"Once the dust of Mexico settles on your heart, you can never go home again."
- Neill James
LA RUTA DON VASCO
In the Highlands of Michoacan
A Journey to the Purepecha Plateau
You Tell Us!
We can add-on or trade a day for a tour to visit the Monarch Butterflies on request.
Traveling from Lake Chapala, Zihuatanejo, San Miguel de Allende, Puerta Vallarta or via Mexico City Airport? No Problem! Please contact us for options and suggestions!
These prices are based on shared accommodations for 2. If you have 3 in your group, the extra cost includes a solo hotel room. If you have 4 or more in your group, please contact us for a price quote as we will need to provide a larger vehicle. We can accommodate tours up to a maximum of 18 guests.
Two Guests: $26,000 MXN / 2 Guests
Three Guests: $36,000 MXN / 3 Guests
Come Explore Mexico's
In the Highlands of Michoacan, an art-region of historical villages, towns and cities awaits those who are interested in the traditional crafts of Michoacan. This region was inhabited by the mighty Purepecha during the Spanish Conquest, and was heavily assaulted under the draconian rule of Nuno Beltran de Guzman. Fortunately, Guzman was exiled to Spain on war crime charges, and soon Don Vasco de Quiroga arrived to become the first Bishop of Michoacan.
A short trip to the Lake Patzcuaro region will give you a taste for the extraordinary feats of Quiroga's humanitarian passion - a reputation that gained him the favourable nick-name "Tata" (papa) among indigenous peoples. As decolonization processes advance, it is inevitable for Quiroga to fall under the scrutiny of a modern lens; however, many locals continue to revere him for the policies and models he embraced following the ruthless rule of his predecessor.
TOWNS & ARTIST STUDIOS YOU WILL VISIT
Patzcuaro, Santa Clara del Cobre, Tzintzuntzan, Santa Fe de Laguna, Quiroga, Capula, Morelia
Archaeology Sites of Tingambato & Tzintzuntzan
Copper-smithing demonstration in Santa Clara del Cobre
Perez Family Studio (serious collectors only)
Studio of international artist Teofila Servin
Manuel Morelos Pottery Studio
Juan Carlos Mask Studio
Mario Lopez Reed Weaving Studio
Juan Torres Art Studio
Pottery Collective of Capula
Palomas Mensajeras Mezcal Distillery
Isla de Janitzio & Jose Maria Morelos Statue
BE CONSCIOUS OF LOCAL ENVIRONMENT & CUSTOMS
Please carry refillable water bottle & to-go mug (we will have water available in the van for refills)
Please wear modest clothing on our tours to show respect in churches, markets and traditional villages
Please ask permission for close-up photographs
No flash-photography in churches. Please be mindful of those who are praying, funeral services, etc.
WHAT MAKES YOU A GOOD FELLOW TRAVELER
Punctuality - crucial for fluid travel
Flexibility - always expect the unexpected
Participation - including one daily group photo
Consideration - please don't chit chat during presentations
Cooperation - the rules are made for all of us, including you
Respect - for local customs & protocols
Diplomacy - agree to disagree about politics & religion
Confidence - know your limits
INTRODUCING LA RUTA DON VASCO
A BRIEF HISTORY
La Ruta Don Vasco traverses a region of Michoacan’s highlands famed for indigenous Purepecha towns and villages that were deeply influenced by the first Bishop of Michoacan, Don Vasco de Quiroga of Spain.
Following the ruthless rule of Nuno Beltran de Guzman, who was later shackled and exiled to Spain in 1537 following charges of treason and war crimes against local indigenous populations, Quiroga took an interest in restoring order among indigenous populations in the state of Michoacan, where unrest and rebellions persisted. He was appointed first Bishop of Michoacan in 1536.
As a lawyer and judge who had studied canon law and theology, Quiroga had become deeply inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia, first published in 1516. He had founded the town
of Santa Fe while in Mexico City, which was his first attempt at building what he called a Pueblo Hospital, employing strategies outlined in More’s fictional and satirical novel. Upon arriving in Michoacan, Quiroga founded Santa Fe de Laguna as a Pueblo Hospital town, and then set about congregating indigenous populations in various towns using this concept. In order to convince the locals to trust him and come out of hiding, Quiroga utilized his knowledge of the local culture. One such example was his recognition that the Purepecha peoples were proficient metal workers, having even inlaid copper with precious metals such as gold. He convinced the locals to join him in the town of Santa Clara del Cobre, a town that remains very famous in Mexico for the skilled maestro’s who fashion copper into jewellery, pens, cooking pots and kettles, ornate vases, sinks and even bathtubs. Quiroga promised the people exclusive rights to the caso, which is a copper pot used for cooking carnitas (pork) and chicharonnes (pig skins). The town of Santa Clara del Cobre remains one of the most visited of villages along La Ruta Don Vasco, and one whose doorways glimmer with the warm hue of shiny copper wares, attracting art collectors from all over the world.
The Pueblo Hospital model allowed Quiroga the ability to easily convert large populations at once, for everyone was congregated in one community. By adopting certain local beliefs and rituals into his Catholic teachings, there remains certain aspects of indigenous spiritualism among the local Purepecha’s here today. Since the 1960’s, there have also been repatriation efforts among indigenous communities to bring back some of their ancient customs and activities, such as the revitalization of the fire ball game. During Dia de Muertos, one might catch a glimpse of this seemingly dangerous game, which involves a burning ball being struck by clubs that resemble hockey sticks. Of course, Dia de Muertos itself is an important example of an indigenous observance that became fused with Catholicism. Among the Christian crosses and biblical quotes, during Muertos the graveyards are an homage to Purepecha traditions, including the pre-Hispanic altars, marigold arches and pathways, and food offerings carefully prepared for the spirits of the deceased.
Today, Pueblo Hospital is mostly a quiet affair in the villages of La Ruta Don Vasco. In Santa Clara del Cobre, 52 families are appointed to the Pueblo Hospital system at the beginning of each year. For one week, each family volunteers their time to work on church restorations and cooking food for a community meal, one of which is held weekly. The villagers bring each family gifts and money, to cover their loss of income for this week. It is said the villagers are very generous, as everyone knows it will be their turn at some point. If you would like to observe the beauty of Pueblo Hospital, the best village to visit is Santa Fe de Laguna. Here, the locals invite visitors to participate on this day – and this remains quite special, considering Santa Fe de Laguna is not only the first Pueblo Hospital Quiroga founded in the Lake Patzcuaro region, it is also where some of his personal belongings remain under lock and key. The villagers here are very proud of their history, and consider Quiroga a venerated saint. If you would like to observe Pueblo Hospital during your explorations of this region, please contact us for more information before choosing your dates.
Popular belief is that Quiroga died at the age of 95, but historians now believe he was 86. Vasco de Quiroga is still fondly called Tata Quiroga (Father Quiroga) by many locals, and he is interred in the Basilica in Patzcuaro.
Your journey through La Ruta Don Vasco will introduce you to many different handicrafts, with specific association to the towns where they are crafted. You will visit the copper town of Santa Clara del Cobre, visit a pottery studio and market full of textiles in Tzintzuntzan, the Catrina town of Capula, which was formerly famed for terracotta cooking wares covered with dot-flower designs. You will visit a mask maker in Tocuaro, and sample Mezcal in Oponguio. We strive to introduce our guests to many aspects of the local culture during this tour, including the ancient Purepcha capital of Tzintzuntzan, and a boat ride to Isla de Janitzio.
Hotel Location: Patzcuaro
Depart on the morning bus for the city of Uruapan. Your guide will meet you at the bus stop and transport you to Uruapan’s Cupatitzio National Park. Enjoy lunch and a leisurely walk in this enchanting, sub-tropical garden. From here, depart by 4 PM for the Pueblo Magico of Patzcuaro, stopping at the small but important ancient Nahua city of Tingambato along the way. Upon arrival in Patzcuaro, check into your hotel and head for dinner.
Please Note: Your guide will bring a cooler with ice and a large container of purified water for refilling your water bottles. Please let us know if there are any beverages you’d like for your arrival. It is legal for passengers to enjoy beer or wine etc. We will provide you with clean, reusable cups for wine.
Hotel Location: Patzcuaro
This morning, your guide will pick you up by 9:30 AM for departure to Santa Clara del Cobre. Enjoy copper demonstrations, which you can even participate in. If you would like to collect copper art pieces, please let us know so we can make an appointment for you to visit the local Perez family. We reserve appointments for serious collectors only, out of respect for the artists time. That said, this family hails from late Maestro Jesus Ornales Perez, and are top award winning artists with work in collections worldwide. Purchasing directly means a chance to meet the artists and purchase a signed piece, which are impossible to find in the local galleries and shops.
We will depart Santa Clara del Cobre at 12:00 for Rancho la Mesa Restaurant for lunch. Our next stop will be the embroidery studio of international award winning embroidery artist Teofila Servin, whose works depict enchanting local themes, including the butterfly fishermen of Lake Patzcuaro, wedding scenes, the famous Purepecha Fountain in Morelia, Christmas celebrations and Dia de Muertos scenes. Following Sanabria, we will follow the lakeside road to the impressive studio of Mario Lopez. Here you will find furniture and animals woven from reeds from Lake Patzcuaro, all bound around sturdy metal frames. Your final stop will be the ancient Purepecha city and town of Tzintzuntzan, which features a wonderful market, local pottery and important convent where the oldest olive trees in the Americas are growing. Have dinner at Las Yacatas in Tzintzuntzan, unless you prefer to return to Patzcuaro for a later meal.
Hotel Location: Patzcuaro
This morning, enjoy a picturesque ride across the southwestern portion of Lake Patzcuaro to the famous Island of Janitzio. Though touristy, this small Purepecha village is fun to explore, with its winding staircases lined with market stalls, shops and locals cooking treats and fish from the lake. Once you reach the highest point of the island, you can visit the 130 foot tall Jose Maria Morelos statue, which was built in 1933 and houses a fantastic collection of paintings that tell the story of his heroic life.
Return to Patzcuaro for lunch and an afternoon to explore Patzcuaro’s many galleries, historical buildings, and Basilica, where Don Vasco de Quiroga is interred.
Hotel Location: Morelia
This morning we will depart Patzcuaro after breakfast, departing first for the mask carving studio of Juan Carlos in Tocuaro. From here, we will continue to Oponguio to sample mezcal at Palomas Mensajeres Distillery. We will continue on to Santa Fe de Laguna to visit the first Pueblo Hospital founded by Quiroga in the Lake Patzcuaro region. If you would like to be here during modern Pueblo Hospital happenings, please let us know in advance so we can recommend optional travel dates. Pueblo Hospital does not happen daily.
Leaving Santa Fe de Laguna, we will stop in Quiroga to visit Chef Diego’s Los Molcajetes, unless we have already feasted in the streets of Santa Fe de Laguna. From Quiroga, it’s only a short drive to the Catrina and Pottery town of Capula, where we will first visit the studio of Maestro Juan Torres, before visiting the pottery collectives in the town. We will arrive in Morelia around 6 PM.
Hotel Location: Morelia
This morning, enjoy champagne & orange juice with breakfast. Your guide will meet you at your hotel by 10 AM and take you on a walking tour of Morelia. Visit key UNESCO protected buildings of Morelia’s centro, including the oldest Music Conservatory in the Americas, the exconvento of San Francisco, which houses a gallery of Michoacan arts, the special Sanctuary of Guadalupe, Morelia Cathedral, the Aqueduct, Alley of Romance and Purepecha Fountain. If you would like to include the Independencia Mercado as part of your walking tour, this is a really fun experience, as you will be with someone who can translate for you.
Hotel Location: TBA
Once we know where you are heading next, we can finalize plans for your final morning. There is a first class bus that departs to Zihuatanejo daily at 11 AM, arriving back in Zihuatanejo by 4 PM. If you are heading onwards to Guadalajara, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato City, we can help you with the bus schedules. If you are interested in having a private guide deliver you to your final destination, we can also arrange this for you, and include a day tour to stop and see sites of interest along the way.
We truly hope you have enjoyed your stay with us, and will join us again!
If you are travelling from elsewhere and would like assistance booking your room in Morelia, please contact us for this complimentary service.
Meals – 2 Meals included
Champagne Breakfast in Morelia
Breakfast in Morelia
Water (Please bring refillable bottle)
Welcome beverages of your choice
All transport from Uruapan Bus Terminal to Morelia Bus Terminal
Bus Tickets not included
Sights & Activities
All tours, artist studios, and boat ride to Isla de Janitzio included
Mezcal Distillery and entrance fees for Tingambato Archaeology Zone included
Hogar Irekani Children's Orphanage
Soul of Mexico Tours donates a portion of our tours to Hogar Irekani Children's Orphanage in Morelia, which is directed by Sandra Martinez. If you would like to make an additional donation or bring supplies, please contact us for more information.
RESERVATION & CANCELLATION POLICY
TO SECURE YOUR RESERVATION
To secure your reservation, we require a 25 % non-refundable deposit.
We require the balance 3 months prior to departure.
Please download, print, read and bring Waiver with you. All waivers must be signed before our tour begins.
TO CANCEL YOUR RESERVATION
If you cancel 2 months prior to our departure, we will retain 50% of the total cost.
If your cancellation falls within the 2 months prior to our departure, we will retain 100% of the total cost minus hotels that allow us last-minute cancellation, minus cost of activities that are covered on a per/person basis (such as a gondola ride, museum entrance fee, dinner party*, etc) This will vary, depending on the tour
* Most breakfasts on our inclusions list are part of your hotel reservation. If we cannot secure a refund from the hotel, we cannot refund the meal
EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION
Please send this to your emergency contact person, in case they need to reach you.
Mexican Cell +52 443 639 2782 (Oct - Apr)
Canadian Cell 001 778 585 1882 (Apr - Oct)
Whatsapp: 001 778 585 1882 (Year Round)
YOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION IS IMPORTANT
It is important for us to have an emergency contact for you, in the event that there is an accident or medical emergency.
Please send us the full name, phone number and email for your emergency contact or next of kin.
We will invoice you using Square Invoicing. This is a secure system that allows you to use a
credit card without having to divulge your information.
If you prefer to use Paypal, we can invoice you using Paypal.
If you have a Canadian bank account, we accept e-transfers.