Jalpan (also known as Jalpan de Serra) is a small town in the Sierra Gorda region of Queretaro (state). Most of northern Queretaro is part of the Sierra Gorda, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The town was originally settled by the Spanish in the late 16th century, but much of the historic downtown dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, including the picturesque Mision Santiago Apostol, built by Father Junipero Serra in 1751, and the Mision Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol (each church is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site for the missions of the Sierra Gorda).
Jalpan, also known as Jalpan de Serra, has had human settlements dating back to about 3000 BC, when the Sierra Gorda was home to the Olmec.
The town of Jalpan had a population of about 9,000 in 2005.
From Queretaro, it's a direct 4-hour bus trip to Jalpan. Flecha Amarilla buses run hourly to Jalpan and cost M$300 (January 2023).
Jalpan is an easy drive from Queretaro. Simply leave Queretaro on highway MEX 120 and continue for 3-1/2 hours until you get to Jalpan.
Jalpan is a compact, small town. It is best explored by walking.
- Mision Santiago Apostol - the first church to be constructed in Jalpan was the mission established by Junipero Serra in 1751, with construction completed in 1758. Common among the Franciscan missions was the incorporation of indigenous icons and decorative styles, such as the double-headed eagle with a snake. The facade is very elaborate with symbols of the Franciscan order and an image of St. Francis of Assisi. The facade is built of stone and stucco. The interior of the cupola includes scenes of the Virgin of Guadalupe appearing to Juan Diego.
- Nuestra Señora de la Luz de Tancoyol - this mission is not really in Jalpan, but by itself in the community of Tancoyol, almost an hour out of town (so take a taxi there and have the driver wait for you while you check out the church). It's one of the five missions that make up the UNESCO World Heritage site, but you kind of wonder why the heck those friars built it so inconveniently far out of town. The mission was established by Friar Juan Ramos de Lora between 1760 and 1767. Besides the signature architectural elements of the Franciscan order, the church icons include images of St. Peter, St. Paul, Saint Joachim, and St. Anne, among others. The indigenous icons and themes represented in this church include images of a jaguar and a man with Olmec features.
- Museum of the Sierra Gorda - Housed in a 16th century Spanish fort, the museum includes exhibits about the history of the region, pre-colombian artifacts from the indigenous peoples of the region, a hall about the missions and their goal of converting indigenous people to the Christian faith with a definite emphasis on Father Junipero Serra, the missions of Sierra Gorda, and the role of the church in taming northern Mexico and the southwest United States as Franciscan missions expanded ever northward, up into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
- Tancama - small archaeological site of the Huastec culture. 62 buildings have been identified at the site in three different clusters. Unusual round altar areas and construction of flagstone. The site is about 15 minutes by taxi from the center of Jalpan.
Jalpan celebrates a number of religious festivals throughout the year, and few secular holidays as well. Major festivals in town includeː
- Feast of the Holy Chid of the Mezclita - January 5 and 6, celebrates the story of an infant child found in Guanajuato in 1890 who was turned over to the church. The bishop took the child to Jalpan just in time for the Feast of the Epiphany. Several miracles have been attributed to the child and now up to 20,000 people fill the town of Jalpan each year to celebrate.
- Serrana Regional Fair - April 21 (plus or minus a week), commemorates the founding of Jalpan as a Franciscan mission. Artistic and cultural events together with a sport fishing tournament. Busiest festival week in the Sierra Gorda region.
- Day of Santiago the Apostle - July 25, celebrates the town's patron saint and the one to whom the Mission of Jalpan is dedicated. Parades, fireworks, first communions, confirmations, maybe even a wedding or two, round out the festivities.
- Day of the Dead - November 1 and 2, Jalpan celebrates the mystery of death by visiting the graves of loved ones and decorating their graves. On the night of November 2, a contest is held in the town square as locals vie for the prestige of creating the most meaningful and beautiful altar of the dead.
- El Dia del Paisano - December 20 (minus a week or plus a day or two), celebrates the return to home of native sons who have migrated to the United States for work but come home for the holidays to be with family and friends. A parade of decorated pickup trucks and lots of huapango dancing mark the day.
In the town's mercado you'll find every kind of food, clothing, household decoration, and truck accessory you could ever imagine needing. Mountains of fresh produce are laid out on trays. Aisles of local artesanias offer authentic handmade items.
- 1 La Malinche, Heroico Colegio Militar 674, El Puente, ☏ +524411356238. 15ː00 - 23ː30. Casual restaurant with burgers, tacos, hot dogs, pizza. Beer and mixed drinks available. Cheap eats. M̩$5-10.
- 2 Sierra Bonita, Independencia 12, Centro, ☏ +524411267463. 09ː00 - 21ː00. Casual Mexican fare, specializes in huaraches. Good cafe de olla.
- 3 El Aguaje de Moro, 76340, Vicente Guerrero s.n, Centro, ☏ +524411003352. 09ː00 - 20ː00 (closed Sunday). Great atmosphere with traditional stone walls and floors downstairs and a spacious patio on the second floor. Food is mostly botaneros (casual bar fare) late in the day, but they have a full breakfast menu in the morning.
- 4 Restaurante Vicky, El Salto 1, Centro (on the plaza), ☏ +524412960428. 11ː00 - 22ː00. Somewhat limited menu with good selection of salads and several kinds of chilaquiles, prices are reasonable and the atmosphere pleasant with great views from 2nd floor patio.
- 1 Rhinos Mojito, El Puente (corner of Gral.Rocha and Morelos). 15ː00-22ː00. Big frozen or on the rocks mojitos, lots of unusual flavors.
- 1 Casa Blanca Hotel, San Jose, Jalpan, ☏ +524412960427. Check-in: 15ː00, check-out: 12ː00. New hotel with comfortable, quiet rooms. Located in Col. San Jose on main highway (MEX 120), next door to Oxxo and walking distance to bus station. M$840.
- 2 Hotel los Angeles de Sierra Gorda, Mariano Matamoros 9, Centro, ☏ +524412961679. Check-in: 15ː00, check-out: 12ː00. Mid-range hotel in busy area. Can get noisy, especially weekends when bar next door is busy. M$850.
- 3 Rest and Go, San Nicolás 52, Centro, ☏ +524448298492. Barebones hostel. M$250 (January 2023).
- 4 Hotel Real Aurora, San Nicolás 25, Centro, ☏ +524412960094. Check-in: 15ː00, check-out: 12ː00. Clean, comfortable hotel with good wifi and secured parking area. M$1400.