Hidalgo is a state in Central Mexico, with an area of 20,813 km2 and a population of almost 3 million people. The state was founded in 1869 by decree of the incumbent president, Benito Juárez. Its political, economic and cultural capital and major population centre is Pachuca de Soto. The history of the state has long been tied to that of the development of gold and silver extracting mining companies, which have left their legacy on the major towns in the state.
The state of Hidalgo remains of the least developed (8th lowest in HDI) in Mexico, but also has one of the highest growths in life-quality and safety in the country. It has not suffered the "narco war" problem that most parts of the country face now, and remains a rather safe destination for tourists. Since recently, tourism in the state was only well-advertised for nationals, especially those from neighbouring states, but barely known by foreigners. Now, Hidalgo is opening its advertising to a broader world public, as well as its tourism facilities are growing and services have being improving to fit the requirements of the growth of tourism.
The natural features of the state are unique in Mexico, with varying climates ranging from low-lands subtropical humid forest vegetation in the north, to high-mountain conifers forests in the centre, adding the cold weather, and semi-arid climates in the south and west. The mountains, rock formations, canyons and panoramic views found here are difficult to beat, as well as the world-unique Prismas Basálticos, volcanic rocks with geometric shapes.
Culturally, the industrialization derived from its closeness to Mexico City contrast with the tradition of the indigenous peoples still inhabiting most rural parts of the state, and where modern and ancient traditions are mixed up and coexist so strongly that it will be of much interest to those hoping to get a glimpse of the real mexican lifestyle.
Spanish is by far the most spoken and understood language, so a little knowledge of it will get you by without major problems. English is the first foreign language for most young well-educated people, however it is still difficult to find an English speaker at the first chance, even it you approach young people, so be patient. Even if they know at least basic English, they will be afraid of speaking it because most likely they forgot it already or didn't get any chance to further practice it. In rural areas, middle-aged men would be a bet too, since some of them may have spent some time working in the United States. Other foreign languages such as French, Italian, Russian or German are spoken by just a few people so don't count on them.
There are three major indigenous languages spoken in the area of Hidalgo, spoken amongst rural communities and sometimes heard from indigenous who come to major population centres to sell their products, to work or to study: Nahuatl is the indigenous language with the most speakers in Mexico, and is spoken primarily in the northern part of the state, in the Huasteca and Sierra Alta regions. Otomi is the ancient language of the Toltecs and spoken primarily in the Valle del Mezquital. Ñhañhu is spoken in the east of the state, in the Sierra de Tenango, and is the least spoken amongst these three. These languages are so different both to Spanish and between each other, as Chinese and Finnish are, since they don't even share the same linguistic family. Learning these languages is overall difficult, but a few basic words and phrases will be much appreciated by their native speakers.
Hidalgo has no commercial airports due to its proximity to Mexico City. The closest airports are in Mexico City, Toluca, Puebla and Poza Rica. There is a shuttle bus connection, running directly between Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City and the bus stations in Pachuca de Soto and Tulancingo de Bravo, served by Estrella Blanca.
There are several bus companies that serve important destinations in Hidalgo, connecting them to other neighbouring states, especially to Mexico City, Querétaro and Puebla. The main transportation hub is Pachuca, which is served by carriers such as ADO, Chihuahuenses, Estrella Blanca, Futura and other regional carriers, with service to most points in the country. Tulancingo is served by ADO and Estrella Blanca, mainly to Mexico City, Puebla and Poza Rica. Huejutla is served by Estrella Blanca and has services mainly to Tampico and Poza Rica. Actopan is served by AVM and OVNIBUS to Mexico City.
Until the construction of the Arco Norte, that passes by the south of the state, Hidalgo was the only state not having a single toll road in Mexico. In the southern half of the state, the road network is well developed and well maintained, featuring many regional and national four-lane roads, notably the Arco Norte motorway, the México-Pachuca motorway, and the México-Tuxpan freeway, amongst others. The northern half, however, due to the rugged, mountainous terrain, highways are curvy and two-lane, yet in good state, being the México-Tampico and México-Laredo the two that cross the state from South to North.
Hidalgo has road connections to Mexico City, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Atlacomulco, Querétaro, Ciudad Valles, Río Verde, Poza Rica and Tampico, amongst many other nearby cities.
Within the state, short-distance buses are the main transport between cities. These buses are on acceptable conditions, although it is not a first class service, but they are cheap and fairly safe during the day (cautions to be taken at night, but not truly unsafe). While some of these buses may belong to larger nation-wide carriers, they are not up to their longer haul standards and they do not run on a fixed schedule, so they will just run about every half an hour for well traveled regions, to every two hours for not so popular routes. But even in that case, there are many carriers running on the same route, so you will not have to wait too long to move from your location. The way of transport between smaller towns or smaller towns and a large one are minivans also following fixed routes but an irregular schedule, they usually wait and leave when they are full. In the less developed regions, regional transport between communities often occurs as well in pick ups "adapted" as public transportation. All these means of transport are fairly cheap.
The state has a wide variety of scenic natural scenes to offer. The landscape varies, from deserts with beautiful cacti to humid dense forests. Being in the boundaries of Mexico's arid north and the Tropical south the state has a unique contrast of natural wonders. Grutas de tolantongo are a communal run complex with caves, warm springs, and several campsites, pools and restaurants complex. Santa Maria Amajac is another warm springs pools and saunas complex in the middle of beautiful wilderness. Los prismas basalticos are a rock formation of prisms and waterfalls. The forest of real del monte in the north of Pachuca with a Cornish heritage.
There is a wide variety of colonial treasures and whole cities to be found as well as precolonial vestiges of the Toltec and Aztec people, including the town of Huasca de Ocampo, the Toltec warrior statues, and the ruins of Huapalcalco
One can find different kind of dishes served in the state, most which shares with the rest of central Mexico, Like Tamales, Tacos, Tortas. There is some ingredients that can make regional dishes atypical, even for other Mexicans, You can find mainstream Mexican dishes made of plants like mesquite beans, nopal and other cactus and various cactus fruit such as “tuna” and “xoconostle.” Another of the rarities that you must try while visiting Hidalgo are dishes that are made of a variety of edible insects, many of which are considered delicacies such as escamoles (ant eggs) and maguey larvae, chinicuiles, as well as others such as larvae found on nopal plants, “chacas ” (beetles) and “chicharras” (cicadas). Other local animals sometimes used for food include tadpoles (called tepocates), salamanders and their larvae, squirrels and rabbits. You can also find a variety of moles and a specialty of central Mexico, mixiote. Another common central Mexican dish popular in the state and through central Mexico is Hidalgo's barbacoa. This dish has its origins in the pre-Hispanic period, when it was meat cooked in an underground pit. Today, it is most often cooked in pots in more conventional ovens, but the meat, today mostly pork, is still smothered in the alcoholic beverage pulque and wrapped in maguey leaves for flavor. This preparation of barbacoa is considered to be the state's traditional dish.
Pulque is the most famous traditional drink. Tequila, mezcal and its derivates are produced in some regions as well.
Hidalgo remains one of the safest places in all Mexico, however, it does not mean that crime is unheard of. Locals are the usual targets for petty crime and especially violent crime, such as street robberies and muggings, or home burglaries. However, all these are uncommon, and during day time every part of the state is safe. During night, usual cautions taken everywhere else in the world will keep you safe, such as not wandering alone in areas outside central parts of towns at late night or in poorly lit areas. Incidents related to organized crime and gangs are almost unheard of. Crimes related to taxi drivers are uncommon.
Tourist scams are almost non existent, the only common one being begging, by people who say they are following a treatment for a disease and not having enough money to pay for it (not even having any disease but faking it). In regional buses you will find clowns or singers, or people saying they work for an organization and asking for money inside the bus, however they are not dangerous at all and not even persistent, a simple "no, perdón" will suffice.
In rural parts, fights in bars and armed disputes between land owners still occur, however you are unlikely to deal with it. In case you see a fight or a crime of any case, do not intervene under any situation.
Weather is the main concern for health issues, as well as altitude. Be sure to check the weather predictions to know which clothes are better to use when visiting. Normally the centre and south are cold during the night and morning, and the sun is burning, yet cold wind is blowing during the day. In the north, weather is warm and humid all year round.
In the mountains and the south, tap water is drinkable since it comes from natural sources and underwater systems. In the north however, stick to bottled water. Everywhere, bottled water is always available, even in the smallest and most remote community.
Tropical diseases, notable Dengue fever, are common in the tropical extreme north part of the country. These, however are non existent in the rest of the state due to the altitude and cold weather. In the north and the mountainous areas, venomous snakes do exist, notable Nauyaca, which can be mortal in a time as short as 2 hours after the bite. In the rest of the state, other venomous animals such as scorpions or spiders are common, but they pose no risk other than a severe pain for some hours.
Emergencies (fire-department, ambulances, forest guards): 066 Police: 089