Magical Towns: Tapijulapa

In Culture, Magical Towns by Belen Molina

Beyond the luxurious resort experiences offered at Mexico’s most exclusive beach destinations, there is a vast group of “Magical Towns,” or Pueblos Mágicos, that are located all across the country and that remain largely undiscovered. In 2001, the Mexico Tourism Board acknowledged that Mexico offered a magical element that went beyond its beaches and that kept tourists coming back. For this reason, they created the Magical Towns Program, an initiative that seeks to promote a series of towns across the country that are significant due to their history, rich culture, unique traditions, and natural beauty. These towns welcome visitors from all around the world, offering them a truly magical experience.

Tapijulapa, whose name means “place where they break pitches,” is a magical town located on the mountain ranges of the state of Tabasco, at the crossroads of the Oxolotan and Amatan rivers. Characterized by its white houses, red-tiled roofs, and narrow cobblestone streets, the magic of this town becomes evident in its natural environment.

Tapijulapa is surrounded by high evergreen forests, which enjoy 6-7% of the world’s biodiversity, including 900 species of butterflies, 2,000 plants, 200 orchids, 75 bromeliads, 112 mammals, 44 species of fish, 78 reptiles, and 302 birds. But that is not all; the hills surrounding this magical town are covered in ceiba, amate, matapalo, and chicozapote trees, making it one of the best-conserved high-jungle areas in the state. With such a rich endowment in natural resources, it’s not surprising that the magical town of Tapijulapa is often referred to as the “Emerald of the Sierra.”


What to Eat

Try the famous Totoposte, a traditional food from the state of Tabasco, which consists of a large tostada (fried tortilla) covered with refried beans, melted string cheese and meat, and garnished with sour cream, shredded lettuce, tomato, and a special salsa made with amashito pepper. Other traditional dishes include mone, chote (river snail), mojarra, pollo pibil (spiced chicken), a great variety of tamales, cheese-filled plantains, beef empanadas, and more.

What to Do

  • Visit the Santiago Apostol Church, which was built in the 17th Century
  • Walk along the banks of the Amatan River or travel by boat to the ecological reserve of Villa Luz, where you can enjoy its sulfurous waters. Many of its streams flow into one another, forming a beautiful series of waterfalls and natural blue pools.
  • At Villa Luz, visit the local museum and former home of ex-governor Tomas Garrido Canabal, which exhibits some archeological pieces from the Zoque peoples as well as regional handcrafts.
  • Visit local workshops to see how locals work with mimbre, a local fiber, to create hats, lamps, decorative objects, baskets, and most importantly, furniture. Other artisans also work on wood-carved furniture.
  • Stop by the Jardin the Dios, or “Garden of God,” a botanical garden where a naturopathic physician offers acupuncture and water massage services.
  • If you like adventure, then check out Kolem Jaa, a private nature reserve, theme park, and hotel all at once. Set in the middle of the jungle, this place has it all: waterfalls, beautiful natural pools, a botanical garden, trails for observing flora and fauna, a commando course, a butterfly house, and more.
  • Just 17 kilometers away from Tapijulapa you will find the Temple and former Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman, which dates back to 1572, and now houses a museum of Viceregal Art.

Convent of Santo Domingo de Guzman

Insider Tip: Don’t forget to try a glass of pozol, the traditional drink of the state of Tabasco. This thick drink is made of cacao and fermented corn dough and it has its origin in Pre-Columbian Mexico. Not only is this delicious drink a thirst-quencher, but is considered to be an energy drink among those who consume it.

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