Shutterstock/1590755/Elisa LocciThe intensely mysterious and often overlooked state of Michoacán is steeped in the same archaic concerns that have governed its people for millennia. The health of the land, the approval of the ancestors, the cyclical motions of time, season and spirit - all remain critically important to the native Purépecha, a people directly descended from the ancient Tarascans. Against an age-old backdrop of tradition, family and wonderfully exuberant music, they produce the country's finest crafts and play host to some resplendent and evocative festivities, most notably Day of the Dead. But the cultural achievements of rural Michoacán are closely matched by its urban counterparts. The city of Morelia is a bastion of colonial beauty and power, indigenous Pátzcuaro is rich in textures and daily bustle, and off-beat Uruapan is a centre of agriculture and fine lacquer-work.

Michoacán's cultural gifts are complemented by its scintillating environmental diversity. In the east, the high-altitude Oyamel forests supply the perfect microclimate for migrating Monarch butterflies, which, in an unforgettable display of swirling colour, arrive each year in their millions. To the west, the undulating scenery offers fertile ground for untold fruits and vegetables - plantain, bananas, maize, mangos, watermelons, apples, pineapples, avocados and more - often overflowing from colourful village markets. It's no wonder Michoacán is known as the 'garden state'. Meanwhile the southern lowlands, sweltering and largely divorced from the outside world, offer a rustic retreat of empty beaches and end-of-the-world coastal communities barely touched by tourism. For those willing to break from the tourist mainstream, Michoacán's riches are many.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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