la Candelaria as well.
  • Carnaval is held in late February or early March throughout Queretaro State and all of Mexico. This big party is meant to celebrate the 40 day penance of Lent. Carnaval always takes place during the week or so prior to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. Mexicans celebrate this holiday with fireworks, food, dancing, parades, dancing and drinking.
  • Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a huge celebration which starts on Palm Sunday. This is a very popular time for Mexicans to take a short break; as a result, it seems most of the country is on the move, with buses and hotels often booked out. As for the celebration of Semana Santa, expect colorful processions and many masses at churches everywhere.
  • Día de Nuestra Seňora de Guadalupe, or Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, is held December 12th. There is a week-long build up to this religious celebration in honour of the Virgin who appeared to the indigenous Juan Diego in the year 1531. Since then, the Lady of Guadalupe has been Mexico's religious patron and her veneration is very significant. It is traditional for young boys to be dressed as a Juan Diego and for young girls to be dressed in indigenous garb and brought to a special mass, held at many churches throughout the country.
  • New Year's Eve. Mexicans celebrate New Year's Eve or locally known as Año Nuevo, by downing a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one. Mexican families decorate homes and parties, during New Year's, with colors such as red, to encourage an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow to encourage blessings of improved employment conditions, green to improve financial circumstances and white to improved health. Mexican sweet bread is baked with a coin or charm hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, the recipient whose slice contains the coin or charm is believed to be blessed with good luck in the new year. One can expect a lot of firecrackers, fireworks and sparklers being fired. At midnight there is a lot of noise and everyone shouts: "Feliz año nuevo!" People embrace, make noise, set off firecrackers, and sing Auld Lang Syne.
  • Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration held on May 5. The date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. The victory of the smaller Mexican force against a larger French force was a boost to morale for the Mexicans. A year after the battle, a larger French force defeated Zaragoza at the Second Battle of Puebla, and Mexico City soon fell to the invaders.

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Weather

Most of the state is dry, with the exception of the north, which is temperate and rainy. The average temperature is 18 °C. Three well-defined climate areas are in the state. The south has a temperate and fairly wet climate. Temperatures are relatively stable through the year, ranging from an average of between 12 and 18 °C, with most rain falling in the summer. This region includes the municipalities of Amealco, Huimilpan, Pedro Escobedo, San Juan del Río and Corregidora. The center and west have drier and hotter climates, especially in areas under 2,000 metres. Here, the Sierra Madre Oriental and parts of the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt impide moist air from arriving. This dry area includes the municipalities of Querétaro, Corregidora, El Marqués, Peñamiller, Esequiel Montes, Cadereyta, San Juan del Río, Tolimán and Tequisquiapan. The Sierra Madre Oriental area has climates that range from temperate to cold, varying significantly from north to south and even more due to altitude. The north tends to be warmer than the south, but average temperatures can range from 18 to 28 °C at lower elevations and between 14 to 20 °C at higher elevations.

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Getting There

By Plane

Querétaro Intercontinental Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Intercontinental de Querétaro, IATA: QRO, ICAO: MMQT) is an international airport located in the municipalities of Colón and El Marqués, Querétaro, Mexico. It handles the national and international air traffic of the city of Querétaro and can also be used as an alternate airport to Mexico City International Airport.

By Car

The state has a total of 3,349.5 km of highways, almost all of which is paved. 571 km of this is federal highway, 880.9 km of this is state highway and 1,885.7 km are rural roads. This includes a section of the Pan American Highway. The highway system centers on the capital and connects the state with Mexico City, Guadalajara, Ciudad Valles and north to Ciudad Juárez and the United States. Much of the rural highway infrastructure, especially in the Sierra Gorda area, is for the benefit of mining, agriculture and forestry. The most important of the interstate roads links the state with Mexico City metropolitan area and its market of 20 million people as well as 25 other million customers within 320 km. The US border is a nine-hour drive. To support the international transportation of goods, Querétaro has an inner customs office that facilitates the shipment of manufactured products to foreign countries. However, the highway system is most concentrated in the municipalities of Querétaro and San Juan del Río and the corridor in between. Fifty five percent of the traffic along this corridor begins or terminates within the state. Primary highways include Mexican Federal Highways 45, 55, 57, 69 and 111.

By Bus

Buses of all classes enter into Queretaro from neighboring states and beyond. First and second class buses serve the routes from further afield, while simpler buses move about the state on lesser roads serving the smaller villages and ejidos.

For an overview of schedules and connections, check thebusschedule.com. Also check out rome2rio.com.

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Getting Around

By Bus

Every city and town in Queretaro has bus service from points within the state and beyond. First and second class buses traverse every major road and almost all secondary roads. Local bus service (often aboard old school buses) pick up the slack and serve even the smallest village. Buses are frequent and reservations are not needed; just show up at the bus station and purchase your onward ticket or, especially in smaller villages, simply flag the bus down en route. The holidays of Christmas and especially Easter see much of Mexico on the move - consider planning your bus travel ahead of time during these holidays.

For an overview of schedules and connections, check thebusschedule.com. Also check out rome2rio.com.

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Eat

The cooking of the Sierra Gorda region of Queretaro is strongly influenced by the Huasteca cuisine of neighboring Hidalgo and San Luis Potosí states. One notable dish is sacahuil, which is a large tamal wrapped in the leaves of a plant called a papatla. This dish is most prevalent in Landa de Matamoros and Jalpan de Serra. During festivals in San Miguel Tolimán, the main dish is chickpeas with saffron accompanied by tortillas in a number of colors. In Peñamiller, they celebrate with goat meat, accompanied by pulque. Another common dish in this areas is a variety of tostadas called arriero (donkey handler). In this and other central municipalities, gorditas de migajas (literally crumb gorditas) is a common dish.

Traditional food products include a candy made of guava fruit and sugar, jams, and sweets made from pulque, milk candies from Bernal, a hard bread called mezquitamal, which is made by the Otomis, and various types of mole sauces made in Amealco. In the Sierra Gorda area, gorditas can be prepared with sugar, cheese, and piloncillo. The zacahuil, a large type of tamale, is filled with chicken, turkey or pork with dried chili pepper. A number of insects are used, especially in indigenous dishes such as tantárreas (ants from a type of mesquite tree) and escamoles, often cooked with cactus flowers. One native beverage, called mejengue, made with piloncillo, banana, pulque and corn.

  • Tacos are by far the most prevalent food in Mexico and come in many varieties and regional variances. Here, tacos are more often served on corn tortillas instead of wheat. Flour tortillas are the norm in the northern states of Mexico. Beef is also the meat of choice for tacos here,
  • Mollete is an open faced sandwich consisting of a bolillo roll smothered in refried beans and melted cheese.
  • Carnitas are slow braised meats usually bought by weight. These often come with tortillas to wrap the meat in. Any meats cooked in this fashion are always tender and very rich in flavor.
  • Cabuche is the flower from the biznaga cactus. this edible flower is a delicacy in San Luis Potosi state. There are many dishes this flower can go into and many ways to prepare it on it's own.
  • Chiles en Nogada - this dish is meant to represent the Mexican flag's 3 colors; red, white and green. The red portion of this dish is a garnish of pomegranate seeds, the white from a cream sauce and the green from poblano chili pepper.
  • Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on organic corn ears due to the lack of anti fungal chemicals introduced to the crop. When cooked and added to certain dishes huitlacoche is very earthy in flavor.
  • Pozole - Choose either red or green pozole. This corn and chile based soup is very tasty and is served at many comedors and loncherias in marketplaces throughout Mexico.
  • Rosti-Pollo - Roast chicken is a hugely popular meal in Mexico and represents an astounding value for travelers on a budget. Order a whole, or half chicken. Each order comes with french fries, unlimited tortillas and salsa.
  • Birria Stew - Birria is typically goat meat but many establishments prepare it with beef. The broth is a tomato and chili based one although it is not too spicy. Fresh diced onions and cilantro always accompany birria stew as a garnish. Of course, unlimited corn tortillas are served with each bowl.

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Drink

Simichol is a fermented corn drink prepared in Santiago Mexquititlán. In San Joaquín, the drink is called charape, made with piloncillo.

Beer

Mass produced Mexican beers tend to be a bit less sweet than their American counterparts. All in all, Mexican beers are quite good and go very well with Mexican food. Microbrews are starting to pop up in big cities and certain varieties are distributed further afield. Many bars catering to a hip clientele will feature imported beers from throughout the world

Montejo, Leon, Victoria, Superior, Carta Blanca and Estrella are national brands that can be difficult to find at times depending on where you are in Mexico. Lately, both Tecate and Indio brands have become the most widely distributed beers next to Corona. Many of the beers mentioned are brewed by Mexico's brewery powerhouses - Modelo and Cuauhtemoc.

One of the traditions in Mexico is to add lime to beer, adding a pleasant acidity. Another popular way to drink beer in Mexico is to mix it with lime, tomato juice, spices and assorted chili-based sauces. This drink is known as a Michelada and is very popular in hotter climates throughout Mexico and actually makes for a very refreshing concoction.

Tequila

Tequila is the signature firewater of Mexico and nearly all of it hails from the state of Jalisco. Here, small agave plantations and larger haciendas churn out a staggering number of brands. Of those brands, there 5 varieties of tequila:

  • Oro, or gold is possibly the poorest quality of the lot. That gold color this variety is known for is artificial and this tequila really burns the throat. It is best used in cocktails and margaritas.
  • Plata is also known as Blanco and represents the next lowest quality of the 5 varieties but tastes better than the Oro variety. This is unaged and the flavor is much less complex, making it suitable as a mixer rather than a shot for sipping.
  • Resapado means rested and this variety is aged for up to 9 months. Flavor profiles become more complex and respado makes for a good introductory sipping variety. Expect a clean, sharp taste with a subtle peppery finish.
  • Aňejo. This aged variety, conditioned in oak barrels for up to 1 year, is very smooth and sweet. Many people enjoy this variety as an aperitif, or even an after dinner drink. Certain brands of aňejo represent a very good value, especially considering the amount of nuanced flavors created by each distilleries' aging techniques.
  • Extra Aňejo, or vintage, is a relatively new variety. This is aged for 3 years, often using other types of barrels aside from the traditional oak ones. This is best sipped neat. Extra Aňejo has boosted the craft tequila market in Mexico.

Mezcal

  • Mezcal can sometimes be as high as 60% alcohol, so enjoy this drink with caution! Mezcal is made from 1 of around 20 different species of agave, some of which can take decades to mature. Only once will a mature agave sprout the flower whose sap is fermented to make this potent potion. Some varieties include:
  • Minero is distilled in clay pots and is a very high quality variety. Subtly smoky in flavor and very smooth.
  • Arroqueňo tends to be a subtly sweet-tasting Mezcal. Many find this to be the most pleasant variety. The flavor begins a bit bitter but quickly finishes sweet and warm.
  • Joven means young, and this variety is simply unaged and therefore a little bit rough.
  • Tobalá is named for an actual variety of agave plant, grown in mountainous regions.

Pulque

Pulque has been enjoyed since well before the Spanish conquest of Mexico but has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade, especially among the hip crowd. Pulque is simply the fermented sap of the maguey plant. The end result is a very thick, cloudy drink with a slightly acidic taste. This viscous liquid is often given artificial fruit flavoring to improve it's overall uninspiring taste, however many pulque drinkers are purists when it comes to quaffing this strange alcoholic beverage. In Mexico, pulquerias - bars exclusively serving pulque - offer a real authentic drinking experience and many feature roving musicians ready to play a tune for the merry patrons. Pulque has an alcoholic content between 4% and 6%.

Other Drinks

  • Chamoyada is a sweet and spicy type of shaved ice, or raspado or Mango sorbet, prepared with chamoy. It is a part of Mexican cuisine, and is also common in regions of the United States with significant Mexican-American populations. The drink is usually sweetened with mangoes or apricots. It is essentially a combination of chamoy sauce, shaved ice, chili powder, and fruit chunks. In certain variations, a whole fruit popsicle, or paleta, is added to the drink and mixed with the shaved ice. The drinking straws served with chamoyadas also often have tamarind candy on the outside. Chamoyadas do not contain any dairy products. The different flavors of chamoyadas can include fruits like mango, lemon, guava, tamarind, pineapple and strawberry.
  • Champuraddo is a warm and thick chocolate-based drink, prepared with either masa de maíz (lime-treated-corn dough), masa harina (a dried version of this dough), or corn flour (simply very finely ground dried corn, especially local varieties grown for atole); piloncillo; water or milk; and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed, or vanilla. Ground nuts, orange zest, and egg can also be employed to thicken and enrich the drink. Atole drinks are whipped up using a wooden whisk called a molinillo (or a blender). The whisk is rolled between the palms of the hands, then moved back and forth in the mixture until it is aerated and frothy.
  • Liquados are a Latin American handmade blended beverage similar to smoothies, made with milk, fruit, and usually ice.They are also sometimes called "preparados" (meaning "prepared"). Licuados and other fresh fruit juice drinks are ubiquitous throughout Mexico. They are sold by street vendors, and in special licuado shops, restaurants, and fruterias (restaurants specializing in fresh fruit).
  • Aguas Frescas, (Spanish for "cool waters", or literally "fresh waters") are light non-alcoholic beverages made from one or more fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Some of the more common flavors include tamarind, hibiscus, and horchata. Aguas frescas are sold by street vendors, but can also be found in bodegas (convenience stores), restaurants and juice bars.
  • Atole, also known as atol and atol de elote, is a traditional hot corn and masa-based beverage of Mesoamerican origin. Chocolate atole is known as champurrado or atole. It typically accompanies tamales, and is very popular during the Christmas holiday season (las Posadas).
  • Café de olla is a traditional Mexican coffee beverage. To prepare café de olla, it is essential to use a traditional earthen clay pot, as this gives a special flavor to the coffee. This type of coffee is principally consumed in cold climates and in rural areas. In Mexico, café de olla is made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (known as panela in other countries).
  • Jarritos is a popular brand of soft drink in Mexico, founded in 1950. Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and is less carbonated than popular soft drinks made in the United States or Canada. Many Jarritos varieties are naturally flavored. The word jarrito means "little jug" in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs. Produced in Mexico, they are sold throughout the Americas.

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Sleep

As is typical with all of Mexico, accommodation options in Queretaro run from budget hotels and hostels to fancier lodges and resorts. Every city and town caters to the traveler as many people traverse the country by bus and often find themselves staying overnight along the way, especially on long-haul routes. Because of this, many hotels can be found around bus stations and in small towns those accommodation options will extend well beyond the transportation terminal. You will find an accommodation type to suit any budget in Queretaro.

Many hotels in Mexico (and Queretaro) list their prices at the front desk and haggling for a reduced rate for a stay of a few days or more is acceptable. Many hostels have become more expensive than hotels, especially for a couple traveling together. It is very common to find clean, safe, comfortable and centrally located hotels for 200 pesos. Wi Fi is almost always available at these hotels and sometimes cable television and air conditioning are included. Prices for these same types of hotels are at least double on the Baja Peninsula. It is also acceptable to ask to see a room before paying. Ask to see another room if the one shown to you doesn't suit you. Street noise is a problem in Mexico (and Queretaro is no exception); rooms facing the road can be very loud. Ask for an internal-facing room if possible. Hot water is often an issue in Mexico and may only be available during certain hours.

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This is version 11. Last edited at 10:45 on Jun 21, 19 by road to roam. 4 articles link to this page.

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