Hidalgo Mexico: The Best Travel Guide with All You Must Know [2023]

Planning a trip to Hidalgo Mexico? Don’t look any further. I have been on an amazing 10-day road trip around the underrated Mexican State of Hidalgo, and in this post, I will tell you all about it.

I drove through all the Pueblos Magicos and explored their magical natural wonders, learned about the local history and legends, met amazing people and great guides, and tried the delicious local food.

In this post, I will share all that I have learned on the road and the tips that I couldn’t find while planning.

After reading this post you will feel like you have been traveling with me and will make your planning easier.

⭐️ This detailed article includes all the places you must see, the things to do, the 7 Hidalgo Pueblos Magicos, and many practical tips on how to move around Hidalgo by public transportation, car, or organized tours. Once you learned about the practical information you can check out my itinerary in detail, in my related post.

👇🏽 HOUSEKEEPING NOTE – This is a long guide. You can use the table of content here below to get directly to the section you want to read, or just read it all. 😉

Prismas Basalticos
Prismas Basalticos Huasca de Ocampo

Hidalgo Mexico At a Glance

Where is Hidalgo Mexico located?

Hidalgo is one of the Mexican States located northeast of Mexico City, and bordering Queretaro on the north and eastern side, San Luis Potosi and Tampico in the north, and Tlaxcala and Mexico State in the southeast, approximately.

Hidalgo Closest Airports – Mexico City Airport (south) or Queretaro Airport (east)

Area – 20,821 km²

Capital city: Pachuca

Population: 3.083 million (approx)

Language Spoken: Spanish and local idioms. English is rarely spoken, even among the local tour guides.

Pueblos Magicos: Tecozahutla, Real Del Monte, Mineral del Chico, Zimapan, Zempoala, Huasca de Ocampo, Huichuapan

Highest altitude – 3050 mt in Mineral del Chico

Known for – Hotsprings – mining industry – Pastes – Haciendas – where Mexico Soccer originated – the first pueblo Magico (Huasca de Ocampo)

Grutas de Tolantongo – Overview of the pools

How to get to Hidalgo Mexico

There are different ways to get to Hidalgo Mexico. I rented a car in Queretaro and drove my way around as you can see in my detailed Hidalgo Itinerary.

I love driving in Mexico and it’s is my favorite way to travel but you can get to Hidalgo from Mexico City by bus or by organized tours, depending on where you want to go.

In this section here below I will share my tips on the different way to get to Hidalgo Mexico.

When is the best time to visit Hidalgo Mexico?

The best time to visit Hidalgo, Mexico, is during the dry season, which typically spans from November to April. During this period, the weather is pleasant and dry, with clear skies and comfortable temperatures.

This allows for optimal exploration of Hidalgo’s natural attractions, such as the stunning Prismas Basálticos and the historic mining town of Real del Monte, without being hindered by heavy rainfall.

Having said that, you should know that the central part of Mexico is known for its so-called “eternal springs” for its mild temperature all year round. Which means that it’s never too hot or too cold.

Just keep in mind that it can rain more in the summer from May through September.

Hidalgo Mexico map of the places to visit

Hidalgo Mapa
Click on the image to open the interactive map photo © Google Maps

What is Hidalgo Mexico known for?

Hidalgo state is mainly known for the spectacular hot springs Grutas de Tolantongo, about which I have already written a detailed guide after my previous trip there.

In my Grutas de Tolantongo guide not only do I explain everything you need to know before traveling there but also the reason why I wasn’t that much impressed, after all.

However, not many people know that of the nature the morphology of this territory, there are many other hot springs that you can visit, scattered around the Hidalgo state.

They are not as pretty as the Gruta de Tolantongo though, mainly because although their thermal water still retains its healing property, the natural environment has been spoiled by man-made water parks, with slides and all sorts of amusements.

For sure great for kids but not places where you can have a relaxing pampering day in a thermal spa.

For that, you may want to check out San Miguel de Allende hot springs.

Hidalgo State is also famous for its mining history and the spectacular archeological site of Tula, the capital of the Toltecan Empire.

Also, it’s probably the lesser-known charming Pueblos Magicos with its history and natural wonders make it a great place for a road trip.

During my 10 days road trip itinerary in Hidalgo, I drove through all of them and checked out what they have to offer and in this post, I am going to tell you all about it.

MIneral del Chico Road Hidalgo Mexico
Road to Mineral del Chico

Is Hidalgo Mexico safe to travel to?

Before deciding to rent a car and drive around Hidalgo I have done my homework and asked around in Facebook groups and locals whether it was a good idea or not.

And I was reassured that Hidalgo state is relatively safe and so is Queretaro, where I was starting my trip, so I wouldn’t have to worry.

It was enough for me to feel comfortable driving on my own as a solo female, but not without taking my own precautions, and some smart tricks such as:

🌃 Never drive at night

💰 Put my money and documents in a money belt that I would always wear under a loose shirt

🌟 Never wear a flashy and fancy outfit, I wouldn’t anyway since I am out hiking and exploring

📲 Carry a second phone, so in case of robbery, that’s what I would give away. Luckily I just changed my phone and I kept my old one that is still working.

I also have a second phone number so I would never run out of credit

👉 I have a local sim card because I live in Mexico and if you are traveling here you should buy one too, even if it’s only for a week. It will spare you a lot of stress. Read why you should buy a local sim card.

🙃 Have a copy of my documents

💵 Have cash in Mexican pesos at least 250 USD worth spread around my bags (hidden) so in case my purse gets stolen or lost (because I am capable of that too) I still have the cash to get by.

🇲🇽 I speak Spanish which is always helpful. You should learn a few words at least starting from how to say how are you in Spanish.

Locals will appreciate your efforts and may laugh with you (not at you) which is a great way to break the ice and make friends.

They will also make an effort to speak English and practice with you. So don’t be afraid to show off your Spanish too 🙂

Read more about Safety in Mexico in my thorough post

Hacienda Santa Maria Regla - Hidalgo Mexico
Hacienda Santa Maria Regla – Huasca de Ocampo – HIDALGO MEXICO TRAVEL GUIDE

Unmissable places to visit in Hidalgo Mexico – Landmarks

1. Las Grutas de Tolantongo

One of the most visited Mexican landmarks, las Grutas de Tolantongo is a huge complex with hot springs pools, waterfalls, river pools zip lines, hotels, and whatnot.

To make the most of it you should spend at least two nights there so that you can have a full day in the park. I would avoid holidays and weekends to evade the crowds.

Read my thorough guide to the Grutas de Tolantongo for more detailed info

2. Prismas basalticos in Huasca de Ocampo

basaltic prisms Hidalgo Mexico
Prismas basalticos

These spectacular rock formations and waterfalls are located within 15 minutes drive from Huasca de Ocampo.

✔️Entry cost 100 mxn

✔️Opening hours 9-18 ( Sunday 9-21)

📸 best time to go for pics is the morning when the sun is facing the waterfalls

🌤 Weather is unpredictable in Hidalgo but also changes quickly. When I arrived it was all covered with an ugly white sky but it suddenly brightened up.

So don’t let the weather stop you from exploring ( a local guide told me it’s always the case)

✔️ walk around the walkways and enjoy the views from different angles

✔️ stay in the spectacular hacienda Santa Maria Regla for at least 2 nights so that you can explore the surroundings without rushing it

🌿 Have fun but respect the environment ALWAYS!! 🤗

3. Hacienda Santa Maria Regla

This beautiful 18th-century hacienda was one of the properties of Pedro Romero de Terreros, the Conde de Regla.

It was functioning as a factory where the ores coming from Real del Monte were worked to extract the silver and other metals.

The spectacular place with its mazes and restored old buildings has been turned into a beautiful hotel, but you don’t need to stay there to appreciate it, although it would be a great treat.

Hacienda Santa Maria Regla - Hidalgo Mexico
Hacienda Santa Maria Regla BOOK IT HERE

Tours of the Hacienda Santa Maria Regla are organized from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at any time. The entrance fee is 100 MXN (5 USD) and then you can tip the tour guide (in Spanish only).

Or you can just pay for the entrance and walk around the hacienda on your own and have a meal in the restaurant on the property. The food is not exceptional but the location makes it worth it.

Make sure you walk to see the Rosa Waterfall and the Puente del Beso (bridge of kiss) which you can see from one of the lookouts of the Prismas Basalticos park but you can access it only from the Hacienda.

I also recommend you should stay in the hacienda if you are happy with the cost. Book it on Booking.com

Hacienda Santa maria Regla - Hidalgo Mexico

4. Tula Archeological site

Tula is a majestic archeological site and the capital of the Toltec Empire between the fall of Teotihuacan and the rise of Tenochtitlan. It is located in the city of Tula de Allende in the Tula Valley, at only 2 hours from Mexico City, and not a very interesting city to visit.

The archeological site consists of a museum, remains of an earlier settlement called Tula Chico as well as the main ceremonial site called Tula Grande.

Its main attraction is the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, topped by four 4-meter-high (13 ft) basalt columns carved in the shape of Toltec warriors, also called the atlantes.

The best way to visit this site is with a local guide who can offer a historical overview of what you are looking at.

Unfortunately, the local guides on site don’t speak English. So the best way to visit this important Toltec city is by an organized tour from Mexico City.

Here are a few tours to choose from.

5. Pahñú Archeological Site

Pañhu site cave painting Hidalgo Mexico
Pañhu archaeological site cave painting – Tecozautla Hidalgo Mexico

Pañhú is an archeological site in Tecozautla, State of Hidalgo. Although quite close to the more important site Tula, Pahñú is a settlement from Xajay culture developed between 300 and 1100 years ago and related to the origin of the Otomis of Mezquital Valley.

It was a pleasant surprise when I visited, especially for the spectacular location on top of a plateau surrounded by canyons, massive rock formations, and a variety of picturesque cacti plants of all shapes ad forms.

Pañhu site Tecozautla Hidalgo Mexico
Pañhu site Tecozautla Hidalgo Mexico

The site is very small but the spectacular views make it worth the visit.

The entry fee is 75 MXN ( 4 USD) and a guide will take you for an amazing walk around the hostile nature all the way to see some amazing cave paintings. Even if they don’t speak English it’s still worth the tour, as you won’t be able to find the trail on your own.

Pañhu site views Tecozautla Hidalgo Mexico
Pañhu site views Tecozautla Hidalgo Mexico

6. Peña del Cuervo

One of the best and shortest hikes that you can do in Mineral Del Chico Park is the one to Peña del Cuervo.

After a beautifully paved road among tall secular trees, you will have about a mile of dirt road before finding the parking lot. You can leave the car there and continue on a 30-minute hike until you find the entrance to the lookout point.

The access fee is 43 MXN ( 2 USD).

The view ad the energy of the place makes the short hike totally worth it.

Some people get to the lookout by car but unless you have a 4×4 I wouldn’t recommend it, as the road down there is quite rough.

If you have more time you can leave the car at the information center and then take a longer route for a 1h30′ hike (one way)

Labyrinth wood
EL Contadero – Mineral del Chico Hidalgo mexico

7. El Contadero hike

Also called el Labirinto (The labyrinth) it’s a beautiful short walk around a natural maze made of interesting shaped stone and trees. You will need to go with a guide otherwise you will easily get lost.

Also, the entrance to the labyrinth is not marked and is difficult to find.

I found this place thanks to a guide that I met by chance on Mineral del Chico main plaza. He nicely approached me offering me the tour I am so glad I agreed to join.

He doesn’t speak English but I am sure you will have a great time regardless.

The guide’s name is Benito and this is his phone number +52 1 771 162 0311

8. Peña del Aire

A spectacular canyon where you can enjoy all the outdoorsy activities from the most extreme such as rappelling and ziplining to hiking and canyoning.

If you don’t have time to do any activity it’s still worth a visit. It’s located only a 20-minute drive from Huasca de Ocampo and the entry fee is 20 MXN (1 USD).

Pena del Aire rapelling Hidalgo Mexico
Pena Del Aire Rapelling

You will drive along different lookout points before getting to the base where all the activities take place.

There is a local guide that can take you on a hiking tour either down the river or halfway, depending on your time and level of fitness.

In this case, you should call them in advance to book the trip. Keep in mind that they don’t speak English. Tel. +52 7711040597

Pena del Aire overview Hidalgo Mexico

9. The Dunas Rojas in San Francisco

Hidden among hills, winding roads, and trees in the Sierra Gorda in Hidalgo, the Red Dunes of Pacula consist of a spectacular landscape in reddish and orange tones with stones nestled in a hill that local people call “the red planet” or, like a more ambitious marketing sign would say “Mars in Mexico”.

myself on the Dunas Rojas  Hidalgo Mexico
Me on the picture- Photo © Mochileros Sin Fronteras

Although it’s not exactly what Mars may look like, it is indeed an interesting place worth visiting.

The bright red sand field is dotted with funny-shaped rocks which offer an entertaining game of guessing what they look like. With a bit of creativity, you can spot sharks, lions, and other creatures.

The guide told me that according to the local legend, the rocks are actually trolls ( or duendes) that at night go around and do mischievous deeds while during the day they turn into rocks to hide from the humans. I love to think that it is the truth.

The place is at 1900 mt of altitude surrounded by a cloud forest populated with juniper, pine, and cedar trees, sometimes wrapped up in clouds which makes the view even more special.

The striking colors of the sand in terracotta tones are due to its mineral composition: a large amount of iron oxide and letherite; this composition that is difficult to find in humid areas and is more common in the semi-arid areas of Mexico.

This soil is not toxic, but it does stain clothes, shoes, and skin, so keep it in mind, especially if you are renting a car.

Make sure you wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and bring a second pair of shoes with you and a bag for the dirty ones, so you avoid staining your car rental carpets and getting fined.

As you can see in the pictures below this kind of soil get very sticky when wet and it’s difficult to remove. Luckily it rained the entire night so in the morning I wore the dirty shoes again and scratched my feet in the water ponds formed by the rain to remove the sticky dirt. It worked

The striking colors of the sand in terracotta tones are due to its mineral composition: a large amount of iron oxide and laterite, mostly common in humid semi-arid areas of Mexico.

The Red Dunes are located in the San Francisco community, in Pacula, on the border between the municipality of Pacula and Zimapán Pueblo Magico, in Hidalgo.

It’s approximately five hours from Mexico City and three from Pachuca the capital of Hidalgo.

So the best way to visit is to stay in Zimapan for a few days and check out other beautiful natural sites in the area.

10. La Presa de Zimapan (Zimapan Dam)

zimapan oveview Hidalgo Mexico

The Zimapán Dam, also known as Fernando Hiriart Balderrama Dam, is formed by the Tula and San Juan rivers which join in the reservoir to form the Moctezuma River.

Besides its primary function of hydroelectric power production, the Zimapan dam offers spectacular views from different lookouts on boat tours.

Presa ZImapan Hidalgo Mexico
Zimapan during a boat tour

The dam is located at the border between Hidalgo ad Queretaro ad you can reach its shores from either Zimapan or Cadereyta, one of Queretaro Pueblos Magicos.

I recommend joining a tour with Elmer from Mochileros sin fronteras to be able to get through some amazing lookouts and hidden hikes that you wouldn’t be able to find on your own.

If you want to go on your own, keep in mind that El Vigilante lookout is only open on weekends. (at the time I am writing this)

11. Xajha and cañon del Infiernillo

I wanted to include this amazing place even if I didn’t make it there. But I am planning to go in a couple of months on Elmer’s tour.

The Xajhá Caves, are located an hour from Zimapán. Along the path that leads to these interesting formations, you will enjoy the rocky landscapes of the canyon, with almost vertical walls between which the Moctezuma River winds its way through hot water.

It must be an amazing and challenging adventure that I can’t wait to experience. Stay tuned as I will tell you more about it after I do it.

12. The Hidalgo capital city of Pachuca

The city of Pachuca deserves at least one day to walk around the historical center, see the famous Clock tower in the middle of the main plaza, check out the San Francisco ex-convent and the nearby museums of Photography and El Cuartel del Arte, eat more Pastes and sit in one of the cute coffee shops.

Most of all make sure you see the world’s biggest mural!

Most charming towns to visit in Hidalgo Mexico: Hidalgo Pueblos Magicos

There are 7 Magic towns in Hidalgo (Pueblos Magicos), all of them with their own charm, historical landmarks, and natural beauties. I managed to visit all of them and here are their highlights.

I will write a more detailed post for the most interesting ones, separately.

13. Tecozautla

Tecoazula is a pretty and tiny pueblo Magico located at only half an hour’s drive from Tequisquiapan and 1 hour from Queretaro airport.

There is not much to see in the town itself but a lot of natural attractions in the surrounding area.

Things to do in Tecozautla

✔️ walk around los Portales, in the main plaza

✔️ see the clock tower in the center of the plaza

✔️ Visit the archaeological site of Pahñú

✔️ Manantiales Xidhi

✔️ Manantiales El Aguacate

✔️ El Geiser waterpark and hotsprings

Where to stay in Tecozautla

👉 Hotel del Valle – located right on the main square, this tiny hotel is one of the most luxurious in town – BOOK IT HERE

👉 Hotel el Campanario – a lovely hotel in a colonial building right behind the main plaza. BOOK IT HERE

👉 Hotel Herradura – cute small hotel at walking distance of the main plaza, best value for money. BOOK IT HERE

Where to eat in Tecozautla

Food stalls – located by the church on the main place, this is where you can try the local authentic food

Restaurante del Valle – it’s the restaurant from the homonymous hotel, offering local dishes and coffee!

La Boveda – a cute cafe with an extensive menu of meat, burgers, and drinks – I loved the vintage decor as well. Good WIFI. They open when they want 🙂

Las tertulias – nice cafe for your breakfast with waffles and crepes. Open from 8 am – ish

The highlight of Tecotzahutla: the archaeological site of Pahñù

Pañhu archaeological site main temple

14. Real del Monte

If you have limited time during your visit to Hidalgo, make sure you include Real Del Monte in your itinerary.

This pretty colorful mining town of Mexico holds an interesting history and traditions. In fact, differently from other mining towns, such as Taxco, the mines in Real del Monte, and the entire Pachuca area were bought by a group of English investors in 1824.

The company recruited 130 miners from Cornwall who moved to Real del Monte where the local traditions and culture merged with some of the British customs, and practices.

The most significant one, that remain till these days, besides the architecture, was the introduction of the Corn pastries, called Pastes, that you can now find pretty much in every restaurant or cafe, although locals claim they are not making them anymore like they used to and not just as good.

There is even a Pastes museum where they show you the history of this delicacy and you even end the tour by making one yourself.

Real Del Monte plaza
Real del Monte Main Plaza

Things to do in Real Del Monte:

✔️ Visit the Panteón inglés

✔️ Museo del paste

✔️ Take a tour on the red Turibus (only in spanish)

✔️ Museo de Medicina Laboral

✔️ Museo de Sitio y centro de interpretation Minario

✔️ Museo de Sitio mina de Acosta

✔️ Mina la Dificultad Museum

Fun Fact – Did you know that Real Del Monte is where soccer in Mexico started? In fact, it was introduced by British miners in early 1800. Guess who won in the first match among local miners and the Brits! Well, now soccer is one of the things Mexico is known for.

Futball sig

Keep in mind that all museums are closed on Monday except for the Paste Museum which closes on Tuesday.

Where to stay in Real Del Monte

👉 Alondra boutique hotel – luxury hotel – this is where I was staying and loved it. The stylish rooms are furnished with world-class linen and amenities with attention to every little detail. BOOK IT HERE

Hotel Alondra room
Hotel Alondra – Real del Monte – BOOK IT HERE

👉 Real Del Monte hotel – mid-range hotel with a budget price. I went to visit this hotel and I was impressed by the lovely rooms with wooden floors and elegant layout, despite the cheap price. It also has a very good location right by the cathedral. If you are on a budget but love to stay comfortable this is the best choice. BOOK IT HERE

Where to eat in Real Del Monte

You can find so many great restaurants but you can run from all the pastes shops that you will find all over town. I cannot really say which one is the best but there are a couple that I tried that are quite famous for they have been there forever.

Pastes El Portal -located below the portals (arches) in the main square, they claim to have the best and most original pastes in town – it’s always full with a line waiting to be seated

Pastes Marques – less fancy than El Portal, Pastes Marques offers great pastes of different fillings and great beverages.

15. Mineral del Chico

Mineral del Chico is another old mining town with interesting architecture, boasting old mansions red roofs, and wooden cabañas surrounding the beautiful old church beside a square park with a manicured garden.

The pretty town is surrounded by the exuberant forest of the protected area of El Chico National Park offering a variety of hiking trails, lakes, and other natural wonders among pines oaks, and oyamel trees, a joy for outdoors lovers.

To get to Mineral del Chico you will need to drive through the spectacular winding mountainous roads with more than 300 curves. The road is in great condition and it’s spectacular.

MIneral del Chico
Mineral del Chico

I assure you it’s a trip in itself and if you don’t feel like hiking you can still enjoy the gorgeous thriving nature just by driving through it.

That’s why I was happy I rented a car. Just make sure you keep your eyes on the road ad don’t get too distracted by the fantastic landscape.😉

Make sure you stop by the Mineral del Chico Park information center located on the way from Real del Monte to Mineral del Chico on a spectacular winding road among pines and oaks.

There you can get information on the available trails

Things to do in Mineral del Chico

✔️ Pena del Cuervo – an amazing lookout point that you can reach with a 30 minutes hike. The parking lot is very well-marked by road signs. Read more on how to get there.

peña del Cuervo platforom
Peña del Cuervo Platform
View from Pena del Cuervo
View from Peña del Cuervo ( with zoom)

✔️ El Contadero hike in a natural maze. Read how to get there.

✔️ Hike around the Park – check out the Mineral del Chico information center for more trails and adventures

✔️ Walk around the pretty town, check out the church and the garden and have a nice meal in one of the local restaurants

✔️ Check out the Cascada del Rio de los Milagros – right in town you can find a river surrounded by lush wood ad leading to waterfalls and mine museums that you can visit. See it on Google Maps

✔️ Check out the local art and crafts for some souvenir shopping

MIneral del Chico information center
Mineral del Chico Park information center

Where to stay in Mineral del Chico

Since I didn’t want to change hotels so often to save time, and I loved my hotel in Real del Monte, I decided to just drive to Mineral del Chico on a day trip from Real del Monte and go back to sleep in my royal bed.

It was the best idea because it’s only 30-minute drive. However, if you decide to stay longer here I am sharing a few nice hotels I have found.

👉Hotel Bello Amanecer – A lovely rustic hotel in the outskirts of Mineral del Chico immerse in nature with amazing views BOOK HERE

👉Hotel el Paraiso – one of the most upscale hotels in Mineral del Chico for a blissful rest and pampering after a day hiking – BOOK IT HERE

Do I need travel insurance in Mexico? Yes, you do! I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens, I am covered. I have been using  Safety Wing, and I find it quite fair, covering a lot for its pricing level. Depending on your needs or you can compare different insurance companies on this useful site, TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase. If you are undecided yet, you can read my post on the best travel insurance for Mexico for more clarity.

16. Huasca de Ocampo

Huasca de Ocampo Pueblo Magico is mainly known for the Basaltic Prisms that are actually one of the most popular attractions in Hidalgo, and for a reason.

Huasca de Ocampo church
Huasca de Ocampo

They are indeed spectacular rock formations and if you visit them during the week early morning you will be almost alone in this beautiful scenery.

But Huasca de Ocampo is also famous for being the first town in Mexico to be proclaimed Pueblo Magico in 2001.

Besides the Basaltic Prisms, there are many other attractions in this Magic town of Hidalgo Mexico that you will appreciate.

From its incredible natural landscapes, stunning views, historical haciendas, and outdoor activities available, Huasca de Ocampo is indeed a magical place where to spend a few days.

Here is a list of things to do in Huasca de Ocampo.

Things to do in Huasca de Ocampo

✔️ Visit the spectacular Prismas Basalticos
✔️ Visit the breathtaking Peña del Aire
Peña del aire
Peña del aire
✔️ Museo de los Duendes

Duendes are also called Trolls or Aluxes and are fairies of the woods that can be nice or naughty depending on whether they like you or not.

There are legends and stories around them and in this museum they will tell you all about it.

No matter if you believe in it or not, it’s an interesting visit. The guided tour is in Spanish only.

Duende Museum
✔️ Presa de San Antonio

Right before the Prisma Basalticos, you will get to a small dam, the dam of San Antonio where one of the old haciendas owned by Pedro Romero de Terreros, Conde de Regla, has been inundated.

You can see the chimney of the Hacienda peeking out of the water from a distance.

But if you have the time it is recommended to take a short boat tour to get closer and see what is remaining of the old hacienda.

Unfortunately, when I got there it was closed, probably because it was during weekdays and tourism is low.

Presa de San Antonio
Presa de San Antonio
✔️ Walk around Huasca de Ocampo

The small town of Huasca de Ocampo is a real gem, with cobblestone roads and old houses made of adobe. You can take a walk around and try the local cuisine in one of the cute restaurants, or grab a “pan dulce” in one of the bakeries (panaderias). There is a Santa Clara ice cream shop if you are craving for one!

The small town is surrounded by lush woods with trails and waterfalls, including Bosque de Las Truchas near the park of San Miguel Regla, of the homonymous Hacienda (to visit)

Did you know? Huasca is the abbreviation of Huascazaloyam, which means place of much water (among other meanings)

Huasca de Ocampo church
✔️ Visit the beautiful Hacienda Santa Maria Regla

Where to stay in Huasca de Ocampo

👉 La Casa Azul Huasca – If you want to stay in the town center, La Casa Azul is one of the most upscale properties in the area. BOOK IT HERE

👉 Hacienda Santa Maria Regla – Located just outside the entrance of the Prisma Basaltico this old hacienda has been turned into a luxury hotel that combines modern comfort with the old colonial feel.

There are different types of rooms and suites with different layouts and prices.

I stayed here and I loved it. From there you have access to the waterfall La Rosa formed by the river that passes through the Prisma Basalticos. You can actually see the Hacienda from one of its lookout points BOOK IT HERE

17. Zempoala

Zempoala is a pretty Magic Town located 30 minutes from Pachuca and the latest town to be proclaimed Pueblos Magicos in Mexico.

They are still working on becoming a touristy town with all the necessary infrastructures, but they are doing it well, so far.

When I arrived at the main square, parked the car as close as possible and I reached the tourist office where a kind agent was so happy to see a tourist that he personally showed me around town.

We passed by the old Hacienda Casa Grande which is presently a private home but open for visits and the ex-convent of Todos los Santos (all saint) which unfortunately had just closed.

You can also visit the majestic Acueducto del Padre Tembleque, at 10 minutes drive from the town.

Acqueducto Padre Tembleque
Acqueducto Padre Tembleque

The guide also recommended to me a few local restaurants and bakeries where to try local delicacies, such as the Pollo en Pulque (chicken made with a pulque sauce) and the Pan Burra (a round sweet bread filled with Philadelphia cheese and raspberry jam)

Unfortunately, there is only one hotel in town (La Quinta) but it’s not recommendable. So you will want to get to Pachuca or stay in one of the hotels in the nearby towns.

Zempoala Municipal Building
Zempoala Municipal Buildig

Where to eat in Zempoala

Casa Antigua Restaurant

El Rincon de Frida

18. Huichapan

The name Huichapan comes from Nahoas roots and means “river of the willows“.

This pretty town surprised me with its beautiful colonial buildings, cobblestone roads, and interesting history. In fact, Huichapan is where the first commemoration of the Grito de Dolores started off.

This is not to confuse with the first “Grito de Dolores” which happened in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, home to the cradle of the Mexican Revolution.

Huichapan Park

Things to do in Huichapan

✔️ Take a bus tour of the city (only on weekends and in Spanish)
✔️ Visit the cave paintings in Boye

You can only go with a local guide as the path is not clear and the gate is usually closed. Besides, I was told there is a good chance to bump into snakes, especially if it has just rained.

You can find a guide in the tourist information center on the main square or call Bernardo +52 4427091093

✔️ Visit Los Arcos Saucillo and old aqueduct.
Boye Huichiapan
✔️ Visit el Bosque de los Sabinos
Bosque de los sabinos tree
Bosque de los sabinos tree
Bosque de los Sabinos
✔️ Visit the Ex Franciscan Convent and the Capila de la virgen de Guadalupa
Huichipan Church
✔️ Visit the history museum

Where to stay in Huichapan

Hotel Santa Barbara – lovely simple hotel located just outside the city on the statal road. BOOK IT HERE

Hotel Casa BIXI – this is where I have stayed right in the center of town. It’s a beautiful boutique hotel in a colonial house. I loved it and recommend it. BOOK IT HERE

19. Zimapan

Zimapan was the last pueblo Magico I visited during my trip and one of my favorites, including the scenic winding road that takes you there, with spectacular breathtaking views.

Just like all the other Pueblos Magicos in Hidalgo Mexican State, also Zimapan is full of history and interesting legends, a majestic church towering over the busy square dressed in the colorful flags in ‘papel picado” for the upcoming independence day celebrations.

But Zimapan is also famous for being the home to the second biggest tree in Mexico (the first one being in Oaxaca) and for the natural wonders surrounding it.

Luckily, in Zimapan I found an amazing guide that was available last minute and took me around the most amazing spots close to Zimapan.

His name is Elmer ad you can find it on Facebook or Instagram. He doesn’t speak English (yet) but he can provide a translator if necessary. He will organize your tours around the most spectacular places in Zimapan. Here is a list below.

Things to do in Zimapan

✔️ Visit Zimapan Dam

A spectacular lake that you can admire from two beautiful lookouts but also from a boat tour. The “embarcadero” where the tours leave is located on the border between Hidalgo and Queretaro.

✔️ Walk on Las Dunas Rojas (Red Dunes)

Spectacular rock formation surrounded by bright red earth that creates an incredible landscape. The road to get to it is also very scenic and worth the 1h 30-minute drive.

✔️ Take a walking tour of the town and visit the second biggest tree in Mexico, the colorful murals, the interesting church
Zimapan Tree
Zimapan sign
✔️ walk along a river and visit the Xajha Cave

This is a full-day tour through canyons, caves, and rivers that I didn’t have the time to take but I will go back just for that.

✔️ visit the ancient ruins and ghost town of La Encarnacion

You will visit the ruins of an old hacienda and the small town in the middle of the Parque de los Marmoles

Contact Elmer on Facebook or Instagram to organize your trip. He doesn’t speak English but I am sure you will be able to communicate for the essentials 🙂 He’s very professional!

Where to stay in Zimapan

Hotel Anyelo – It’s a simple hotel with clean spacious rooms conveniently located in the heart of town right behind the Presidential building.


How to move around Hidalgo Mexico: the best way to visit Hidalgo

While organizing my trip to Hidalgo I explored all the different options I had. And then I decided to rent a car, just because it’s my favorite way to travel in Mexico, and everywhere.

It gives me the freedom to go where I want and at my own pace and now that I just returned from my trip I am very happy about my decision.

The roads are amazing and you get to see spectacular landscapes and stop for pictures where you want.

But each their own, so in this Hidalgo, Mexico Travel guide you will find all the possible options available to visit this beautiful state of Mexico, so underrated but full of incredible natural wonders and historical landmarks.

There is no best way to visit Hidalgo, there is only the optimal way for you and your needs, and most of all, the time you have, which makes the whole difference.

Visiting Hidalgo By Car

Rental Car on the road
Rental Car on the road

Well, as I mentioned before as had a 10 days window between my housesitting assignments in San Miguel de Allende, I decided to pick up my car rental in Queretaro and explore Hidalgo State, which was one of the few Mexican regions that I hadn’t explored yet and I wanted to fix that.

I won’t lie, I was concerned. I have never traveled by car there and besides the hilly and windy roads, I didn’t know whether they were in good condition or even whether there were any safety issues.

But I asked around and after the numerous positive feedback, I decided it was safe enough for me to set off for an adventure and I wasn’t wrong.

From Queretaro to Pachuca, Hidalgo’s capital city, there are about 229 km but there are a couple of Pueblos Magicos and Tula archaeological site in between that I wanted to check out, which allowed me to break down my trip and spend less time in the car and more checking out places.

I planned my road trip in Mexico Hidalgo to make sure I wasn’t spending more than 2 hours a day in the car and use the rest of the time to explore and take pictures.

More about it in the itinerary here below.

I recommend using Discover Cars to check which car rental is best for you. On this platform, you can compare prices and pick the one with the best rate.

I ended up renting with Mexcar rentals because at the time I booked it was the cheapest and most convenient option and I love their full insurance, it’s pricier but it covers you fully.

And I know that because I only have to leave 1500 MXN (75 USD) as a deposit.

You can read more about that in my post about Renting a car in Mexico.

Car rental

Discover Cars Mexico Review

Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.

I’ve always had great service from Discover Cars. They always respond quickly if there’s a problem of any kind…I would never use any other car rental company as my many experiences with DiscoverCars.com have been 100% positive.


Visiting Hidalgo by bus

Whether you are going to Hidalgo from Queretaro, Puebla, or Mexico city you can easily move around by local busses when it comes to getting from one city or town to the other.

The challenge may come to reach archeological sites and parks where local busses don’t go.

In this case, you can rely on local taxes. Just make sure you agree on the price before.

To visit the Pueblos Magicos near Pachuca, such as Real del Monte, Mineral del Chico, and Huasca de Ocampo, by bus you will need to go back to Pachuca every time you need to move to the next town even though they are so close to each other, there are no busses that connect the towns directly.

So my advice would be to stay in Pachuca and go each day to a different Pueblo Magico as a day trip. The farthest one is Huasca de Ocampo a 1-hour drive ad then you can move around by taxi.

To Zimapan and Huichapan you will find coach busses as well from Omnibus de Mexico or Flecha Azul.

Visiting Hidalgo by tour

As I age, I become more and more appreciative of guided tours, not only because I don’t have to think about the organization part of the trip, and just relax and enjoy, but also because it makes you save time when you want to see as much as possible.

But, what I love the most about tours is the presence of a knowledgeable guide that has always interesting information to share, not only about historical notions, but also local anecdotes and curious facts.

If you are staying in Mexico City you can join day tours to Hidalgo from there, with guide and transportation included, and sometimes even food.

One thing you should keep in mind also is that the local guides that you will find in Hidalgo, although very knowledgeable, won’t speak English.

I didn’t find anyone who did. So if you don’t know any Spanish, communication will be hard.

The guides I have talked to (I will leave their contact details here below) told me that they have taken foreigners around without speaking the same language and they did great anyway. So it could be a fun experience too, but you should keep this in mind.

If you want to have an English-speaking guide you may want to book your tours from Mexico city or take a translator with you.

Here I am sharing the top-rated tours from Mexico City or Queretaro to Hidalgo.

The only problem with these tours is that you will only see a few highlights, as you can only do so much in one day, right?

But if you have limited time and you are not interested in hiking and exploring more off the beaten path, these guided tours are the perfect option.

Presa de Zimapan - Hidalgo Mexico
Presa de Zimapan – Photo of me taken by the guide

How many days do I need to visit Hidalgo Mexico?

It really depends on what you are interested in. When at La Gruta de Tolantongo alone you may decide you want to stay longer than one day if you like it, or if you also like cultural attractions you may need 10 days to see all the Museums and Pueblos Magicos.

If you take day trips from Mexico City you may be able to optimize time and squeeze more things to do in Hidalgo in one day. But you may miss others.

I did a 10-day road trip and I have seen what I considered the highlights of Hidalgo Mexico, but obviously not all of it.

At the end of my trip, I realized that if I could stay a few extra days I could have squeezed in more hiking and exploring. So this is something you should keep in mind.

The best suggestion I can give you is to read about all the places to see in Hidalgo listed in this post, make your own map, or use the one I have included here, and draw your own itinerary or check the day tours from Mexico City to Hidalgo, which is the best option if you don’t have much time.

Also, I am including a list of the top things to see in Hidalgo to help you decide what to see ad what to leave behind in case you don’t have enough time.

Hidalgo Mexico: Frequently Asked questions

What is Hidalgo Mexico known for?

Hidalgo Mexico is known for many things, one of which is the Pueblos Magicos Huasca de Ocampo, being the first designated Pueblos Magico in Mexico and home to the magnificent Prisma Basalticos.

Is Hidalgo Mayan or Aztec?

The territory that is now occupied by the Hidalgo state were occupied by different Aztec provinces: Axocopan, Atotonilco, Xilotepec, and Chiapan.

One of the most important was the province of Axocopan was located within the plateau area known as the Valley of Mezquital where you an find Tula, one of the most important archeological site.

I talk about this and all the other interesting things that Hidalgo is famous for in this post.

What language do they speak in Hidalgo Mexico?

In Hidalgo Mexico they speak Spanish.

What is a fun fact about Hidalgo Mexico?

One fun fact about Hidalgo Mexico is that one of his most popular towns, Real de Mina, it’s where soccer was first introduced in Mexico by the english miners coming from the british company that bought the local mines in the 19th century.

For further reading