A day in Malinalco, Mexico

Eek, the last few days have been BUSY! I need to rewind to Tuesday, August 16.

To refresh your memory: We got home from Tepotzlán Sunday night, Monday was my super lazy recovery day, and then Tuesday we set out to explore again.

We decided to do a day trip to Malinalco with Ivan’s mom (just the 4 of us + mi suegra). Unfortunately, Ivan’s dad was unable to get much time off of work while we’re here. 😦

Malinalco is another of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos” (magical town). It’s about 1 1/2 hours south of Toluca, and a couple hours from Mexico City.

We set out around 11:00 am- not too early. Apparently there isn’t just a nice direct highway- we again ended up on winding rural roads.

Through more random small towns

Asher was a bit of a crab on the drive because he was “stuck in the middle seat” in the back. He said the winding roads were making him feel a little queasy and he just didn’t want to be in the car. Fortunately, his whiny, crabby attitude lifted as soon as he got out of the car.

This picture is deceiving… the road looks pretty good here! In general, the roads have been in HORRIBLE condition everywhere, it seems. Much worse than I ever remember from past visits. My in-laws said something about the last president basically stealing a ton of money, meaning not much left to put toward maintaining the infrastructure. There are So. Many. Potholes. (They then commented, “Well, all of the presidents always steal the country’s money….”.) NICE. 😒

(About the potholes- people will roll big boulders and stuff into them sometimes so people can see them and avoid them (but then you need to drive around a huge boulder in the road). Or like around the corner from their house, someone shoved a huge tire into a pothole, standing upright. This tells you how big the pothole is, if an entire tire fits into it!)

Arrival to Malinalco/ lunch

Sign says “Pueblo mágico”. The roads turned to cobblestone once we got into the town.

We parked on the street near the city center and first stop was lunch.

We had a nice meal at a little place by the center square. I got tacos dorados- one was chorizo and papa, one was chicken tinga and the other plain chicken. We also got a guacamole to share.

Next, we just milled around town. These tourist towns are quiet during the week- most Mexican tourists come on the weekends, and sadly these beautiful places are not hot spots for international tourists (though I’d argue they should be!).

Convento Agustino

We checked out the Convento Agustino, a convent and church in the city center from the 1500s! Unfortunately much of it was closed due to serious damage from an earthquake a few years ago.

The little I know about it is that it was established by Augustine monks, and the paintings and frescoes were done in collaboration with Aztec indigenous people that lived there at the time . (I cannot say how willingly they participated in this or not .. 😬). I think there was a lot of “conversion” happening.

Just a beautiful setting here in the mountains!! I loved the views in this town.

We could only go inside one part. The ceilings were gorgeous!

I believe it’s still an active monastery today. The grounds are nicely landscaped with cactuses and pretty floral trees.

I’m bummed the main church and rest of it are closed to visitors though! We are striking out a little bit, due to natural disasters (fire in Tepoztlán that closed the pyramid, and now earthquake damage).

Anyway, from here we walked around a bit more – and took a picture with the big “MALINALCO” sign.

This town is soooo picturesque!! I got several beautiful shots (in my opinion).

I’d like to frame these next few! A little “streets of Mexico” section on my wall somewhere. 🙂

Our next stop (our main destination of the day) was the Archaeological Zone, about a 10 minute walk from the city center.

Malinalco Ancient Ruins

We were going to visit what are apparently one of the “best preserved Aztec ruins in all of Mexico”.

Online it said the site would be open until 5 pm. We arrived at 3:00, so plenty of time. Or so we thought. When we got to the gate, the “until 17:00” was crossed out, and instead it said “15:00”. Ahhhh!!!

Ivan asked the guy at the window, who confirmed that ever since the pandemic and “during slow times”, they close early. Would be really nice to update your website, amigo!

*Luckily*, he said we could still pay the fee and enter, but that we would need to hurry. We basically had until 3:25 to make it up the mountain before the guards would start clearing people out.

It was a STEEP, long, exhausting climb. Not a hike- it was actual formed stairs the whole way. But we were hustling as we’d never hustled before, and we were panting like a bunch of dogs. Omg!! It was hot, and we were dripping. Sadly, we had to sacrifice Ivan’s mom and leave her on a bench halfway. She said her heart was pounding out of her chest, and we needed to literally run to make it in time. 🥵🥵

Starting out… didn’t look too bad!

But it just kept going… and going… and going… On the plus side, the scenery was just spectacular!!

Halfway up or so- looking down to the town below (view from the trail):

FINALLY made it- and was greeted with this view. Ethan had run ahead (somehow had additional energy that I was lacking).

This place is phenomenal!! Increíble views, and well, I am always just fascinated by indigenous ruins. There is something SO cool about them to me. Not only the spiritual significance, but just how they built stuff up on mountain tops, in ancient times, blows my mind.

The views from the top of the main pyramid…. Wow.

We did have just enough time to climb all around the ruins and enjoy the views before they came to kick us out.

The walk down was considerably easier. 🙂

Met back up with Ivan’s mom. (I felt horrible that she missed out!! She definitely could have made the trek, had we been able to just go slowly and stop for lots of breaks.) At least they live close and can go back. Amazingly, they’d never visited this site before.

Back down, we hit up some bathrooms and walked back to the car.

Back through town
Popsicle break after the hot climb

Then we hit the road! Another hour+ back to Toluca.

My driver for the last couple weeks. Honestly, he impresses me immensely. Driving here is NUTS, but he is soooo good at it. Parallel parking in tiny spots, backing up the car to squeeze through extremely narrow spaces, dealing with crazy traffic, maneuvering around potholes, and knowing when it’s apparently appropriate (and expected) to run red lights… ha.

But! The day wasn’t over yet. We had to stop at Walmart to pick up a few things, and then went straight to his sister’s apartment.

We’d made plans to have a “nacho night” with his sister and family, plus his little brother and his girlfriend, plus my in-laws.

Ivan is the Nacho Master, so he was in charge of making them. He drives! He cooks! I apparently am in charge of just sitting there and chit chatting. 😅

It was a great time. I was mildly tired from the adventurous day, but surprisingly not too bad. The boys really just played video games with their cousins the whole time…. Ah well. They stayed occupied and we adults all had a nice visit.

My in-laws

It was another late night. 😴 I don’t think we left until after midnight, and still had a good 20 minute drive. I am not a mega fan of all the late nights, but when in Rome… 🙂

Ivan is always pretty desperate to soak up ALL the time with All the people, too. Can’t fault him for that! I actually love that about him so much.

Tuesday night marked one full week in Mexico already! The time is flying by. As I write this, it’s now Friday night- meaning only 3 more full days to go. We fly home again Tuesday afternoon (2 full weeks here).

Time for bed! Wednesday and Thursday were fun and full days, too… will try to write about them tomorrow. Good night!!

3 thoughts on “A day in Malinalco, Mexico”

  1. looks like very new the “ruins” I don’t see the ruins. hahahah.. it’s so cool to visit historical places when we are used to modern buildings now. they come with history and culture, remind us where we came from.
    it’s ok to cross red lights. hahahah… that’s so Latin American. does he also cross walk on red lights? I do it all the time and my American friends always thought it was inappropriate. hahaha…


  2. That looks like such a pretty area. Bummer about the hours for the ruins being changed but the website not being updated! I can just imagine how hot and sweaty you were climbing all of those stairs! I find ruins very intriguing, too. Like how did they build all of that w/out modern equipment!!

    Ivan is quite the catching between his driving and nacho skills! Phil does all of our driving, too, and I am so grateful for that!!


  3. What an amazing day trip. It’s nice to see those off-the-beaten-road places because you know the locals. I am guessing that foreign tourists just wouldn’t feel safe venturing out?? Beautiful pictures though and you should definitely frame some of them. Too bad you couldn’t explore the ruins a bit more.

    I can relate to Ivan so much that he’s trying to soak up every minute with his family in his country! I feel the same when I visit home.


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