San Jose Los Laureles: The Shangi La of Morelos
If you love small, old Mexican villages San Jose Los Laureles is for you. Sitting on a mountain outcropping it is just two miles from the town of Tlayacapan, making it an easy side trip.
You can reach San Jose (as it is known by the locals) by car or combi. There is just one street leading into town, a narrow and winding road that quickly climbs 750 feet, from the valley to a small plateau, with the backdrop of the Tepozteco Mountain Range behind it. Dropping away on either side are fertile farm fields, lush and ripe with their crops. It’s idealic setting has been compared to Shangri La.
With a population of just over a thousand, this pretty little town is worth a visit. You will find a culture that hasn’t changed with time. Traffic is light, making it easy to walk the streets and explore. As you come into town, the first thing you will notice is the old church. After checking it out, I suggest walking around the few streets that make up the town’s perimeter and taking in the views.
On a Pilgrimage Route
San Jose is situated along a pilgrimage route that has been used for centuries by devotees on their way from Puebla to Chalma, a sacred site known for its healing miracles. The full route is a walk of nearly 200 km or 125 miles. The pilgrimage, which is done on Ash Wednesday every year, crosses the mountain here on its way to Amatlan and beyond. For those who like to hike, you can walk from here to Amatlan in a couple of hours, where you can either hike back or take combis and buses to return, or even go on to a further destination.
The town is also known for ancient cave paintings that were found on the cliffs here. They are a bit of a climb and not easy to find, so if you’re hoping to add this to your adventure the best way is to ask around for a local guide and make arrangements.
San Jose can be a wonderful place to spend the night. Away from the bustle and busy weekend crowd of Tlayacapan, in San Jose you can relax and enjoy views that overlook Tlayacapan below. If you’re looking for a quiet and tranquil retreat, this is your place.
Finding your way …
There are no ATM’s or restaurants in town. Some of the hotels may provide meals if you request them. When we were there we did find a place selling quesadillas, but it took some asking around. It was in the garden of a house, which, if you like simple fare, is a great way to connect to the local people. There are a few small stores with convenience food, sodas and water and you might even find a fresh produce stand. If you are staying the night, remember that Tlayacapan is close and you can easily head back for shopping or food.
Distance from Mexico City: 1.5-2 hours
From Tlayacapan: 2 miles
By Combi: You can find a blue combi showing ‘San Jose’ in the window, they pass about every half hour. For only $8 pesos (less than $.50) from Tlayacapan to San Jose, combi’s are an easy way to travel where you can meet and connect with everyday people. (Flag down a combi along Highway 113, the main highway on the east side of the center of Tlayacapan. Be sure it is heading North, towards Mexico City.)
Places to Stay
Centro Ecoturistico San Jose De Los Laureles has clean and economical lodging. There are 2 guest rooms with double beds for $350 pesos/night and dorm beds for $200 pesos. Women’s and Men’s dorms are separate with 10 bunkbeds in each and private bathrooms. Camping is also available.
For info: Centro Ecoturistico San Jose De Los Laureles