Visit of two former mining towns: Tlalpujahua and El Oro (Mexico): Travel Diary #2
In the previous travel diary, we were in Sierra Chincua to see monarch butterflies. We then took a truck to go to Tlalpujahua, a magico pueblo next door. It’s an old mining town, also known for its handicrafts: blown glass balls make it the town where it’s Christmas all year round.
Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
Workshop: Fabrica De Esferas Fimave
Despite the late arrival, we arrived in time to visit a workshop for the production of blown glass balls – with a live demo. The tools are simplistic, there is no protection (for eyes or hands) but the craftsman’s dexterity is undeniable. He made simple things for us: Christmas baubles, a rose, a glass…
Everything is made of glass but it’s so thin and so well done that you would have thought they were made of plastic. It doesn’t cost much on top of that. That’s all the city sells, they come in all colors, all sizes. What I like best are the glass grapes, they’re very well made and colorful.
Compared to Angangueo visited this morning, Tlalpujahua looks much more touristic. It’s really hard to understand how it can lack public transportation in high season between these two cities… yes, they belong to two different states, but it’s so unusual for Mexico to lack public transportation at this point. The city of Tlalpujahua is much more lively and we feel that it lives well from tourism, unlike Angangueo. If we sleep here instead of Angangueo, it is because all the hotels (three to be precise) are full in Angangueo.
We are entitled to a huge private apartment with 3 bedrooms overlooking the church: Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Carmen. There is even access to a terrace, allowing us to observe the church at our leisure, as well as the mountains in the distance. It’s really cheap too, it costs us 10€/person/night: I give you the name: Casa Rincon Colonial (link Booking)
However, like all small Mexican villages, the evening is quite calm. There are few restaurants open (only restaurants for tourists).
The next day (Sunday) there is a very nice market next to the church. We go there for breakfast and to observe the locals.
We discover with amusement a tortilla machine. The Mexicans consume so many of them that it would have been laborious to make all this by hand.
Museo de la Mina las Dos Estrellas
Having learned the lesson of the day before, we privatized a cab to accompany us to the old mine Dos Estrellas. As we don’t pick up the phone there, the cab will wait for us and take us to El Oro, the third pueblo magico of the area. All this for 200MXN (there are 4 of us). The cab driver seems to know everything because he tells us that he will wait for us 1h20… which corresponds to the duration of the visit.
This visit is really one of the highlights of your mini road-trip. C. and P. (JB’s big cousin + her friend) are as happy about this visit as they are to have seen thousands of monarch butterflies.
The visit is done only with a guide, and that’s good because there is a lot of interesting information. There are English speaking guides but we have a Spanish speaking guide with us today. This isn’t a problem since C. is bilingual and was able to translate the explanations for us (thank you!). The tour starts with the visit of +/- 100m from the mine, where we each have to wear a helmet. Actually, the mine is much longer than that and goes to El Oro, the town next door !!
The site is really huge and there is a false air of Switzerland, it’s really an incredible place! Everything is renovated but with taste, the place remains frozen in time and we have the impression that the miners are taking their break and will come back 5 minutes later.
In the past, silver and gold could be mined there. A lot of silver and a lot of gold. However, conditions were not at their best: miners had to “rent” equipment, and part of their salary was deducted to pay for the rental of this equipment, which was indispensable for working. In the event of an accident, their children had to work for them to pay off the debt. Wages were not very high, vacations were almost non-existent, and working conditions were very harsh. It was nothing like the salt mines in Poland, for example: to prevent theft, the miners went there almost in their underwear and were weighed before and after work. There were small “elevators” to bring the miners down. If I am not mistaken, this is the first mine to be equipped with electricity. Stones from the mines were thrown into the river, polluting the water and killing animals… The number of miners was such that each week it took 2 days to pay everyone. On the only day off during the week, the miners did not rest, they spent their time going to collect their wages. Fortunately, all this stopped when the cost of operating the mine became too high compared to the metals extracted.
At that time, there was a lot of silver and gold and you could see, through the size of the furnaces here, the amount of metals extracted from these mines… we are talking about kg and kg. Moreover, we could see replicas of ingots and the moulds used to produce them. They aren’t small 3g ingots but several kg, it’s as big as a cake mould !!
What seduces us particularly in this visit are the old buildings, the traces of old tools… like these huge metal wheels, recycled in decoration… we see old machines here and there… it’s really super super beautiful!
The visit ends with this fresco summarizing everything we have seen and heard today. As the museum is managed by an association, the guides are only paid by tips. We leave 50MXN each and even receive a receipt representing a “share” from the mining company ahahah.
As planned, the cab is waiting for us in front of the museum and will take you to El Oro, a second mining town right next door. This is the 3rd pueblo magico that we visit during this mini road trip. It was not planned in the agency program, it is a special stop “Anh agency” ahahhaah 😀
The city has a false air of a European city, but it still keeps its Mexican side, especially in the central market, where we could have lunch for not too much money (100MXN/person). P. takes the opportunity to stock up on fruits and spices because she tells us that it would have cost twice as much in Mexico City.
All visits here (except El Oro mine) cost 5MXN/person. We were able to go to the theater (small but cute), visit the town hall (just for its terrace) .
The most popular restaurant in the city is this train car transformed into a restaurant. Unfortunately the interior is rather disappointing. Instead of keeping the original seats, they have removed everything and put modern and uncomfortable tables.
There is a mine in El Oro itself, but the one in Dos Estrellas, which we visited this morning, seems to be better noted. If you ever prefer to visit the mine in El Oro, I have noted the entrance fee: 70MXN/person.
There is a bus leaving every hour for Mexico City from the Bus Terminal. There we buy a ticket for 294MXN/person. And in only 2h30, we arrived at CDMX. We will need 120MXN more to reach our Airbnb by cab (prepaid cab, we buy a ticket and give it to the driver). And it is the end of our mini road trip. Thanks to C. and P. for these nice moments spent together
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Hotel : Casa Rincon Colonial (link Booking) count 20€ to 40€/night depending on the number of people (the apartment is entirely private)
- Lunch: 100MXN/person
- Privatized Taxi: downtown Tlalpujahua de Rayón – Dos Estrellas Mine – El Oro: 200MXN for 4 people, with a 1h20 wait at the mine
- Tip for the mine guide: 50MXN/person
- Bus El Oro – Mexico City: 294MXN/person
- Paid visits to El Oro: 10MXN/person
- Cab bus terminal Poniente – our Airbnb: 120MXN/taxi
- If you want to zap the Dos Estrellas mine, you can do Tlalpujahua – El Oro for 50MXN by cab, or 10MXN by bus (regular departure, about every 20 minutes).
- From Tlalpujahua, to visit the Monarch Butterfly Reserves, a cab is absolutely necessary.
- The bus Mexico City – Angangueo does not go through Tlalpujahua
Recommended itinerary : Monarch butterflies + 3 magicos pueblos in 2 days
Basically, we did the following program and spent about 1900MXN/person All Inclusive, it’s very economical vs. what the agencies had announced to us ( 2950MXN/person = 146€ for 2 days, food excluded) !!!
- Day 1: Bus from CDMX to Angangueo. Cab to Sierra Chincua. Visit of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve on horseback + lunch in Sierra Chincua. Cab to Tlalpujahua. Visit of a workshop of blown glass balls in Tlalpujahua. Night in Tlalpujahua at Casa Rincon Colonial (link Booking) (see detailed expenses of the 1st day here)
- Day 2: Visit the Tlalpujahua market. Cab to the museum/old mine Dos Estrellas. Cab to El Oro. Visit of the city and the market. Bus back to CDMX.
Mexico City and surroundings :
- Attend a soccer game at the mythical Estadio Azteca in Mexico City
- Evening of Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) at the Arena Mexico City
- Mexico City or Ciudad de México
- We visited a Monarch Butterfly Reserve in Mexico – Sierra Chincua
- Visit of two old mining towns: Tlalpujahua and El Oro
- Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Teotihuacán