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Plaza Juarez, Actopan's town square

Actopan is a small city in Central Mexico in the Mezquital Valley in the state of Hidalgo. It is 35 km from the state capital of Pachuca and 125 km from Mexico City. It is a lively city with several festivals, known for its colonial heritage and for its tasty local cuisine, especially variations of barbacoa.


Actopan has a population of about 30,000 (2020). The city lies within the Trans-Mexican Volcano Belt and occasionally experiences earthquakes and tremors.

The area was first settled by the Otomi indigenous people. It was conquered by the Chichimeca in 1117, by the Tepanecs in the 14th century, by the Mexicas/Aztecs in 1427, and by the Spanish in 1546.

The first orders of business for the Spanish were to build an aqueduct and a church (some of the oldest structures in town). The first major church to be built was San Nicolás de Tolentino, an Augustinian monastery, which was constructed between 1550 and 1570. During the 17th and 18th centuries many local indigenous people were taken to other towns in Hidalgo as forced labor for mines (the ugly side of Mexico's "proud silver mining tradition").

The 1910s was a period of revolution in Mexico and several actions took place in and near Actopan. Since then, the town has continued to grow slowly as a peaceful and somewhat prosperous community.

The climate is temperate and semi-dry. The coolest and driest months are December-February while summer is the wettest season of the year with May being the warmest month.

Get in[edit]

By taxi[edit]

A taxi from Pachuca to Actopan will cost about M$200 for the 30-minute ride. This is the easiest, fastest, and most flexible way to get there.

By bus[edit]

From Pachuca, Ovnibus has a direct route from Villas de Pachuca to Actopan with one bus at 6pm daily arriving one hour later in Actopan. The fare is about M$100.

From Mexico City, take Metro to Indios Verdes where you can catch a Futura bus to Villas de Pachuca, then take the 18:00 Ovnibus from there to Actopan.

  • 1 Central de Autobuses Actopan, Efrén Rebolledo (one block north of Carr. Nacional (MEX 85)). Large bus station for such a small city. Serves mostly Ovnibus and Flecha Roja.

Get around[edit]

The town is compact and easily walkable, though taxis will be useful for getting around outside the central downtown area.


Frescoes in the convent of San Nicolas Tolentino
Indigenous murals in the open chapel
  • 1 Parroquia San Nicolas Tolentino, Lerdo de Tejada, Centro, +52 7727283580. Actopan's oldest church was established as an Augustinian monastery, built between 1550-1570. The church has some remarkable 16th century religious artwork inside but is most noted for a unique outdoor chapel decorated with murals painted by indigenous artists in the 1550s. These murals have degraded significantly in the intervening centuries but are remarkable in the way they fuse indigenous Mexica elements with the newly enforced Christian themes being proselytized by the Spanish. The convent too has some remarkable artwork done by European artists featuring elaborate patterns and interpreting biblical passages in more Euro-centric ways.
Aqueduct of Actopan
  • Aqueduct of Actopan (Acueducto de Actopan). 9-km-long aqueduct built between 1546 and 1570.
  • 2 Plaza Juarez, Centro. Actopan's zocalo (principal plaza) is Plaza Juarez, an attractive, quiet park with manicured shrubbery, clean cobblestone paths, towering shade trees, and monuments to popular historical figures. It is adjacent to the Church of San Nicolas and the town hall (Palacio Municipal).


  • Feria Actopan (Actopan Fair, Feria de la Barbacoa), Unidad Deportiva Municipal. Held in early July (to commemorate the city's founding date of July 8), this is a large festival featuring carnival rides, music, dance, charreada, fireworks and lots and lots of food. A highlight is the barbacoa contest and the ximbo contest.
Ofrenda for Day of the Dead in Actopan
  • Feast of San Nicolas, held on September 10 (or days earlier), the festival honors the town's patron saint with many activities taking place at the Church of San Nicolás de Tolentino and the Plaza Juarez. There are religious ceremonies, traditional dance and music, regional food, and carnival rides and midway games.
  • Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), November 1-2, Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico, but particularly in towns with a large indigenous population. The holiday is taken seriously in Actopan with people trying to outdo each other to create the most elaborate ofrenda (altar).


Wednesday Tianguis
  • 1 Mercado 8 de Julio, 2 de Abril 1. The city's main marketplace. Many vendors selling fresh produce, meat, fish, and prepared foods, as well as household items and craft products. Best place in town to sample authentic regional cuisine from a variety of vendors.
  • Wednesday tianguis, tianguis are market days that often follow pre-Hispanic indigenous traditions. In Actopan, Wednesday has been the traditional market day for more than 500 years. Vendors arrive early in the morning to set up tables and canvas awnings. They spread out just about anything a person might want, from sweet pecan rolls to engraved leather belts. Food vendors set up grills and barbecue pits offering a taste of secret family recipes.



Pit-barbecued pork is delicious no matter where you find it. Barbacoa is popular everywhere in Hidalgo, but in Actopan, a peculierly local style of pit-barbecued pork has been made by the indigenous Mexica peoples since long before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Actopan specialty is called Ximbo. It is flavored with chiles, oregano, and cumin and cooked with nopalitos (prickly pear cactus leaves) and onions in agave wrappings. Ximbo is seldom seen far from Actopan and a curious traveler will want to seek it out.

  • 1 Barbacoa los Arcos del Moises, Lib. Actopan-Ixmiquilpan. 07:00 - 19:00. This popular eatery has both kinds of barbecue, they have barbacoa and ximbo! Eat here or take it to go. Homemade aguas frescas and atole to drink. M$200.
  • 2 Barbacoa La Tradicional Santiago, C. Efrén Rebolledo 212, Los Olivos. W Sa Su 08:00 - 17:00, closed M Tu Th. Traditional pit-barbecued pork: barbacoa and ximbo. Traditional handmade tortillas. Rich broths and salsas en molcajete.
  • 3 El Rey del Ximbo, Alonso de Borja 134, Aviación, +52 772 112 1754. W F-Su 07:00 - 15:00 (closed M Tu Th). Clean, modern restaurant by traditional homemade recipes. Try the combo, served on a maguey leaf.


As in most of Central Mexico, pulque is the traditional drink to try.


  • 1 Sendero Hotel, Allende 8, Centro Nte. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Modern hotel with clean, comfortable rooms and a central location, 2 block walk to Parque Juarez or Church of San Nicolas. On-site restuarant and full-service bar. M$1000.
  • 2 Pequeno Encanto Hotel Boutique, C. Ignacio Zaragoza 10, Centro Nte, +52 772 688 1678. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Charming, centrally located hotel with rooms facing an indoor garden courtyard. Upscale on-site restaurant. M$1100.
  • 3 Hotel la Villa Antigua, Ocampo 124, Centro Nte, +52 772 727 9372. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Comfortable mid-range hotel with off-street parking. About 4 block walk to centro sites like church of San Nicolas. M$700.

Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Actopan is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.