Amealco de Bonfil is one of the oldest towns in the state of Queretaro and is one of the newest on the list of pueblos magicos. Founded in 1538, Amealco de Bonfil is a place of history and tradition, agriculture and waterfalls.
Amealco de Bonfil is located a few minutes from the state border of Queretaro and the State of Mexico. It’s an hour south of Queretaro and just over 2 hours from Mexico City off of Highway 57. Evidence of prehistoric settlements and mammoth bones have been found in this region. Today it’s a peaceful town surrounded by corn fields and sheep farms. You’ll find more barbacoa restaurants in this region than you could ever imagine. For those who enjoy a slower pace of life on their travels or even retirement, Amealco may be exactly what you are looking for.
It is believed that Amealco means “place of springs” in Nahuatl, and historians seem to agree that the loose translation is “place where water springs from the rocks”.
There are two waterfalls nearby each about 20 minutes away. Cascada de la Piedad is a one stream waterfall located between La Piedad and San Pablo. Cascada de la Concepcion is a larger waterfall with multiple cascades that is easier to get to just off of highway 330. Also called Cascada Concha, it’s absolutely spectacular. You can get pictures from the top or climb down to the pool at the base to cool off.
The indigeneous Otomi people still live in this region and have their own language called hñähñu that is still spoken today.
The Center of Amealco de Bonfil
The center of Amealco is where most of the historical monuments are located and the local activity happens.
Plaza de la Constitucion
The Plaza de la Constitucion is the center of activity in Amealco. Here you can see locals sitting on benches eating ice cream, watch kids twirl and dogs play. Walk up the terraced steps of the plaza to admire the obelisk surrounded by plaza portals. The obelisk was built in 1938 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Santa Maria de Amealco, the name the town was founded under.
Parroquia de Santa Maria Amealco
What we see today of the Parroquia de Santa Maria was built in 1882 and completed in 1905. The church was first constructed in 1778, but all that remains from that era is the bell tower. It’s a beautiful, simple church that still retains its original wood flooring.
House of Culture
The adobe walled House of Culture showcases the history of the region and the handcrafted maria dolls. It’s open from 8am-8pm Monday through Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays. The cost of admission is free. On the weekends the craft market lines the side streets selling artisan pottery, handmade crafts and of course, maria dolls.
Museo de la Muneca (Doll Museum)
Though every region makes and sells their own versions of the maria dolls, Amealco is recognized as the place of origin. In the mid 1900s, smaller towns were struggling economically. Many were in danger of becoming ghost towns because families were moving to the cities for better work opportunities.
The daughter of muralist Diego Rivera, wanted to help boost the economy of Amealco. She began a program for the women to make these traditional maria dolls to sell to tourists. The handmade dolls, also known as Otomi rag dolls, were declared part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Querétaro, in recognition of the historical work of the indigenous women of Santiago Mexquititlán and San Ildefonso Tultepec in the municipality of Amealco. Over 300 dolls are on display from the different regions of Mexico in the museum.
Open 10am-5pm every day. Address: 76850, Morelos 68, Centro, 76850 Amealco de Bonfil, Qro.
Amealco History Before and During the Mexico Revolution
Amealco was an important logging city in the early 19th century. The region was the main supplier to Mexico City and exported to France and the United States. Once the Mexican Revolution began, the logging industry halted. The Amealco region was scarred from many battles between 1910 and 1920.
But it wasn’t just the men who went to war, women did just as much or more. They carried supplies, fed the and nursed the soldiers, became spies and took up arms. The story of the Abelitas or Las Soldaderas, the women soldiers of the Revolution, are immortalized in history by Elena Poniatowska’s book Las Soldaderas: Women of the Mexican Revolution. Born in France to a Polish father related to royalty and a Mexican mother who’s family was exiled after the Mexican Revolution, Elena Poniatowska and her family moved to Mexico during World War II. She has written several articles and books about social issues and the role of Mexican women and is the first woman to receive the Mexican national award for journalism.
For Adventure Lovers
Low lying mountains keep the weather in Amealco temperate, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Laguna del Servin and El Cerrito del Calvario are highly recommended for camping and mountain biking trails.
Where to Stay Near Amealco
The town of Amealco is easy to do in a day trip, but you may want more time to explore the hiking and biking trails nearby. Only a few lodging options are in town, but many log cabins are in the area and are listed on Booking.com and Airbnb. If you prefer more of a resort style with plenty of activites, here are our recommendations that can also be found on Booking.com:
Hotel Mision de la Muralla
The Hotel Mision de la Muralla is a themed hotel that takes you back to the Mexican Revolution era. The hotel rooms are modern, but they offer everything an adventure addict could want: horseback riding, zip-lining, ATVs, rappelling and mountain biking. Characters share and reenact the history of the war on certain nights. The hotel also has a restaurant with live music and serving their tamarind mole on weekends.
Mision San Gil
If you prefer a more luxurious stay, Mision San Gil is just a short 20 minutes away on the way to Queretaro. Built in the colonial Mexican style, it has a pool and restaurants.
Travel Tip: Prices are usually lower during the week than on weekends. These hotels are popular for weddings and corporate events.
We hope that you spend some time exploring the state of Queretaro and getting to know the smaller towns that have just as much to offer as the big cities. For more small town and pueblos magicos recommendations, check out these posts: