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If you like this blog series, please check out the compilation and memoirs: https://www.amazon.com/author/donkarp. I am a self-published author and appreciate your support.

Letters from Mexico

Don Karp






ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

August 7, 2023

The Santiago Trails in Tepoztlán

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. A balanced rock on the trail. Photo by author

Tepoztlán, where I live, is a "magic city" in the central Mexico volcanic region. It is in the state of Morelos. Santiago is a small village that's part of the Tepoztlán municipality on the outskirts of the city. I've explored the trails of Santiago with my hiking group that meets weekly.

This hiking group has met weekly since September 2022. People of all ages and nationalities attend. Sometimes there is only one other person besides me, and other times there are over twenty. The nationalities and ages of participants vary. It gives me great joy to share my knowledge of the local trails and be together with others in nature.

This time we walked through a trail with an orchard and grazing land. It is roughly terraced with rock walls dividing sections. We saw many unusual sites, from odd shaped trees to unusual rock formations and incredible views. At the end of our hike, we visited a curious abandoned eight-sided house in the woods.

Starting Off

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. The group assembles at a cafe, gathering for the hike. Photos by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. We walked to the end of this dirt road. Photo by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. A house, with the gate and bell tower, was at the end of the dirt road. Photos by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. To the right of the gate was a long wall bordering a trail into the woods. Photos by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. After the wall ended, we took another trail to the right that led us into the wooded area. Photos by author

What We Saw

The terrain was terraced, with successive flat areas delineated by ancient rock walls built without mortar. From the types of trees there, we decided it must have been an orchard. Currently some cows use the area for grazing, like they seem to do everywhere.

There were a lot of odd rock forms and weird-shaped trees. At the periphery are steeper areas leading to nice views. One of our members did some climbing to get a little bit higher on bare rock. I've included a video of her climb.

After we had our fill of hiking in this area, we walked fifteen minutes through the woods to come to an abandoned eight-sided house which I'll cover in the next section.

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. These stone walls mark off sections of the terracing, holding back soil from eroding. Note that mortar was not used. Photos by author

The amate tree sends its roots over boulders, as you can see here. This tree was prized for its bark, which was made into paper since Prehispanic times. One of the outlying villages of the Tepoztlán municipality is called Amatlán, named after the tree.

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. Amate trees are common in our area. I love the way their thick roots grow over and grab boulders. Photos by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. Here's a bucolic scene with cows in their element. Photo by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. Odd-shaped trees. Photos by author

Here are some incredible views we had on the trail, followed by a video of a climb on bare rock.

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. Great views from the trail. Photos by author

Abandoned Eight-Sided House

After we hiked the trail, we took another trail for fifteen minutes to come upon an abandoned octagonal-shaped house in the woods. It is very unusual and well built--attractive to me even with its graffiti on the walls and animal deposits on the floors. I learned that it was left unfinished because the property ownership is in dispute.

The slideshow takes us down the dirt road to the right side of the gate with its bamboo cluster where we enter. We climb the stairs to enter the house, noticing the fine grille work on the windows and also the outdoor cupola structure. Indoors is a main room with a built-in ceramic fireplace. There are cement slabs for beds and some baths. The final slide shows a tree in the central courtyard.

Such a wonderful structure in a lovely setting! I hope the project is resurrected some day.

Humans Embedded in the Landscape

The photos below, of a tree seeming to sit on a boulder, and the one of a face appearing within the rock wall, are the sorts of things that myths are made from.

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. To me, this amate tree has a very human aspect, sitting comfortably on a boulder. Photos by author

Santiago, Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico. Does the image appearing naturally in the rock wall look like a face to you? Photo by author


I really enjoyed this hike because the terrain was gentle allowing more of a focus on the unusual trees and rock forms without needing to pay such close attention to trail navigation.

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Thanks for your blog. I’m a wheelchair user who stays in Patzcuaro in the winter. Could you recommend areas in or around your Pueblo Magico or other regions that might be wheelchair friendly. Hiking is not my forte. Thank you.

-- Claudia G.

Glad you like my blog, Claudia. Tepoztlán is cobblestoned and hilly--not a wheelchair friendly place. Although I do know someone who lives here that's wheelchair bound. He gets around by taxi and is always accompanied by a pusher. Cuernavaca, a half hour away, would be better, although that is a big city. If you look at my archives, I wrote about it. Meanwhile I will think on it and get back to you if something comes up.



Thank you for sharing this! Lovely photos and good commentary along with them - a nice sense of the terrain. I get a vicarious thrill out of reading about the life you have built there.

--Karen Nylander

It's nice to hear from an old buddy of mine from when I lived in the US over twenty years ago. Thanks, Karen!



GRACIAS Don, I loved reading and watching the videos on the Santiago, Tepoztlán hike.

--With appreciation, expat Delia

Nice to hear from you, Delia--one of my good neighbors here.