One of the best hidden gems that I ran into while traveling in Mexico was the mountain town of Taxco de Alarcon. Three hours south of Mexico City, this off-the-beaten-path destination is easy to get to, yet relatively undiscovered. It is well worth straying from the international tourist trail for. I actually stumbled into Taxco by accident. Originally, I planned to go back to Mexico City after Tepoztlan but was late in arriving to Cuernavaca’s bus station. I missed my bus. Not wanting to wait too long to get anywhere, and not really having a set plan, I decided to just catch the next bus and go to Taxco de Alarcon.
Yeah, I’d only have to wait another hour or so for a bus to Mexico City, but whatever. I’ve stopped trying to make sense of my spontaneous thought processes. I had never been to the state of Guerrero before, and I’d been to Mexico City about five times. I’m always down for a new adventure. It was my fourth month in Mexico but I’d basically only revisited some of my old favorite places. I settled in San Cristobal for about two months, Tulum for a month, and Oaxaca for the other month. It was time for something new. Taxco was the lucky winner of my game of bus roulette.
Actually, I was the lucky winner of my game of bus roulette. Taxco de Alarcon was an absolute dream. I actually shed a tear as my bus rolled into the city around golden hour. The city was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Taxco was easily one of the most unique places I’d ever seen. The city of white was built into the side of a mountain, and the stacks of Mediterranean-style buildings was something I never expected Mexico to have.
I hopped off the bus, strapped my two backpacks around me, and began the strenuous hike up to the Zocalo and to my hostel. After nearly a month on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca, the altitude of Taxco was absolutely kicking my ass. I weaved my way through the narrow alleyways, dodging the Volkswagen Beetle taxis and market stalls. I arrived at my hostel, the only one that showed up online, and settled into my dorm room which I had all to myself.
Perks of straying off the beaten path. $10 for an entire room to myself right in the center of downtown. Things would only get better from there, as Taxco quickly became one of my favorite destinations in all of Mexico.
How To Get To Taxco
For how easily accessible Taxco is, it’s surprising that it isn’t on travelers’ radars. It is just a three-hour direct bus from Mexico City. It’s even closer if you were already visiting the nearby towns of Cuernavaca, Tepoztlan, or Toluca beforehand.
How To Get To Taxco From Mexico City
Getting to Taxco from Mexico City is as simple as it gets. Being only a few hours away, you can catch a bus from Terminal Sur, also known as Terminal Taxqueña after Taxco itself. The buses leave very frequently. Unless it’s a holiday, you should have no problem turning up to the bus terminal and finding a seat on the next bus out.
I actually got to Taxco through Cuernavaca as I was coming from Tepoztlan. If you are leaving from Cuernavaca, you’ll need to go to the Estrella Blanca bus terminal. Make sure to specify Estrella Blanca when taking a taxi to the terminal, as there are multiple bus stations in Cuernavaca.
Where To Stay in Taxco
Despite not being firmly on the backpacker trail, there are some hostels in Taxco. I stayed at Amate Hostel and Hostal Casa Taxco. Both are within two minutes walking distance from the city center. I like to stay in hostels for the social atmosphere, but I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Taxco is a very cheap place to visit, and there are plenty of budget-friendly hotels and Airbnbs in Taxco.
This is a budget-friendly option for travelers simply looking for a place to sleep. It costs 200 pesos ($10) for a bed in a shared dorm. When I went, I was the only person staying in the dorm for the three nights I was there. The perks of going off the beaten path, hey? Don’t expect much from this hostel in the way of amenities. It’s very basic, but the owners are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and helpful. They gave me a huge list of recommendations for Taxco. It included things to do, foods to try, local places to eat and drink, and their WhatsApp in case I needed anything else.
Hostal Casa Taxco
Just a minute away from Taxco’s main plaza is Hostel Casa Taxco. This amazing hostel is a bit pricier, at nearly 300 pesos for a dorm bed, but it is worth the money. The view from the terrace alone is worth it. Unlike Amate Hostel, there are common areas and other amenities, making it possible to meet travelers, make friends, and hang out outside of your room. I loved my stay here and would absolutely stay here again. Jess was extremely helpful and welcoming during my entire time in Taxco.
Things to do in Taxco de Alarcon, Guerrero
Taxco is more than just a pretty face, but I will admit it is one of the prettiest faces out there. I never got tired of the views in Taxco. I admittedly spent more time enjoying the view from a nice terrace than actually adventuring. The COVID-19 Pandemic played a part in that, as many things were closed. Low demand for tours forced tour agencies to stop offering certain tours an daily departures. Many of the things within the city were also closed, including churches, museums, and cultural centers. However, there is no shortage of things to do in Taxco, even if it just involves exploring the city’s quaint alleyways or taking in a view from the rooftops.
Teleferico (Taxco Cable Cars)
If you haven’t had your fill of views in Taxco, you can take to the skies. Catch the Teleferico up to Montetaxco Hotel for even more killer views. It costs 65 pesos for a one-way ticket, or 95 pesos roundtrip. I took the one-way and regretted it. The walk down the steep, slippery cobblestone roads was brutal and seemingly endless. Just book the roundtrip ticket.
Okay, now that you’re up here, check out the Montetaxco Hotel. The view from here is absolutely stunning, and one of the best that you’ll find in all of Taxco. The prices at the restaurant are pricier, but you can still find things on the menu for less than $5. Have a cup of coffee or a green juice and take in some marvelous views.
The Prehispanic Mines (Mina Prehispanico de Taxco)
Taxco is known for its silver, and a big part of Taxco’s history revolves around its Prehispanic mines. There is a very fascinating museum in town that will give you some insight into Taxco’s mining history. Doesn’t sound all too interesting? It is. The cool thing about this museum is that it actually includes the mine itself, so you’ll be exploring this Prehispanic mine rather than just reading about it.
Cristo de Taxco
In almost every Latin American mountain town, you will find a big Jesus statue at the top of the mountain. Taxco is no different. Despite there being no shortage of views to be found in Taxco, arguably the best view will be from the Jesus statue. It’s a tough hike, especially taking into account the high altitude of Taxco. Thankfully, you can catch a colectivo. Just look for one that says Casahuates or Cristo, and ask them to drop you off close by.
Parque Nacional Grutas de Cacahuamilpa
I’m not normally the biggest fan of caves, since a lot of them feel pretty similar. All the stalactites and stalagmites and cave formations are cool, but once you’ve seen them once, it really takes a lot to blow you away. The caves of Cacahuamilpa definitely blew me away. I’ve never been to a cave so large and spacious. A lot of the caves I’ve visited are cramped and damp and leave you just wanting to get out by the end of the visit.
Parque Nacional Grutas de Cacahuamilpa is worth the visit, and I was actually sad to leave the cave when we were done. These caves are huge, and one could explore up to 6.8 kilometers into the cave, although our guide said that would take 14 hours. We went two kilometers deep, in awe at the cave’s vast chambers and cave formations. It’s only about 40 minutes away from Taxco, and you can catch tours from the city if you don’t feel like doing things yourself.
If you are looking for something more outdoorsy, a trip to Mil Cascadas (A Thousand Waterfalls) is warranted. It is one of the hidden gems near Taxco. No matter how many waterfalls I visit, I’m always down to explore another one (or thousand). You don’t just go hike and see the waterfalls either. If you’re up for an adventure, you can go canyoning and rappel down the waterfalls.
Pozas Azules de Atzala
A quick colectivo ride from Taxco’s main street will take you to some of the most beautiful swimming holes you’ll ever dive into. You can catch the colectivo in front of the Coppel store on the main road, and ask them to drop you off at the Pozas Azules. This is one of the best hidden gems in Mexico, internationally speaking. The locals love to spend the day here, so bring your bathing suit and towel and dive into these turquoise pools.
Historical Tour of the City
Taxco has a lot of history, culture, and some very unique traditions, one of which I’ll talk about in the next bullet point. When I was watching the sunset from one of the churches, an older local came up to me and asked if I wanted to know a little bit about the city. I knew he’d want a tip at the end, but since Taxco was devoid of travelers, I hadn’t really spoken to anyone else in a week. I figured I’d entertain the guy, and he ended up actually entertaining me quite a bit. There is a lot of cool stuff about Taxco, from its mines to its religious traditions.
Holy Week in Taxco (Semana Santa)
Speaking of religious traditions… If you’re lucky enough to be in Taxco during Semana Santa (Holy Week), you’ll find one of the most unique and brutal traditions in the world. Back in the day, self-punishing was a sign of penitence and repentance. While that has kind of gone by the wayside in most of Latin America, it still exists in Taxco.
During Holy Week, three groups of worshippers, the Animas, Flagelantes, and Encruzados make a pilgrimage through the city of Taxco in painful and brutal style. The Animas walk tied together with chains around their feet, with their bodies bent at 90 degree angles, and having to hold candles as the hot wax melts over their hands. The Flagelantes carry a heavy wooden cross, often 100 pounds or more, throughout the city. Occasionally, they do stop. However, when they stop, they whip their backs bloody. The Encruzados carry a 100-pound bundle of thorns on their back. Their journeys are about five kilometers, and absolutely ghastly to even think about.
Where To Eat and Drink in Taxco
For those of you that have been following along, it’s no secret that San Cristobal de las Casas won my heart. So far, Taxco is the closest thing I’ve found to San Cristobal. A smaller town up in the mountains, with beautiful views all around and an excellent food scene. Taxco knows how to do food right, whether it’s local or international. However, I definitely recommend sticking to local. I’ve had good sushi and great Italian while I was here, but I never had a Mexican meal that disappointed.
This restaurant has one of the best views in all of Taxco, and some great food to go with it. The food isn’t unreasonably priced, although I always stuck to the more affordable breakfast menu whenever I came here. The chilaquiles here were fantastic, and aside from the classic salsa rojo and salsa verde, they had a number of other options. With the best Wi-Fi I found in town, I also came here whenever I needed to get some work done. Not a bad workplace, eh?
The Mercado de Tetitlan
Once I had my first meal at the mercado, I never wanted anything else. For about $2-3, you could have some authentic and delicious Mexican food. It’s only a minute’s walk away from the center to get to the dining area of the market, and you can fill yourself up for the entire day here if you wanted to. I started every day with either chilaquiles or pozole verde, and a cup of delicious cafe de olla.
If you want to treat yourself, this is where you need to go. The view from here is absolutely stunning. All things considered, the food isn’t too expensive either. $20 will get you a nice meal here, but you’re really paying for the view. I got a basic meal of huevos rancheros for $4 since I’m ballin’. on a budget. Genuinely though, I could have stayed here all day and enjoyed the stellar vistas.
Right in the main plaza of town, you’ll find a Mexican sushi place that is honestly pretty damn good. You can get a sushi roll for about $5, which is still half the price you’d pay in the U.S. for a basic ass California roll. They’ve also got poke bowls and great cocktails here. If you’re tired of Mexican food, this is an excellent option.
Del Angel Inn
For stunning views of the city with great food to boot, Del Angel Inn’s restaurant is a must-visit. You’ll get the gorgeous panoramic view above, as well as a view of Santa Prisca Cathedral from right at its doorstep. Located just outside the main plaza of Taxco, it’s a can’t-miss spot for a meal with a view.
La Bambina Cerveceria
Come here for the beers with a view. There are a few different Bambina’s in town, but the one that I think is the best is the one that’s close to the Convent. It’s got a cute terrace with umbrellas, and you know I love me a good terrace with a view.
This is apparently a very important historical establishment here in Taxco, and no visit to Taxco is complete without having a Berta at the birthplace itself. What is a Berta? Well, it’s a tequila and honey cocktail that originated in Taxco. Sounds pretty damn good to me. You’ll find Bar Berta right in the city center.
Scaffecito has a cozy vibe with lots of books, a nice garden, and very close to the center of town. Up a narrow alleyway and tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. Great vibes, great food at reasonable prices. You can easily fill yourself up here for less than $5. If you’re not up to doing much that day, it’s easy to lose a few hours here working, reading a book, or just vibing out to the chill tunes in the garden.
Pozoleria Tia Calla
One of the must-try dishes in Taxco de Alarcon is their pozole blanco. Talk to any local and they’ll let you know that the best pozole can be found at Tia Calla. There are actually two locations. One is on the main road and the other is in the main plaza. No matter which you visit, Tia Calla has amazing food at very affordable prices.
The Street Food Scene in Taxco
Like most cities in Mexico, Taxco has a bustling street food scene. It’s not quite at the level of munchie meccas like Mexico City and Oaxaca, but it does exist. Gorditas, barbacoa, and of course, tacos al pastor are some of the main offerings of Taxco’s street food scene. While most of the restaurants in the city shut down pretty early during COVID, most of the late night eats were the taquerias and street stalls.
Things To Know Before Visiting Taxco
Like I said, I went pretty blindly into my visit to Taxco. I didn’t know much about the city, and had hardly heard of it. If you’re an experienced traveler with a lot of Mexico and Latin America under your belt, Taxco isn’t too different. You’ll be fine. However, there are still a few things that you should probably know beforehand.
Do You Need Spanish To Get By in Taxco?
While English is good enough to get by in most of touristy Mexico, it is definitely a lot less common in Taxco. If you want to get an immersive experience in this region, try to pick up some Spanish. Hardly anyone I spoke to was fluent in English, and Taxco proved to be a great refresher for the Spanish that I was slowly losing in gringo hotspots like Puerto Escondido and Tulum.
Another thing is the altitude. Taxco is pretty high up in the mountains, reaching elevations as high as 2,000 meters. It’s easy to run out of breath here. Between the constant uphill climbs and thin air, just be a bit more careful with pushing yourself. Your calves are going to get a great workout, and it’s surprising that the Tasqueñas don’t all have killer glutes.
Is Taxco Safe to Visit?
Lastly, safety. I’ve heard mixed things about the safety of Guerrero state. Cartel activity does exist in this state, but I think for the most part, Taxco is excluded. Acapulco is a big hotspot, and the capital of Chilpancingo is as well. However, being a smaller town, I don’t think Taxco attracts too much attention. Is Taxco safe to visit? I wasn’t sure at first, but by the end, I absolutely loved the city and felt welcomed by its people.
The only safety issue I have with Taxco is how narrow those streets are. It’s a miracle more people don’t get hit by cars or motorbikes. I mean, there are no sidewalks. The streets are barely wide enough to fit two cars, and many of the two-way streets should definitely just be one way streets. Seeing VW bugs haul ass down slippery cobblestoned streets gave me indescribable anxiety.
That’s really all I’ve got on safety in Taxco. Same goes for everywhere you go. Keep your wits about you and don’t make yourself a target to petty thieves.
Taxco is an incredible city, and one that did not take long to win me over. It only took a few days for me to start feeling at home in the city. As usual, I kept extending my stay in Taxco, and have no doubt that I’ll be back to visit this magical city again one day.
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