CUETZALAN, ESTADO DE PUEBLA, MEXICO
Cuetzalan is a beautiful, quaint village located high in the Sierra Norte region in the northern part of the State of Puebla, Mexico. It was designated a Puebla Magico in 2002 and definitely lives up to the honor of the designation. The picturesque village is full of beautiful, old colonial buildings lining cobblestone streets. It is high in a cloud forest and often has fog that settles in over the cobblestone steps, creating an ethereal feel that separates it from stereotypical Mexican beaches. Though there is a strong presence of traditional culture in the puebla itself (which is anobvious bonus), there are plenty of charming hotels and pleasant restaurants for tourists that serve delicious food of the region.
For our family of four, including two young children (ages 5 & 6), our favorite part of Cuetzalan was exploring the natural wonders of the region. We organized a guided tour to rappel down the 160 ft. Las Golondrinas waterfall, followed by swimming in the water at its base. The guides, which were organized by our lodge, were very adept with their climbing skills and we had full faith in their ability and attention to safety. There was a short 15-minute easy hike to get to the start of the rappel and about a 30 minute mild uphill hike out. We did pass by the top of the more famous La Cascada de las Brisas waterfall on our way out; however, we didn’t have extra time to hike into the bottom with the kids. The rappelling lasted about 1.5 hours for the 4 of us to ensure everyone got down two separate walls safely; the hiking was about 45 minutes total.
Our second full day, we hired guides to take us on an exploration of an underground river. The air circulated well, so there was no feeling of claustrophobia. The fear of the darkness and unfamiliar pushed our kids to be brave and adventuresome and when they finished, they felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. We weaved and waded our way through the river, sometimes crossing pools that were too deep to touch the bottom. The kids stood beneath underground waterfalls, which they loved. This adventure did require a lot of interaction with the kids as they required assistance for quite a few obstacles. However, this was the highlight of the trip for the girls and they enjoyed it even more than the rappelling. The adventure itself took about 3 hours in total and there were a couple miles of hiking to get to and from the cave entrance. There was also an option to do an 8-9 hour adventure in these caves that included rappelling and underground river exploration, but we felt this would be too much for our girls and therefore, we opted for the shorter adventure.
We only had 2 full days when we went to Cuetazalan, but we are heading back to the region this November, so I may have an update. Exploring the ancient archeological sites (Yohualichan,Tajin, and Cempoala) via the Corazon del Bosque waterfall on horseback is next on our list of adventures.
In summary, Cuetazalan is a wonderful puebla to visit with children, but you must come with a little courage and a sense of adventure. In addition, especially if they are young, your kids may take a little motivation to build their courage to jump right in.
Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism designates certain villages as a Puebla Magico, or “Magical Village.” “A Puebla Magico” is a place with symbolism, legends, history, important events, day-to-day life – in other words, “magic” in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism.”