Mexico may be the number one destination for Americans going abroad, hosting tens of millions of tourists every year, but while resort zones along the coast concentrate the majority of tourist arrivals, other lesser-known spots in the hinterland have been largely ignored for years.
This year, this trend has changed.
Now more than ever, U.S. vacationers are keen on exploring different parts of Mexico and experiencing the country beyond their luxurious enclaves, and that’s when this incredibly exciting yet lesser-known colonial city has come into play:
One Of The Last Hidden Gems Of Mexico
Located in North-Central Mexico, a 2-hour drive from equally underrated Aguascalientes, Zacatecas has never been traditionally promoted as a tourist destination on the international stage, even though it is one of Mexico’s most culturally wealthy and historically significant cities.
It’s a remarkably popular cultural destination among Mexican locals themselves, but there’s no denying international tourism in Zacatecas, particularly concerning American visitors, has been severely limited, mostly due to poor promotion.
Now, its potential looks set to be fully unleashed as the local Government turns its focus to tourism, formally identified as one of the main drives behind the city’s economic growth this year, and campaigns to position Zacatecas as a ‘romantic‘ city break.
So what makes it so unique, and what have Americans who restrict their movements to the Yucatan Peninsula, or Mexico City at best, been missing out on all these years?
One Of The Oldest Settlements Of The Americas
Firstly, Zacatecas is one of the oldest European settlements in all of the Americas, and this alone warrants consideration, especially if you’re passionate about Mexican culture.
It was originally founded by the Spanish settlers in the mid-16th century, and like many of its sister cities in Spanish America, it went on to become an important trading hub and a rich mining center due to the area’s abundance of silver and far rarer minerals.
While most of the riches flowed across the Atlantic into mainland Spain, Zacatecas did flourish as an important center of Baroque art upon the rise of a now-defunct empire, housing some of Mexico’s prettiest civic buildings and one of its best-preserved Old Towns.
The Centro Historico in Zacatecas is, in fact, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993 in recognition of the city’s 16th and 17th-century landmarks and its colonial townscape, dominated by narrow alleys etched onto steep slopes and a magnificent Spanish cathedral.
Unlike other historical cities of its standing, however, Zacatecas has evolved with the times without sacrificing its past.
A Historic City That’s Evolved With The Times Without Losing Its Essence
Its famous Plaza de Toros, inaugurated in 1866, is now home to the Quinta Real Zacatecas Hotel, while several other historical structures in the center have been repurposed and now either house shops, cultural centers, or other organizations, without defacing the building or changing its facade.
Walking picturesque Downtown Zacatecas, you may have the impression not much has changed since the Spanish conquered Mexico and laid the first stone in the centrally-located Plaza de Armas, yet it only takes a furtive peek beneath the surface to learn this is a creative, youthful city.
Yes, there are beautiful colonial mansions, a Spanish-styled Hidalgo Avenue lined with boutique shops, a historic Central Market, temples, and every other possible feature you would expect a colonial city to have, but it is more than a mere open-air museum.
This is a metropolitan area home to over 1.6 million people, after all, and there is no shortage of nightlife spots, particularly in the Historic Quarter, points of interest further afield, and artsy, modern districts to explore.
Nonstop Flights From The States
Luckily for Americans, Zacatecas is served by its own international airport.
Naturally, as this is a smaller destination, it does not boast the same flight frequency, nor the impressive connectivity Cancun, Cabo, Mexico City, or other far more popular vacation spots do, but it does host flights from Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago O’Hare, Chicago-Midway, Los Angeles, and San Jose (CA).
Discover more historic colonial cities you can fly to directly from the United States here.
↓ Join Our Community ↓
The Travel Off Path Community FB group has all the latest reopening news, conversations, and Q&A’s happening daily!
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR LATEST POSTS
Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path’s latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com