A lovely mountain town, Patzcuaro is colonial Mexico at its most enchanting. It is the most important town of the lake region of Michoacán. An especially charming zócalo marks the center of town; hotels, restaurants and shops line the square, housed in buildings dating from the fourteenth century. Patzcuaro is not for nightlife lovers - ample sightseeing will wear out the average visitor during daylight hours, anyway.
Increasing numbers of Europeans and Gringos are moving to the Lake Patzcuaro area as prices in other gringo havens have gone up considerably. Elevation: 2,200m/7,200 feet
Patzcuaro is most easily reached by bus or car.
Several first-class bus lines have infrequent service to Patzcuaro. The Purhepecha bus line (a subsidiary of Flecha Amarilla) runs very frequent buses between Patzcuaro and the larger cities of Morelia and Uruapan. From Morelia, a Purhepecha bus leaves for Patzcuaro about every 20 minutes between 6AM and 8PM for a fare of 30 pesos (August 2009 price). Tip: If your plan is to go directly to Janitzio, get off the bus at the Pemex station when you first come into town --- there will often be several people getting down there. The boat dock is a few short blocks walk.
Patzcuaro is an easy drive from the Pacific coast towns of Ixtapa, a resort community, and former fishing village Zihuatenejo, which has a large airport. Visitors may take a modern toll road (about $8 in tolls for a four hour drive) or the essentially parallel "libre" road, which winds through beautiful country; turn north northwest of Ixtapa and follow road signs to Morelia. Don't forget that in Mexico, a left hand signal from the car in front of you [generally] means it is safe to pass.
You can also arrive from Guadalajara via the Guadalajara-Morelia-México toll Highway: exit at Coeneo Huaniqueo (Coeneo direction), after Coeneo, head to Quiroga, then to Tzinzunzan and finally to Pátzcuaro. Foreigners should be warned that highway signs are sometimes scarce and not very well placed. People are usually helpful if you are lost, but you have to know some basic Spanish.
The central downtown area is easily explored on foot. Taxis are readily available when you need to get to the bus station or boat docks, and are an excellent option for exploring the villages that surround Lake Patzcuaro.
Celebrated on November 1st mostly throughout central and southern México, el Día de los muertos (Day of the dead) is especially important in Michoacán.
Janitzio, an island in Lake Patzcuaro, is a tourist magnet for the occasion. The highlight is the cultural festival with folk dance, music and song. Find out the schedule for the festival beforehand to gain a good place and enjoy the free show. Transport to the island is by boat, expect long queues for a 30 to 40 pesos roundtrip ticket on the main Pátzcuaro dock. If you are parking at the municipal parking lot during this period, keep in mind that you may/will most likey be blocked into your parking space with no chance of moving your car until the next day.
During the Day of the Dead festivities, if you dislike unordered Mecca-size crowds, spare the visit to Janitzio and plan to travel to nearby Tzinzunzan instead, for a more authentic and a bit less crowded experience.
Consider that the highways in the area get crowded as well, so to be safe, arrive at either destination before noon, and book a hotel reservation several weeks in advance (there are several hostels and hotels in Pátzcuaro). You can also pack your camping tent and sleeping bag and pay around 50 pesos per night/person in a trailer-camping park near Pátzcuaro.
A visit to Patzcuaro is not complete without a sidetrip to the town of Paracho, home to master guitar craftsmen who pass their trade down from generation to generation. If you visit, hire a local lad to guide you to craftsmens' homes. About an hour's drive. You may also hire a guide at Patzcuaro's Hotel Mansion de Iturbe (on the west side of the main zocalo) who will take you to several of the outlying villages, including Paracho.
If you wish to escape the tourists in Patzcuaro head 17 kilometers around the lake to Erongaricuaro a lively pleasant town.
Cuanajo is another town worth seeing for the hand-made furniture there. The turn-off to Cuanajo is on Highway 14 between Patzcuaro and Morelia.
A door in a building on the east side of the main zocalo opens around 10AM; sometimes a sign proclaims it be the entrance to an artisan's market - sometimes not. Follow a short alley to several charming shops offering spectacular Day of the Dead statues and souvenirs - Patzcuaro is home to a famous Day of the Dead celebration centered around Patzcuaro Lake (or Lake Patzcuaro). Not run-of-the-mill junk intended for tourists, these handicrafts are truly wonderful and well priced. Statues can be handpainted to your specifications, though it's hard to imagine one could create better combos than do the artists.
Typical of the region are:
Prices of taxis from the bus station to: Morelia (200 pesos), Uruapan ($200 pesos), Quiroga (90 pesos), Erongaricuaro (80 pesos). Frequent collectivos AKA combis connect centro Patzcuaro with nearby colonias and villages so that trip to Eronga[ricuaro] need only cost 9 pesos (Aug 2009=$.70US). Most connect at plaza chica.