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Jalpan de Serra, Queretaro: TOP Things to Do

  • Joel CZ 
  • 10 min read
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Jalpan de Serra was founded almost 300 years ago around the first Christian mission built in Mexican lands by the famous Fray Junipero Serra.

Today, it is a Magical Town that brings together different tourist attractions, which I will tell you all about in today’s post. Stay tuned!

Jalpan de Serra is the capital of the Queretaro municipality of the same name, located in the northeastern part of the state by the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.

The pre-Columbian settlers of the area were of Olmec origin, and in the 13th century, the Pames settled here.

The Spaniards began the conquest of the Sierra Gorda in the 1530s, and in 1750 Fray Junipero Serra arrived, who would be the great promoter of the missions that gave life to the territory during the viceregal era.

In 1904, Jalpan reached the rank of “city,” and in 1976, the “Serra” was added to its name in honor of Fray Junípero.

The UN declared a World Cultural Heritage Site one of the municipality’s two missions for its beauty and history.

Jalpan de Serra was granted the title of Mexican Magical Town (2010) to develop a tourist flow based on its architectural and archaeological heritage and beautiful landscapes.

Main attractions in Jalpan de Serra, Queretaro

jalpan de serra mexico
Mission of Santiago Apostle – Source: uhx72 / flickr.com

The Franciscan Mission of Santiago Apostle and the others erected nearby by Fray Junipero Serra’s tireless initiative constitute a set of attractions in Jalpan.

Other places not to be missed are the Historical Museum of the Sierra Gorda, the Archaeological Zone of Tancama, the Jalpan Dam, as well as the caves, rivers, and other spaces for ecotourism.

All complemented by the rich gastronomy of Queretaro and the exciting work of Jalpan’s artisans.

Visit the Franciscan Mission of Santiago Apostle

The missionary temple of Jalpan was finished in 1758 by Fran Junipero Serra and was consecrated to the Apostle Santiago.

On the church’s façade are the images of St. Francis and St. Dominic, as well as the coat of arms of the five wounds and the Franciscan order.

On the door’s inner frame are the images of St. Peter and St. Paul, while on the lower part of the façade is a Spanish-Mexican double-headed eagle.

Historical Museum of the Sierra Gorda

This institution, located next to the plaza, operates in one of the oldest buildings in town, built in the sixteenth century by Fray Juan Ramos de Lora and was originally the Fort of Jalpan.

After its period as a military fortress, it was the jail of Jalpan de Serra.

Finally, in 1991, it became a place to display the historical and cultural heritage of the Sierra Gorda Queretana through objects, images, and documents.

Other places of interest in Jalpan de Serra

jalpan de serra mexico
Old downtown buildings – Source: Jose Miguel Escobar Perez / flickr.com

On one side of the church is a building that was part of the Franciscan Mission of Santiago Apostle and was the scene of an important episode in the republic’s history since General Mariano Escobedo was imprisoned there during the Reform War.

Escobedo was freed by safe conduct granted by the indigenous imperialist general Tomás Mejía, and sometime later, the building became the post office of Jalpan de Serra.

Another building of interest is the old Melchor Ocampo school, located in front of the central garden and where a cultural center is planned to be installed.

In the Mission of Our Lady of the Light of Tancoyol, the facade is one of Queretaro’s most elaborated Franciscan missions.

The choral window, the images of San Joaquin and Santa Ana, and the large crosses at the top of the facade stand out.

The facade of the Mission of Santa Maria de las Aguas de Landa is of three bodies with images of saints and San Miguel Archangel in the auction.

Other beautiful missions near Jalpan are San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco and San Miguel Concá.

Enjoy the Jalpan de Serra’s dam

jalpan de serra mexico
The beautiful dam – Source: juliorobles1 / flickr.com

This beautiful water body is less than 2 km from Jalpan. The dam is famous for sport fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and biodiversity observation.

The best way to appreciate flora and fauna is to take a boat or kayak ride.

In 2004, the dam was added to the prestigious Ramsar list as a wetland of global importance for migratory bird life.

Explore the Tancama Archaeological Zone

Tancama Archaeological Zone
Tancama Archaeological Zone – Source: Guilgeopat / flickr.com

Tancama is about 12 km from Jalpan and was a settlement of the Huasteca culture, reaching its maximum splendor between the VIII and X centuries.

It was a ceremonial and astronomical center formed by three uneven squares and several buildings, among which distinguished the Building of the Hooks, the Blue Snake, the Thorns of Mantarraya, and the Skulls.

  • The Hooks Building is the one that shows the best stonework and is named after the copper hooks found at the site
  • The Blue Snake Building is circular, and human remains from the 2nd century were found there, as well as pieces of pottery and obsidian
  • The Building of the Stingray Thorns takes its name from a buried personage that among his offerings has a spine of this fish, something rare in the area, the reason why it is supposed that he was an important figure
  • The Skull Building is basically a pantheon

Given that the site was excavated and conditioned, preserving to the maximum the groves, the walk by Tancama is shaded and pleasant.

Practice outdoor activities

Jalpan de Serra and its surroundings offer a variety of options for the practice of sports and ecological entertainment. 

The Sierra Gorda has different environments for hiking, such as the tour along the banks of the Jalpan River and the routes to the caves, such as Puente de Dios, Cueva de la Diosa Cachum, Cueva del Aguacate, and other exciting caves.

Cyclists have routes to the Jalpan Dam and the old road to Tancama.

Biodiversity lovers can enjoy the eco-lodges of the sierra, which offer wildlife-watching tours, mainly birds.

What is of interest in the caves?

jalpan de serra
Cueva del Agua – Source: Jose Alfredo Morales Ortiz / flickr.com

The Cueva del Puente de Dios, located 3 km from Jalpan, is a site of outstanding beauty that can be reached by foot along the dam’s banks.

The Cueva del Agua (pictured above) is the most interesting but difficult to access. It is located near the town of Valle Verde and has an interior with dammed water and formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

To get to Cueva del Agua, you must walk about half an hour from Valle Verde, preferably with a mountain guide.

In Cueva de la Diosa Cachum, about 11 km from Jalpan, this Pame deity was worshipped as the mother of the sun, rain, and crops.

Jalpan’s handicrafts

Each community in the municipality of Jalpan de Serra has its handicraft specialty.

The pottery comes mainly from Soledad de Guadalupe, and the most popular pieces are cups, plates, and vases.

You may want to read: Tequisquiapan Querétaro: A Magical Town with Fine Taste

Palm is worked by the artisans of Nuevas Flores, turning it into fruit bowls, vases, and piggy banks.

In El Rincón de Tancoyol, some fine saddlers make phone and knife cases, belts, and purses.

All of these pieces are available in Jalpan de Serra’s craft stores.

Gastronomy

Jalpan’s food gathers all the exquisiteness of the culinary art of the Sierra Gorda.

The cecina serrana (beef jerky); the zacahuil, a giant tamale; the acamayas (river prawns), and the gorditas are a few examples of the delicacies that await you in Jalpa de Serra.

The community of Acatitlán del Río has specialized in the artisanal transformation of guava, making ate, rolls and liquor.

Rincón de Tancoyol produces excellent honey. They also serve magnificent coffee from the nearby municipality of Landa de Matamoros.

Where to eat

  • Tapanco’s Restaurant, at km 2 towards Rio Verde, is a country house that offers typical Queretaro dishes in an environment shaded by two enormous trees
  • El Aguaje del Moro, on Vicente Guerrero st. next to the main square, is an inexpensive, simple, and good homemade cooking joint
  • If you like seafood, you must go to Mariscos El que Hace Los Hogares Felices
  • Las Carretas is a fresh, delicious, and comfortable country-side restaurant on the way to the dam

Hotels in Jalpan de Serra

  • Hotel Santiago is praised as a simple, clean, and pleasant lodging, in addition to its excellent location
  • Hotel María del Carmen, facing the main square, has spacious rooms right in front of the kiosk. The Restaurant offers a breakfast buffet and traditional cuisine
  • Hotel Sierra Express is located in the San José neighborhood and has excellent facilities

You can also stay at Hotel Villas de Sol and Hotel Restaurant Bar Mesón de Caporales.

What is the weather like?

Jalpan de Serra is 910 mm above sea level, and its climate is warm and somewhat humid.

The average annual temperature is 24° C, which rises to 26 and 29° C in the hottest season (May to September).

It starts to cool down in October, and by December, it is about 17° C, an average temperature maintained until January and part of February.

The rainiest month is September, and then from June to August. Between December and March, it hardly rains at all.

How to get to Jalpan de Serra, Queretaro

To go to Jalpan de Serra from Queretaro’s capital (Santiago), you must travel 193 km northeast through Querétaro 100 and Mexico 120 highways. Mexico City is 387 km away from Jalpan.

Guanajuato city is 336 km away traveling in the direction of Irapuato, Celaya and Santiago de Querétaro. Pachuca de Soto is 374 km away.

I hope this guide will encourage you to discover a new place in Mexico, such as Jalpan de Serra. Have fun, and please be safe. Vamonos!

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