The state is one of the smallest in Mexico, but it is also one of the most heterogeneous geographically, with ecosystems varying from deserts to tropical rainforest, especially in the Sierra Gorda, which is filled with microecosystems.
The highway system centers on the capital and connects the state with Mexico City, Guadalajara, Ciudad Valles and north to Ciudad Juárez and the United States.
The capital is home to the state’s largest public bus terminal called the Terminal de Autobuses de Querétaro. This station is a transfer point for many who travel north or south in the country. Other major terminals exist in Colón, Tequisquiapan, Jalpan de Serra, San Juan del Río, Cadereyta and Amealco de Bonfil.
The Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There are two areas declared as historic monuments by the Mexican federal government, the historic center of Querétaro and the historic center of San Juan del Río. The historic center of Querétaro has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Most historic and cultural attractions are located in the capital. Museums include the Museo de Arte de Querétaro, the Museo Regional de Querétaro, the Museo de la Ciudad, the Museo del Sitio de Querétaro and Museo de la Matemática. Outside of the capital, there are the Museo Histórico de la Sierra Gorda, Museo Arqueológico y Minero de la Sierra and the Museo de la Muerte in San Juan del Río. Another major attraction is its 74-arched aqueduct built in the early 1700s. The aqueduct rises 23 meters (75 ft) above street level and conveyed drinking water to the city from regional springs until 1970.
Querétaro has one Pueblo Mágico, San Sebastián Bernal. It is best known as the home of the Peña de Bernal, the third largest monolith in the world after the Rock of Gibraltar and Sugarloaf Mountain in Río de Janeiro. Many colonial structures in the town of sandstone have survived.
Las Ranas and Toluquilla are two sites near each other in the southwest of the Sierra Gorda, about 90 km northwest of Tequisquiapan, in San Joaquín. Significant buildings include various temples and five Mesoamerican ball courts. They date from 200-1000 CE.
El Quirambal is in the Sierra Gorda between Pinal de Amoles and Jalpan de Serra, in the small community of San Juan. The ruins lie top of a hill and date from 800-1200CE. One important structure is a Mesoamerican ball court which measures 40 by 20 meters. On one side of this court, there is a temple with a pyramid base 14 meters long and 6 meters high. All along this flat topped hill, there are structures such as pyramid bases and dwellings and semi circular structures whose purpose has not been determined. The area was inhabited as early as 200 CE and stayed there until it was abandoned in 1200CE.
El Cerrito is located in the municipality of Corregidora, 10 minutes from the historic center of the municipal seat. Only part of the site is open to visitors, which focuses on the El Cerrito pyramid, which is illuminated on certain occasions. This pyramid’s dimensions are similar to that of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan. This is one of the main tourist attractions of the area.
La Campana archeological site has been sacked and severely damaged. The site is the most important in the northwest of the state, corresponding to the Huasteca culture dating from the year 600 CE. The site was discovered in the mid 20th century, but has not been excavated due to the lack of funds. It contains 160 structures including platforms, plazas, patios, and more.
Most traditional festivals are tied to the Catholic religion, with some of the most important being La Candelaria (Candlemas), Holy Week and Day of the Dead. Locally important are the myriad of festivals to patron saints of towns, villages and municipalities. In addition, civic and economic festivals and fairs include celebrations of the founding of the various cities, regional fairs in Cadereyta, El Marqués, Jalpan de Serra and others to showcase local products and culture.
In the mountain village of San Joaquín in April is the Concurso Nacional de Huapango Huasteco (National Huasteca Huapango Contest). This event attracts thousands of visitors and participants each year, as it is the most important Huapango contests in the country.
The founding of the city of Querétaro is celebrated in July with various cultural and gastronomic events. Conchero dancers go in procession to the La Cruz Church to commemorate the appearance of Saint James.
Handcrafts produced in the state include baskets, textiles, metal objects, pottery and items made from wood, leather and paper. Basket making is common in many parts of the state, and similar fibers are also used to create hats, decorative items and more made from various materials such as reed, willow branches and palm fronds.
The cooking of the Sierra Gorda region is strongly influenced by the Huasteca cuisine of neighboring Hidalgo and San Luis Potosí states. One notable dish is sacahuil, which is a large tamal wrapped in the leaves of a plant called a papatla. This dish is most prevalent in Landa de Matamoros and Jalpan de Serra. During festivals in San Miguel Tolimán, the main dish is chickpeas with saffron accompanied by tortillas in a number of colors. In Peñamiller, they celebrate with goat meat, accompanied by pulque. Another common dish in this areas is a variety of tostadas called arriero (donkey handler). Simichol is a fermented corn drink prepared in Santiago Mexquititlán. In San Joaquín, the drink is called charape, made with piloncillo. In this and other central municipalities, gorditas de migajas (literally crumb gorditas) is a common dish.
Traditional food products include a candy made of guava fruit and sugar, jams, and sweets made from pulque, milk candies from Bernal, a hard bread called mezquitamal, which is made by the Otomis, and various types of mole sauces made in Amealco. In the Sierra Gorda area, gorditas can be prepared with sugar, cheese, and piloncillo. The zacahuil, a large type of tamale, is filled with chicken, turkey or pork with dried chili pepper. A number of insects are used, especially in indigenous dishes such as tantárreas (ants from a type of mesquite tree) and escamoles, often cooked with cactus flowers. One native beverage, called mejengue, made with piloncillo (a type of sugar derived from the cane plant), banana, pulque and corn.
The state promotes its wine and cheeses with a Ruta del Vino or Wine Route. This connects three major wineries, Freixenet, La Redonda and Los Aztecas, along with various cheese producing facilities and some small towns chosen for their charm, such as Tequisquiapan and Bernal. There is also a Cheese and Wine Museum. At the wineries, one can observe how the product is made, which includes both sparkling and normal wines. The cheese producers make their products from goats’, cows’ and sheep’s milk, and in the two villages, one can enjoy both wine and cheese at the same time. At the end of July and the beginning of August, there is the first harvest, called the Vendimia. At the end of May and beginning of June, Tequisquiapan hosts the National Cheese and Wine Fair. The Feria del Queso y el Vino (Cheese and Wine Fair) is held at the end of may and beginning of June in Tequisquiapan featuring wine producers from various parts of the world. Grape harvest festivals are held at Freixenet and La Redonda at the end of June.