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Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico: Travel and Adventure Guide

ixtapan de la sal mexico
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Mexico’s Magical Town of Ixtapan de la Sal awaits you with its pleasant climate and warm and comforting natural springs.

It is one of the preferred romantic getaways for those living in Mexico City and the surroundings.

I will tell you all about this Magical Town in today’s travel guide, so you don’t miss anything.

Where is Ixtapan de la Sal?

This Magical Town is the head of the municipality of the same name, located south of the state of Mexico, sharing a short southern border with Guerrero.

Ixtapan de la Sal borders the municipalities of Zucualpan, Coatepec Harinas, Villa Guerrero and Tonatico.

It is about 134 km from Mexico City, 85 km from Toluca, and 106 km from Cuernavaca, so during weekends, the town’s hotels and spas are very popular with national and state residents.

One of the main attributes of Ixtapan de la Sal is its excellent climate, with an average temperature of 22 °C and moderate seasonal variations.

In January, it is about 17 °C and can rise slightly to 23 and 24 °C in May, which is the hottest month. Rainfall is about 1,200 mm per year, with a rainy season from June to September.

How did the town come about?

ixtapan de la sal mexico
Source: Arturo Verea / shutterstock.com

Ixtapan de la Sal translates as “on the salt flats” in the Nahua language, and there is evidence that salt was intensively exploited in the territory since pre-Hispanic times.

The area was conquered by the Mexica ruler Axayácatl around 1472, and its inhabitants were forced to pay tribute in the form of sacks of salt, a highly valued commodity used as currency. 

The Spanish colonized the region shortly after the conquest of Mexico, and in the 1540s, the Franciscans began the construction of the Asunción Temple.

Best attractions in Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico

I suggest starting the tour along the main avenue or tourist boulevard and the historic center. You will find the monuments to the goddess Ixtapancíhuatl and Diana Cazadora, the Central Garden, the Municipal Palace, and the Parish Temple of Our Lady of the Assumption.

The town is frequented for the magic of its waters, with relaxing and curative properties, and at several points of the city, there are water parks, spas, and natural places to spend beautiful days.

Among these are the Ixtapan Water Park, the Municipal Spa, the Ecotourism Park Las Peñas Rodríguez, El Saltito and the Gran Reserva Ixtapan Country Club.

Ixtapan de la Sal is synonymous with its salt-making past, and you must visit the Salt Roads, the only existing pre-Columbian testimonies of salt exploitation in the town.

There are several communities nearby with interesting attractions, such as Tonatico, with its Grutas de la Estrella and Parque del Sol; Pilcaya, with the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park; Zucualpan, Villa Guerrero, Malinaltenango and San Pedro Tecomatepec.

Discover the Tourist Boulevard and the Historical Center

This quiet boulevard, shaded by leafy groves, connects the towns of Ixtapan de la Sal and Tonatico.

Statues of the goddesses Ixtapancíhuatl and Diana Cazadora, one Creole and the other foreign adorn the avenue leading to both towns’ most representative sites.

In Ixtapan de la Sal, the most symbolic points of interest are the Assumption Church, the Municipal Palace, and the beautiful Central Garden in the main square.

At night, the fountain in the Central Garden is the scene of water, light, and sound show. The traditional tianguis (flea market) is held in the plaza on Sundays.

Visit the Parish Temple of Our Lady of the Assumption

ixtapan de la sal mexico
Source: Arturo Verea / Shutterstock.com

This beautiful and simple temple of plateresque style, located next to the Plaza Jardín de Los Mártires, has two towers of different heights, the bell tower, which is the largest, and another smaller one where the clock is installed.

The facade is crowned by a balustrade that joins the two towers. It was erected in the 16th century by the Franciscan friars, and its interior has a beautiful carved wooden pulpit.

It also keeps a Christ lying inside a showcase made of cane, a venerated figure in the town with the name of Señor del Perdón (Lord of Forgiveness).

A legend says that when the monks were leading Christ to his abode, they were observed by a pack of wolves, which never attacked them.

Admire the monuments of Ixtapancíhuatl and Diana the Huntress

In Ixtapan de la Sal, there are two emblematic monuments of female mythological figures, the one of the goddess Ixtapancíhuatl and the one of Diana the Huntress.

The local mythology is represented by the goddess Ixtapancíhuatl, who welcomes visitors on the main avenue with her slender figure, kneeling on the ground in a warrior attitude and with long hair.

European mythology is personified by the statue of Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting.

Diana the Huntress also stands on the main avenue, escorted by beautiful Jacaranda trees, on a high pedestal, with her graceful body in her typical position of shooting an arrow with a bow.

Have lots of fun at Ixtapan Water Park

ixtapan de la sal mexico
Source: Arturo Verea / Shutterstock.com

This spectacular and complete park has swimming pools, slides, family games, extreme activities, thermal waters with medicinal properties, a miniature train, a lagoon, an artificial river, boats, barbecue grills, and other facilities and amusements which ensure a great day out.

It is located in the Plaza de San Gaspar in Ixtapan de la Sal and is open daily between 8 AM and 6 PM.

What are the attractions of the Municipal Spa?

The Balneario Municipal de Ixtapan de la Sal, located on Allende Sur Street, is a place to relax in the Magical Town at very reasonable prices.

It has a heated pool, hydro-massage tubs, hot springs, and massage cabins. Massage sessions last half an hour, and the rates charged are much more economical than those of spas, although, of course, without the comfort level of the latter.

In addition to its daytime hours, the Balneario Municipal also operates a night shift between 8 PM and 2 AM.

Explore El Saltito waterfall

On the Ixtapan – Tonatico Boulevard, inside the Ixtamil Vacation Center, is the access to a beautiful waterfall about 5 meters tall.

Entrance tickets to the waterfall area are purchased at the resort without buying other services.

Another attraction of the waterfall is that it is filled with fireflies during certain times of the year, offering an ecologically interesting and rare spectacle.

The flora surrounding the site includes large trees and grassy areas for outdoor games.

Las Peñas Rodriguez Ecotourism Park

ixtapan de la sal mexico
Source: Arturo Verea / Shutterstock.com

This park, located in the municipality of Ixtapan de la Sal, offers outdoor entertainment such as zip-lining, rappelling, horseback riding, and camping.

The zip-line cable is 45 meters high over a wooded ravine and has a 100-meter outward and 120-meter return route.

There are two walls for rappelling with a height of 40 meters, and a circuit makes the horseback rides 2 km. They charge for each selected activity and have two simple cabins and tent rentals.

Gran Reserva Ixtapan Country Club

This first-class real estate development has become a tourist attraction due to the beauty of the complex, with the buildings harmoniously integrated into the beautiful surroundings.

It has an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, residential area, lake, spa, equestrian club, racquet club, gyms, bar-restaurant, game rooms, and daycare service.

What are the Salt Roads?

Since pre-Hispanic times, Ixtapan de la Sal was an important salt production center.

The only pre-Columbian testimony of Ixtapan de la Sal’s salt-making past is stone structures 40 cm wide and one and a half meters high with a canal in the center.

Salt was already known in the region at least since the 15th century during the rule of the Mexica tlatoani Axayácatl, the successor of Moctezuma I and father of Moctezuma II.

These configurations, called ixtamiles, are currently located on private property, but visits are permitted.

What are the best spas in Ixtapan de la Sal?

Ixtapan de la Sal is synonymous with relaxation with water parks, hot springs, and spas. There are several spas in town, distinguishing two establishments: Serenity Grand Spa and Spa Holistic Luxury Day Spa.

Serenity is located at 403 Benito Juárez Avenue and is a first-class place, spotlessly clean and with competent masseurs that leave your body feeling like new.

Spa Holistic is in the Hotel Spa Ixtapan, on Arturo San Roman Boulevard, and all its services, such as hot stone massages, baths, saunas, aromatherapy, and facials, are excellent; in addition, its fruit, cucumber, ginger, and other vegetable waters are super refreshing.

Visit Tonatico

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The Tzumpantitlan Falls or Park of the Sun is one of the main attractions of Tonatico – Source: Arturo Verea / shutterstock.com

It is a town located only 5 km from Ixtapan de la Sal in which it seems that the colonial era has been frozen in its historic center.

The temple of Nuestra Señora de Tonatico is a magnificent 17th-century building with twin towers and a wide central nave with a mosaic floor. The church’s interior decoration is of laminated gold, standing out the altarpieces and paintings of religious themes.

On one side of the temple is a plinth with leafy trees. Near Tonatico it is worth visiting the Parque del Sol and the Grutas de la Estrella.

These interesting caves are located in Tonatico and feature stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, rocky structures of whimsical shapes that have been formed by the slow but constant dripping of subway water rich in mineral salts.

The regular tour of the caves takes place throughout the year, passing through its various natural rooms, and in February and June, there are special tours with more adrenaline, in which you go down to the subway river El Zapote.

On the other hand, Parque del Sol is located 1 km south of Tonatico and has a beautiful waterfall called El Salto, with a height of over 40 meters. The park has barbecue grills to enjoy a family meal and splash pads with green areas for outdoor entertainment in the middle of exuberant nature.

What is the main attraction of Pilcaya?

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Cacahuamilpa caves – Source: Roberto Michel / Shutterstock.com

In the nearby Guerrero municipality of Pilcaya is the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park, of great ecotourism interest, mainly because of its curious rock formations.

The area was protected by President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1936, to preserve its mineral uniqueness, as well as its flora and fauna.

This marvelous subway paradise, discovered in 1834, has more than 90 rooms open to the public. Tours begin at 10 AM and last approximately two hours.

Some strategic points of the caves are illuminated, particularly the highest natural halls, which can reach 70 meters. The guides make the tour very enjoyable, providing information about the caves and telling anecdotes.

Ixtapan de la Sal Handicrafts

ixtapan de la sal mexico
Source: Arturo Verea / Shutterstock.com

The artisans of Ixtapan de la Sal work exquisitely in pottery and wood carving.

With cedar, copal, guamúchil, and other woods, they make toys, animal-shaped ornaments, and other objects. They turn clay into beautiful tableware, vases, jars, flowerpots, and other pieces.

Some folk artisans are dedicated to the forging of metals. These souvenirs are available on weekends at the Tourist Market located in the small Plaza de San Gaspar, in front of the traffic circle with the Diana Cazadora monument.

Gastronomy

One of the traditional dishes most often seen on Ixtapan de la Sal’s tables is pork with chilacayote in pipian sauce. They are also fond of pancita and guajolote (turkey) in a red mole. 

Another of the most appreciated delicacies is the calates, frogs that usually come out after it has rained. The legs of these amphibians are eaten by Mexicans in different ways, such as in green sauce and smoked.

The typical drink of the town is “agua fresca,” made from citrus fruits, particularly lime. Artisanal Mexican candies made with pumpkin seeds are a local gastronomic emblem, and they also make excellent fruit jellies with quince and guava jams.

What are the main festivities?

The second Friday of Lent is the feast of the Lord of Forgiveness; an image kept in the Parish Temple of Our Lady of the Assumption.

For the occasion, Ixtapan de la Sal receives large delegations of pilgrims from the border municipalities and other localities of Mexico, Guerrero, and several nearby states. 

Then come Holy Week, Corpus Christi, the second Thursday after Easter Sunday, and San Isidro Labrador, whose feast day is May 15 and is much awaited by the local peasantry.

However, the biggest celebration is the patron saint festivities in honor of the Assumption of Mary, whose culminating date is August 15.

Ixtapan de la Sal Lodging

  • Hotel Spa Ixtapan is located on the tourist boulevard and is housed in an old building, offering excellent service; it has one of the best spas in town
  • Hotel Rancho San Diego Grand Spa Resort, located at km. 2.5 on the road to Tonatico is a place with good facilities and beautiful gardens
  • Hotel Bungalows Lolita, also on the boulevard, is made up of clean and cozy bungalows and has a heated pool
  • You can also stay comfortably at the Marriot and Villa Vergel, Hotel Belisana, Hotel El Salvador, and Camino Real, among the most praised by users

Where to eat?

Eating rich and abundant in Ixtapan de la Sal will not be a problem.

  • At Mision San José, you can enjoy the best Mexican dishes at reasonable prices
  • El Rincón de Puga is another Mexican food house, with freshly made tortillas, tasty enchiladas, and a great variety of antojitos
  • Firenze is an Italian restaurant with a sober atmosphere, fresh pasta, and a highly praised tiramisu for dessert
  • Matea Restaurant is an establishment with beautiful gardens and magnificent decoration, with a varied menu of international food

2 thoughts on “Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico: Travel and Adventure Guide”

  1. I enjoyed the article. You seem very knowledgeable regarding Mexican communities. My wife and I are planning a visit this summer. We are looking for small towns in the Mexican highlands that we might relocate to from the Savannah, Georgia area. I have multiple sclerosis and because of that, much humidity or heat is very bad for me. They literally squeeze me.

    Also, I’m a small town boy, so in a community of more than 20,000 people, I become uncomfortable. Anyway, I’m looking for low humidity and low temperature small towns in the highlands that you like and will share with me. We’re just a retired couple looking for somewhere less expensive and friends.

    1. Hey Dave! Thanks for reaching out.
      Yes, absolutely, there are many beautiful small towns most suitable for you.

      I recommend sticking anywhere near and around Mexico City. The cost of living is the lowest in the country which is another plus.

      Joel

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