Planning to visit Huasca de Ocampo? You have landed in the perfect place! I have been to Huasca de Ocampo and stayed for a few days during my epic road trip around Hidalgo State and in this article, I will tell you all about this charming Pueblo Magico in Mexico.
Huasca de Ocampo is in fact Mexico’s first designated Pueblo Magico (Magic Town). The tiny little town, nestled in the mountains of Hidalgo, Mexico, is known for its quintessential charm, cultural attributes, and stunning natural landscapes.
Only a few people make their way over to Huasca de Ocampo compared to other newer Pueblos Magicos. Still, the rich history and unique fables surrounding this little village make it one of the best places to visit in Mexico.
Why Visit Huasca de Ocampo: an Overview
There are many reasons why you should visit this cute little town.
Huasca de Ocampo derives its name from the indigenous word “Huascazaloya,” shortened to “Huasca,” which means “place of rejoicing or joy.”
Additionally, the suffix “Ocampo” comes from a well-known Mexican lawyer, scientist, and politician who lived in the town for a while Melchor Ocampo.
Embodying its joyful essence, Huasca de Ocampo unfolds as a genuinely enchanting realm that could be plucked from the pages of a fairy tale.
The downtown is charming, but there’s so much beyond the little gnomes, churches, pottery, and handicraft stalls that come to life on the weekends.
You’ll also find waterfalls, hiking trails, treehouses, gorgeous sunsets, and other unforgettable views surrounding this Pueblo Magico.
You should consider visiting Huasca de Ocampo if your heart is entwined with the love of hiking (with numerous trails to explore), if the embrace of nature calls out (waterfalls, anyone?), or if the tale of Mexico’s very first Pueblo Magico beckons your curiosity.
What Are Pueblo Magicos in Mexico?
We’ve referenced Pueblos Magicos a lot, but what exactly are they?
Pueblos Magicos translates to “Magic Towns” in Spanish. This title is given to a town or village in Mexico that is believed to have maintained its original architecture, culture, folklore, and history.
A Pueblo Magico is meant to truly represent Mexico and serve as a good reflection of Mexican culture and history.
This initiative began in 2001, with Huesca de Ocampo becoming the first Pueblo Magico. The aim was to improve tourism to these lesser-known villages that deserved more attention.
There are 177 Pueblos Magicos in Mexico, with more added yearly.
Huasca de Ocampo: At a glance
Where is Huasca de Ocampo located?
Huasca de Ocampo is in the state of Hidalgo, in Central Mexico, just north of Mexico City. Huasca de Ocampo is right on the edge of the Sierra de Pachuca (Pachuca Mountain range), so it should be no surprise there are some beautiful views and hikes in the vicinity.
Pachuca is the capital of Hidalgo, and is 16 km (10 miles) from Huasca de Ocampo. The first Pueblo Magico is about 125 km (77 miles) from Mexico City.
Everything is spread out in this part of the country, so the easiest way to get around is to travel on tour or bring your rental car. But we’ll talk about this in more detail shortly.
Huasca de Ocampo map
Things to do in Huasca de Ocampo
1. Visit the Basaltic Prisms
The Basaltic Prisms are a must-see in this part of Mexico; unfortunately, they often get overlooked. However, many consider it one of Mexico’s natural wonders.
The Basaltic Prisms stand as towering examples of basalt rock, characterized by their distinctive columnar joints resulting from the gradual solidification of volcanic lava.
The canyon walls in this stunning region are lined by polygonal columns between 30 and 50 meters (98 and 164 ft) high, with five or six sides each.
Water from the San Antonio Dam flows down the tall columns, creating a waterfall effect. The Santa Maria Regla waterfall isn’t the biggest in the world but unique.
Over time, the formation has been slightly altered to include walking paths, stairs, and hanging bridges for easier access. There are also walking trails all around the Prisms, making it a great spot to go out and wander in nature.
It’s a fun area to explore, drink, and marvel at nature’s beauty.
2. Explore downtown
Down Huasca de Ocampo is small but exciting. The town’s history is laced with stories of gnomes and other forest folklore, giving downtown a genuinely magical feeling.
Various craft stalls, street food, coffee shops, and Mexican produce stands exist. There’s also usually one or two lifesize gnomes standing near the Huasca de Ocampo sign near the cathedral for photos. You can easily spend a few hours immersing yourself in the buzz of downtown.
Downtown is much more exciting on weekends when more tourists and businesses open. During the week, downtown becomes more of a local market, whereas weekends cater to tourists from Mexico City and other nearby destinations.
3. Visit the gnome museum (Museo de los duendos)
Did you know gnomes, elves, fairies, and other magical creatures were still alive in Mexico?
Well, maybe not exactly. But strolling through the gnome museum, just outside of downtown Huasca de Ocampo, certainly makes you feel this way.
At the museum, you can learn about the importance of gnomes in local folklore and how it has become such an integral part of the village. It’s a charming exhibit with whimsical decorations that bring you into the story.
4. Admire street art and explore the estates
You’ll find so many eye-catching murals and street art near the central square in Huasca de Ocampo. Also, the estates, otherwise known as haciendas, are unique, charming, and mesmerizing simultaneously.
You’ll also find many of the haciendas have significant, colorful morals. They make for great photo spots, or something to admire that represents an essential piece of Mexican heritage.
Many haciendas, like Hacienda de San Antonio Regla and Hacienda San Miguel Regla, offer tours with more information and insight into the history.
My favorite one is Hacienda Santa Maria Regla, which is close to the Basaltic Prisms and you can even stay there and enjoy the magical atmosphere of an ancient lodging. If not you can visit for 100 pesos and get a tour with a local guide. More about it later.
5. Visit the San Juan Hueyapan Ex-Hacienda
San Juan Hueyapan is sometimes called the “mother of all haciendas” because it dates back to 1535. It’s also known for being the first silver mill in Huasca de Ocampo.
Much of the estate is well-preserved, including staples, a chapel, and talavera (a style of pottery).
The hacienda was later converted into a rustic hotel that hosts events and offers tours through the stunning halls.
6. Explore the Hacienda de San Antonio Regla
If you are interested in a closer look at one of the most well-known haciendas of the town, look into the Hacienda de San Antonio Regla. This hacienda is one of four for-profit estates built between 1760 and 1762.
It was built to help process and clean gold and silver from the mines. The estate was flooded in 1915 when the San Antonio Dam was built.
The only way to visit here is by boat on a tour of the San Antonio Dam. (see below)
7. Visit the San Antonio Dam
Whether you’re more interested in cruising by Hacienda de San Antonio Regla or getting a closer look at the dam itself, the San Antonio Dam is a must-see if you have the time.
San Antonio Regla is located just before the Basaltic Prisms. A picturesque bridge over the dam is known as “The Bridge of San Antonio Dam.”
There are often small boats offering tours around the dam. These boats will give you a closer look at the San Antonio Regla, where you can peak at the chimneys sticking out of the water from the sunken haciendas.
The tours usually only operate on weekends and in the busy season, as there aren’t enough tourists around otherwise to make it worth their time.
8. Explore the Peña del Aire
Peña del Aire is only about 30 minutes from the center of Huasca de Ocampo and should not be missed. This is a small region with stunning views of the nearby mountain ranges.
There are several adventure activities, including ziplining, rappelling, and a wire bridge, for those seeking more thrill. But if you want to keep it more low-key, you can also soak in the views from the lookout.
If you are into hiking, the local guides can take you down to the valley from the lookout point and back or they can pick you up in the valley. It’s a long hike and you should organize it a few days before and leave early morning.
9. Shop around for pottery
While Huasca de Ocampo was a refuge to some prominent gold and silver mines back in the day, it’s also well known for its pottery.
Many beautiful pottery shops and stands throughout the town and even along the roads leading into the village.
Most of the pottery you’ll see are simple necessities, like cups, plates, and bowls.
If you’re visiting during a busy season, you’ll find several local pottery classes advertised around the town’s central square. Keep an eye out because there is no better place to learn than Huasca de Ocampo due to the close connection with pottery over time.
10. Horseback riding
There’s a lot of land around Huasca de Ocampo, which is perfect for horses and horseback riding.
There are several places to try horseback riding, and you won’t go wrong with any of them. It’s offered by many of the large hotels and estates and most tour companies in the area.
The scenery surrounding Huasca de Ocampo is stunning, with magnificent backdrops, vistas, and mountain ranges. This makes Hidalgo a fun place to try horseback riding, regardless of your level.
11. Trout Forest (Bosque de las Truchas)
One place offering horseback riding and many activities is Bosque de las Truchas, or “Trout Forest.”
Bosque de las Truchas is an ecotourism center built on a large lake within a beautiful forest. At the ecotourism center, you can rent row boats to explore the lake, fishing equipment, ATVs, or other fun activities.
This is a popular spot amongst the locals and a great way to spend an afternoon away from civilization.
12. Visit the Casa de los Duendes
Duendes are like goblins and they are part of the local mythology, which I believe in 🙂 They are like little fairies living in the woods and they can be naughty or nice depending on how you behave and how you treat them.
In this Museum, you can see all the various types of duendes with their names and history and all the belief around them with anecdotes of people that have had experiences with their presence.
They also give a little tour but it’s in Spanish. Otherwise, you can just walk around and buy a little souvenir to bring home and protect your household 🙂
13. Savor local cuisine
Huasca de Ocampo is not primarily known for its cuisine, but if you look around in the right places, you’ll find some incredible dishes you won’t find anywhere else.
During the weekends, central fill up with tons of food and drink vendors, and the restaurants become bustling with people coming and going.
The tacos are slightly different here, so it’s worth trying. Most of the tacos are cooked on a large grill, and instead of filling a corn tortilla with your topping of choice, it is all cooked together. This makes the taco stick together and resemble more of a half-quesadilla.
Huasca de Ocampo is known for their soups, specifically the mushroom soup.
14. Try Treehouse lodging
If you have the time to stay a few days in Huasca de Ocampo, consider staying in one of the unique treehouse lodgings in the area. While central Huasca de Ocampo is fun and exciting, you’ll find many cabin-inspired treehouse lodging just out of town.
This is an excellent opportunity for nature lovers, as it’s affordable compared to other influencer hotspots.
If you have transportation, you can enjoy the tranquility and peaceful tones of the environment while still being close to all the action near Huasca de Ocampo.
15. Splurge in one of the beautiful Haciendas
If you are up for a treat I would suggest staying in one of the beautiful Haciendas. It’s not actually super expensive like in any other more touristy places. I stayed in the Hacienda Santa Maria Regla, by the Basalti Prisms and it was magical.
I was in one of the modern rooms because it was cheaper but I would recommend getting a suite located in the main area, where the old buildings are. It’s like turning back in time and living in the luxurious hacienda that was before.
You have also access to a waterfall (Cascada de la Rosa) that you could see from above from one of the walkways in the Basaltic Prisms Park. To get closer, though, you need to go through the Hacienda.
16. Hike in nearby El Chico National Park
There are so many different places to hike near Huasca de Ocampo. After all, it’s nestled in the beautiful mountain ranges of central Mexico. However, my favorite to explore was El Chico National Park.
El Chico National Park is about 32 km (20 miles) from Huasca de Ocampo and is only accessible by car or private transportation.
This national park is a sprawling forest and mountain reserve part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, an active volcanic belt covering central-southern Mexico. There’s so much to do within this park, with a little something for everyone.
You’ll find well-marked nature trails, beautiful viewpoints, more advanced hiking trails, waterfall hikes, and rock climbing routes. So no matter what, you’ll be busy.
17. Visit a nearby magic town (Pueblo Magico)
Hidalgo has seven magic towns, and three are close to Huasca de Ocampo.
So, if you want to catch more of the magic behind the Pueblos Magicos, you can easily explore a few more “off-the-beaten-path villages in Hidalgo.
How to get to Huasca de Ocampo
Huasca de Ocampo is about 124 km (77 miles) north of Mexico City. It should only take about 2 hours to drive from Mexico City, and you’ll be treated to stunning views along the way.
Going to Huasca de Ocampo by car is my favorite method, as you’ll have much more freedom and independence to explore more of this stunning region.
In fact, I couldn’t have completed my Hidalgo Itinerary in 9 days and seen all the things I wanted to see if I was on public transportation, also because they don’t go anywhere and taxi is a bit more unreliable and expensive.
I recommend finding a rental car with Discover Cars.
While it isn’t recommended, you can get to Huasca de Ocampo by bus. You would take a bus from Mexico City to Pachuca (the capital city of Hidalgo). From Pachuca, you can take a local colectivo near the market to Huasca de Ocampo.
The colectivos leave whenever the bus fills up, and it takes about 30 minutes to get from Pachuca to Huasca de Ocampo.
However, if you go by bus, you won’t have much freedom. You’ll likely only have time for a few activities at most and feel pretty limited in your exploration. But it’s possible, of course.
Tours from Mexico City
A tour from Mexico City is one of the easiest ways to get to Hidalgo and Huasca de Ocampo. Tours arrange your transportation and navigation, so you don’t have to worry about anything. And here are the available tours from Mexico City.
This tour from Mexico City first stops at the stunning Basaltic Prisms near Huasca de Ocampo and continues to visit Real de Monte and Pachuca.
Here’s another tour from Mexico City that visits the town of Huasca de Ocampo, the Basaltic Prisms, and Real de Monte. So you’ll also have time to explore the magical gnome town.
And this private tour from Mexico City to Huasca de Ocampo, the Basaltic Prisms, and Real de Monte is perfect for those that want more freedom and privacy. Instead of traveling with another group, you’ll be traveling with only your group and guide.
Although a guided tour won’t give you as much flexibility as driving yourself, it takes off a lot of pressure and allows you to enjoy the sites without any hassles.
Best time to visit Huasca de Ocampo?
The best time to visit Huasca de Ocampo is in winter or between December and April. The rainy season is in the summertime when it rains frequently. However, the winter is very dry, with cool temperatures and little-to-no rain.
It also gets busier in December and January, so more activities will likely be open.
Is Huasca de Ocampo safe?
Huasca de Ocampo is safe, especially within tourist areas and around town. Unfortunately, Huasca de Ocampo still has some problems, most associated with a 42% moderate poverty level.
But if you practice the usual safety precautions that you would use anywhere in Mexico, everything should go smoothly in Hidalgo.
What to pack for Huasca de Ocampo?
Huasca de Ocampo is perfect for hikers, adventures, and explorers. So, if you’re going for multiple days, bring enough activewear for your time, and anticipate cooler temperatures.
Here are some ideas for what to pack for Huasca de Ocampo:
- Leggings and other layers to wear
- Hiking boots or trail shoes
- Comfortable hat and sunglasses
- A camera or smartphone for photos
- Rain gear if you’re visiting during the summer
- Mosquito repellant
- Water wherever you go
- A backpack for your belongings
- A daypack for any day hikes or adventures
How many days do I need to visit Huasca de Ocampo?
A day trip from Mexico City is acceptable if you want to taste Huasca de Ocampo and the surrounding region.
While you won’t be able to hit all the hot spots, you’ll get a good feel for the area and be able to visit a few of the top attractions.
However, if you have the time and a vehicle, you can easily spend 3-5 days here (especially if you’re into hiking and nature walks).
With at least a few days, you can venture out to other nearby Pueblos Magicos, spend some days hiking, and learn more about the culture and history here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Huasca de Ocampo worth visiting?
Yes, Huasca de Ocampo is worth visiting – especially if you love nature, hiking, and other adventurous activities. It’s a beautiful region, with so many fun things to do.
How far is Huasca de Ocampo from Mexico City?
Huasca de Ocampo is about 124 km (77 miles) north of Mexico City, and it takes about 2 hours by car to get there.
Is it necessary to rent a car to visit Huasca de Ocampo?
No, renting a car to visit Huasca de Ocampo is not necessary, but as I mentioned before, you would have a better experience and explore at your own pace. However, if you don’t feel comfortable driving in Mexico, you can take a day trip with a guided tour from Mexico City or take a local bus to Pachuca and a colectivo from Pachuca to Huasca de Ocampo.
What is the best time of year to visit Huasca de Ocampo?
December and January are the best months of the year to visit Huasca de Ocampo. There is little chance of rain, and the temperatures are only on the cool side.
Final Thoughts: Huasca de Ocampo
Huasca de Ocampo is a little hidden gem about two hours north of Mexico City. It is often overlooked, and few foreign tourists know about this destination.
However, it’s a truly magical town (thus, the first designated pueblo magico, or magic town). If you take the time out of your trip, you’ll be enchanted by the gnomes, faeries, and other mystical creatures surrounding this town.
If you enjoy hiking, you can just get lost in nature and soak in the beauty of the stunning Pachuca Mountains.
But no matter what you do, whether it’s veg out with the local cuisine, explore the stunning haciendas, or hike the nearby trails, you’ll surely have a blast and see a different side of Mexico that few get to experience.