One of Mexico’s most stunning pueblos magicos can be found in the state of Queretaro. While Mexico boasts a diverse amount of landscapes, the monolith of Bernal might be among the most puzzling. It is a lone mountain towering over the otherwise flat plains of Queretaro. Located only an hour away from the bustling metropolitan of Santiago de Queretaro, it is an essential day trip for anyone visiting the area.
Bundled with a trip to the neighboring pueblo magico of Tequisquiapan, a visit to Bernal is a great way to spend a day (or longer) on your Mexico itinerary. I’m a sucker for small mountain towns, and along with Tepoztlan and Xilitla, Bernal was one of my favorite small pueblos magicos in Mexico.
How To Get To Peña de Bernal
The town itself is simply called Bernal, and it is just a bus ride away from Santiago de Queretaro. The main bus terminal of Queretaro is huge and overwhelming. You’ll want to look for the Flecha Amarilla or Flecha Azul bus lines. They’ll take you to Bernal and leave very frequently. You can buy tickets in the terminal or from one of the people outside. The cost should be about 50 pesos, or $2.50. The journey takes an hour, depending on how many stops are made between Queretaro and Bernal. You’ll get dropped off on the main road about a 5-minute walk from the main plaza of town.
The bus picks up from the same place on the other side of the road. If you’re unsure about where the bus stop is, you can ask around and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.
Things to do in Bernal
Bernal is a small town and there really isn’t much to do besides hike up the rock. However, the town has a nice vibe, especially on the weekends when the usually quiet town gets filled up with Mexican tourists from all over the country.
Climb the Monolith
I’m a simple man. I see big rock, I climb it. Obviously, hiking up Bernal’s monolith is the must-do thing while in Bernal. You can’t actually reach the tippy-top without proper rock climbing equipment, so don’t expect to summit it. Get as high as you can for some stunning views of the village of Bernal and the surrounding landscapes.
Be warned, it is a steep and often challenging hike up. This is one of the world’s largest monoliths. I’ve heard anywhere from third to first largest free-standing rock. Before you get to the actual trailhead, the street will be lined with plenty of stores to keep you distracted. Stop for a drink, an ice cream, or to browse for some souvenirs. Take your breaks now because once you start the actual hike, you’ll be hiking for a while under the sizzling Mexican sun.
But push through, because it’s worth it. Even if it’s just to say that you’ve climbed this 8-million-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shop At The Boutiques and Street Markets
Like most Mexican tourist hotspots, there will be a slew of vendors selling everything you could imagine. The village center will have its alleyways lined with people selling their tourist wares and souvenirs. It adds some more color to an already colorful town, and you’ll likely find something that catches your eye. If you’re like me, you’ll at the very least stop every few minutes for some street food or ice cream.
Eat A Stuffed Cactus
I’m sure you can find stuffed nopales elsewhere in Mexico, but Bernal was actually the first place I saw them. Cactuses seem to be a big thing here. Like yeah, cactuses are pretty big everywhere in Mexico, but in Bernal you can actually eat cactus ice cream! So if you feel like having a little cactus overload, eat a stuffed cactus and wash it down with a cactus ice cream.
I’m a big street food guy, especially in Mexico. For me, the gorditas, elotes, and huge heaps of corn were my food of choice in Bernal. However, you’ll find a lot of restaurants to choose from. Try and find one with a rooftop view of Bernal for an extra scenic setting.
Chill in the Main Plaza
Bernal’s main plaza is absolutely gorgeous, highlighted by the big yellow and red church. Bernal’s historic center is very clean, well-kept, and all the buildings always look freshly-painted. It’s a great spot to take in the views or just sit down for a snack and people watch.
Have Some Drinks
This is Mexico. No visit to a pueblo magico is complete without a little drinking. When I got to Bernal on the weekend, everyone was drinking on the streets and having a ball. I love how lively even the smallest village in Mexico is. Get to Bernal early if you want to avoid the crowds, but once you’ve ticked everything off your brief Bernal bucket list, make sure to enjoy yourself and have a few drinks. People will be playing music on the streets and as the day wears on, people will naturally start dancing. This is Mexico. Disfruta la vida!
Where To Stay in Bernal
Bernal itself doesn’t have any hostels, and only a handful of hotels and Airbnbs to choose from. The town gets really quiet at night, and I think it is one of those places best-suited for a day trip. The ride back to Santiago de Queretaro is only 50 pesos, and there you’ll find a livelier scene come nighttime. Basically, if you plan on staying the night in Bernal, expect everything to shut down pretty early and to be cozied up in your hotel room until things start picking back up the next day.
In Queretaro, I stayed at El Mexa Hostel and it was a great hostel right in the center of Queretaro City. You can check out other hostels in Queretaro on Hostelworld. If you are adamant on staying in Bernal, I’d recommend checking Booking.com for the best rates. I can’t deny that having a sweet view from your room or balcony of Peña de Bernal would be unbeatable. If you prefer the peace and quiet of a small village compared to the hustle and bustle of a big city like Queretaro, then spending a night at Bernal will be for you.
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