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December 27, 2011

Not far from Tinganio lies the town of Patzcuaro. This is another Pueblo Magico which lies on the shore of lago de Patzcuaro, reputed to be Mexico’s most beautiful lake.

We explored the town of Patzcuaro on a Friday which was market day and spent some time in the main market which was a labyrinthine hive of activity. The stalls were selling both the familiar and the unfamiliar – there are fruit and vegetables here that we have absolutely no idea about ! We also walked around the various squares in the town and as with all Mexican towns investigated the various churches which are usually the architectural highlight of the towns.

After this we walked down to the lake shore where you can catch a water bus to the island of Janitzio. The boat was full of Janitzio locals who had been to the market in Patzcuaro for the morning and were returning home with their purchases.

As you approach Janitizio you see an island rising precipitously from the surface of the lake with buildings clinging perilously to its sides. The island is topped by a 50 metre statue of a man with a raised clenched fist. This is a statue of Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon who was the leader of the independence movement in the early 19th century.

When we reached the island we watched as the locals struggled up the steep and narrow streets with their purchases and couldn’t help but think a couple of mules at the harbour may be a good idea.

We climbed up the side of the island through narrow alleys and up very steep sets of stairs. It’s quite a climb but fortunately not too long.  All this at around 2200m in altitude.

Once at the top you can climb up the inside of the statue, which is covered with murals depicting the life and struggle of Morelos. Once at the top you climb right into his clenched fist and you can peer out at the view of the lake.

After descending back down to lake level we walked around the path that circumnavigates the island – a 30 minute stroll.  This was like much of Mexico in that it looked like it had a glorious past but has definitely faded since its heyday. Our guidebook calls Janitzio squalid but we both thought that it was really interesting and a very worthwhile destination.

After returning to the dock we hopped on the next water bus to leave and made it back to Patzcuaro just as darkness was falling.

In the morning we decided to visit some more ruins before heading to the Monarch butterfly sanctuary. These were only 15km from Patzcuaro in a small village called Tzintzuntzan, also the name of the ruins.  This site was established in the 1400’s and by the time of the Spanish invasion housed around 40,000 people. All that is left today are the ceremonial structures at the centre of the city – although digging continues today on terraces below the main centre and is uncovering more of the city.

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