Download GPX file for this article
19.168611-101.899722Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Michoacan is a state in western Mexico known for its lush coastline, rugged mountains, and vibrant culture. It is home to the Purépecha people, one of Mexico's oldest and most influential indigenous cultures.

The state is abundant in natural beauty, with spectacular lakes, forests, and beaches, making it a popular destination for tourists. It is also home to Mexico’s largest natural lake, Lake Chapala. The capital of Michoacan is Morelia, a charming colonial city with cobblestone streets, colourful plazas, and ornate churches. The city is also known for its vibrant festivals, traditional cuisine, and folk music. Michoacan is an essential centre for culture, art, and education, and it is considered one of Mexico’s most beautiful and culturally rich states.



  • 1 Morelia — one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, state capital of Michoacan
  • 2 Erongarícuaro — "the Soul of Michoacan"
  • 3 Lazaro Cardenas — a deepwater seaport that handles container, dry bulk, and liquid cargo
  • 4 Maruata — a Nahuat indigenous town that has an international backpacker beach scene in Turtle preserve
  • 5 Paracho — it is known for guitar-making and is full of shops selling handmade guitars and other string instruments
  • 6 Patzcuaro — an enchanting, colonial mountain town in Mexico's lake region
  • 7 Tacámbaro — Purhepecha town with local waterparks and a swimming hole in a volcanic crater, a Pueblo Magico
  • 8 Tlalpujahua - colonial town with historical sites and a perpetual love of Christmas
  • 9 Uruapan — famous for its avocados
  • 10 Zamora de Hidalgo — it has many historic buildings from colonial times

Other destinations

  • 1 Lake Pátzcuaro — a popular vacation area with a mild climate
  • 2 Parícutin — Volcano eats church
  • 3 Tzintzuntzán — home to the archeological site of Tzintzuntzán and the former monastery complex of San Francisco
  • 4 Ixtlan de los Hervores Ixtlán de los Hervores on Wikipedia — Known for its thermal water springs.
  • 5 Monarch Butterfly Reserves - winter home of migratory monarch butterflies, a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Monarch butterflies in Michoacan

Michoacan is sometimes called "Mexico's breadbasket" in recognition of its large agrarian economy. The state grows grains, raises cattle and pigs to supply the nation's meat markets, and has large citrus orchards where limes are grown, but it's avocados that are the state's biggest export crop. Mexico is the world's largest producer of avocados, and Michoacan is the number one avocado growing region in the country. Holy guacamole, that's got to be a lot of avocados! (It is.)

Aside from tasty green stuff, Michoacan is best known around the world as the place where millions of Monarch butterflies migrate each year to nest in the heavily forested hills. Several butterfly sanctuaries protect the forest habitat of these gentle flitting insects and tourists come from around the world to see trees ablaze with the orange and black colors of clouds of butterflies.

Michoacan lies along Mexico's Volcano Belt, a region where many of the country's most active volcanoes are found. Two young volcanoes are close to the city of Uruapan. El Jorulla first erupted in 1759 and lava flowed down its slopes for 15 years. A bigger draw for volcano fans is the Paricutin volcano which first erupted in 1943, continued erupting continuously for 9 years, then went dormant --- the first time geologists of the modern era could witness first-hand the complete lifecycle of a volcano.

Travelers who love history will find much to love in the city of Morelia with its amazingly picturesque colonial center and in the region around Lake Patzcuaro, which was the historic stronghold of the Purhepech indigenous culture. The Purhepecha (also known as the Tarascans) are unique among the peoples of Mesoamerica because they're not related to either the Aztec/Mexica or to the Maya. Based on how closely their language is to the Quecha language spoken by the Inca, anthropologists think that the Purhepecha came from Peru, perhaps migrating north around the 12th century. The town of Patzcuaro was the first major Purhepecha settlement but they later established their capital city at Tzintzuntzán (which could probably net you an amazing score if you could spell it while playing Scrabble).

Get in


By plane

  • Morelia International Airport (MLM IATA) approximately 25 km northeast of Morelia. It receives flights from Dallas, Monterrey, Mexico City and other destinations.
  • Uruapan International Airport (UPN  IATA) is in the city of Uruapan Uruapan. It receives flights from Tijuana.
  • Guadalajara International Airport (GDL IATA)- About a 4-hour rive to the Jalisco/Michoacan border. From the airport take the 44 south, then merge to the 35 toward Ocotlan.

By bus


The vast majority of large cities have a bus terminal which is where buses arrive from various places in Mexico, making it one of the best ways to get there. Small towns have a bus stop which is where the buses of smaller lines and in worse condition arrive, but it is the only way to get there.

By car


Highway 15-D goes from Mexico City to Guadalajara, but crosses the north of the state and in addition to that some roads to tourist centers intersect with it.

Highway 37 goes from León to Playa Azul, crosses places such as Uruapan, Paracho, La Piedad and Tierra Caliente until it reaches the Michoacan coast region.

Highway 14D runs from Morelia to Lázaro Cárdenas, passing near several tourist towns such as Patzcuaro and Uruapan.

Get around


Many of the sights and activities in Michoacan are in remote areas that are off the beaten path. A car is the most convenient way to visit these places, though caution should be used when choosing routes and destinations since parts of Michoacan have experienced drug cartel violence and are not considered safe for travelers.

Buses can be used to travel between cities, particularly along the route from Guanajuato to Morelia and Patzcuaro, which remain generally safe for tourists. Major bus stations in the region are in Morelia and Uruapan. Second-class local bus lines are commonly used by locals to reach more remote destinations in Michoacan.


  • 1 Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. Located close to Angangueo and north of Zitácuaro, at an altitude of approx 2,600 m (8,500 feet) on the eastern border of Michoacan. Every winter approximately 100 million monarch butterflies from the Canada and the United States, wisely migrate, even across Lake Erie, to spend the winter in pine and fir trees. It may take several generations of monarch butterflies to make this annual trip back and forth. The sanctuary is open from November until March. This is an adventure you want to be well prepared for, as you most likely will hike, ride horse back or in the back of a pick up to the sanctuary. The Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (Q852546) on Wikidata Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve on Wikipedia
  • Patzcuaro: it is a magical town in the Purépecha area with many places to visit
  • Janitzio Island: it is the most famous island in Lake Pátzcuaro and it is 20 minutes from the pier. On the island there is a 40-meter-high monument of the hero of the Independence of Mexico, Don José María Morelos y Pavón.
  • Paricutin Volcano: (in Purépecha Parhikutini Place on the other side) it is an extremely young volcano born on February 20, 1943, the church that was buried by lava is visible, except for the left tower.


Danza de los Viejitos is part of Purepecha tradition in Michoacan

Michoacan is a large state with mountains, coastal areas, colonial villages and unique folk traditions and crafts that reflect the area's Purhepecha (Tarascan) heritage. Two of most "Michoacan" travel experiences are celebrating the Day of the Dead, and exploring beautiful remote beaches.

Day of the Dead


Day of the Dead is celebrated in different ways throughout Mexico. Michoacan has some of the most famous celebrations with deep traditions in pre-Hispanic ritual. Celebrations center on the island of Janitzio where thousands of tourists join locals in processions to the cemetery at the top of the island's hill for an overnight vigil to welcome departed spirits. Local fishermen line the steep cobblestone street from the lakeshore to the cemetery, waving their huge butterfly-shaped fishing nets to help guide the spirits from the lake to the cemetery where their living friends await with good food, good drink, and good cheer.



Michoacan is blessed with more than 200 km of sandy and rocky Pacific shoreline. While Mexico is famous for its spectacular beaches, developers have generally passed by Michoacan in favor of other states when looking for beaches to turn into mega resorts and timeshares. The water is just as wet in Michoacan as in other states and the evening sunsets just as brilliantly purple and bright, yet there are no towns much larger than a fishing village. On many of the beaches you will never meet another foreign visitor (try that trick in Cancun!) Sea turtles nest on Playa Ixtapilla while surfers ride the tasty waves at Playa Ticta. Other beaches you might want to explore are:

  • Playa Maruata
  • Playa Tortuga
  • Playz Azul
  • Playa Nexpa
  • Playa Las Brisas
  • Playa El Faro



Michoacan is one of Mexico's best-known regions for artesanal handcrafts and folk art. Many towns and villages in the Lake Patzcuaro area are famous for specializing in specific crafts and techniques. One village may have dozens of craftsmen making colorful hand-carved masks, while the next village might have 100 weavers producing unique textiles.

Two of the most interesting things to buy in Michoacán are the guitars from Paracho and the copper pots and vessels (cazos) from Santa Clara De Cobre, although there are also beautiful hats, pottery, jewelry and furniture. If you enjoy unique shopping opportunities in your travels, the Patzcuaro area should not be missed.



Michoacan gastronomy has a wide variety of characteristic dishes, thanks to the wide range of resources and its agricultural, livestock and fishing activity. Among the examples in its ethnic gastronomy are:

  • The corundas, which are corn-based tamales in the shape of small triangles, which can include meat, sauce, cheese or some vegetables inside. They are generally served covered in sauce and sweet cream; They are also part of the churipo, a beef broth with guajillo chili in which they are dipped.
  • The huchepos are corn tamales, larger than corundas and smaller and less sweet than their counterparts in the metropolitan area of ​​the country. They can be found, similar to corundas, bathed in sweet cream and generally green tomato sauce, also accompanied by cheese.
  • The carnitas, pork meat fried in lard, which can be seasoned with different ingredients depending on the region, which is usually eaten in the form of a taco with a corn tortilla. They can be served with beans, salsa, pickled peppers, lemon, among other additions.
  • White Fish and Trout, used in various dishes for centuries thanks to the fishing heritage of Michoacán, which is revealed in the meaning of its name, the place of those who own fish. Different dishes can be found in most of the state, thanks to the extensive use of hatcheries and the still common traditional fishing in rivers and lakes.
  • Michoacán has a wide range of traditional sweets, in such a way that even in its capital, Morelia, you can find a museum dedicated to them.
    • Chongos zamoranos, which are made from milk.
    • The ate moreliano is a kind of fruit jelly.
    • The nieve de pasta made from milk.

Stay safe

Caution Note: Travellers should be aware of the risks of crime and violence. Travellers should be particularly cautious when travelling outside of major cities and tourist areas. The areas along the border of Michoacan and Guerrero states are especially dangerous and should be avoided. Additionally, travellers should exercise caution when using public transportation, especially at night. It is also essential to be aware of the local laws and customs to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay.
Travel advisories
(Information last updated 09 Dec 2023)

Michoacan is a dangerous place because of drug-fueled violence. Crime is not restricted to major cities but can also be found in rural areas. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs advises not to travel to Michoacán (April 2021). During the COVID-19 pandemic, while the Mexican government was occupied, cartels took advantage as an opportunity to gain more power.

Travelers should exercise caution at all times.

Go next

This region travel guide to Michoacan is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.