Tzintzuntzán is a town of 3,500 people (2010) on Lake Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan, but the town is of little touristic value. The real magnet for foreign travelers is the Tzintzuntzan Archaeological Zone, which are the ruins of the once powerful capital of the Purhepecha people. Tsintsuntzan means 'where the temple of the messenger hummingbird god is located'. Onomatopoeia anyone?




Bronze tools in the site museum at Tzintzuntzán

Historical capital of at least one of the Purehpichan kingdoms whose magnificent yácata pyramids have been recovered despite the destruction under the Spanish conquest. The Purhepecha were a thorn in the side of the Spanish conquistadors, but they were a serious threat to the Aztec Empire which was never able to conquer the Purhepecha. This made the Purhepecha lands a de facto buffer zone between the Aztec and other, less powerful civilizations to the north and west.

The Purepecha people are thought to have settled in the Lake Patzcuaro region sometime between 1000-1250 AD. The capital was established at Tzintzuntzán around 1450, making it a relatively young civilization. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the city had a population between 25,000 and 30,000 people. Their language is unrelated to those spoken by other people of the region.

Tzintzuntzán is a large archaeological site. The historic capital covered an area of roughly 1,500 hectares. The city was largely abandoned after the Spanish conquest and was ignored by the government until the 1930s, when the first significant archaeological exploration occurred. In addition to the five round yácata pyramids, the site has an impressive Grand Platform measuring 450x250 meters, which is built into a hillside, as well as a number of smaller structures that were thought to be houses for priests. About 60 burial sites have been uncovered, all containing rich treasures, indicating that they were the resting places of kings or important individuals.

A site museum contains exhibits explaining the layout and uses of the site as well as relics recovered by archaeological explorations, not just at Tzintzuntzan, but at other Purepecha sites in Michoacan.

Get in

Map of Tzintzuntzán

Drive over or take a combi from Patzcuaro or Quiroga.

By car


From Patzcuaro, drive north on federal highway MEX 120 for 18 km. The highway passes through the town of Tzintzutzan. If you are specifically coming to visit the archaelogical site, watch for the signs as you enter town and take the right fork onto Av. Las Yacatas.

Get around


Walking works fine.

The Yacatas for a small charge. Visit the historic church and convent (though a home to monks) that is being restored for an even smaller charge. The markets are known for fascinating cement sculptures, Christmas decorations and reed woven goods.

View of the yácata pyramids at the archeological site of Tzintzuntzan
  • 1 The archeological site of Tzintzuntzán. The ceremonial center of the pre-Columbian Tarascan state capital. Five reconstructed yácata pyramids line up looking out over Lake Pátzcuaro. The yácatas and other buildings rest on a large Grand Platform excavated into the hillside.    
  • 2 Iglesia de San Francisco, Av. Lazaro Cardenas. Daily 06:30 - 20:00. The main attraction of the modern town is the former monastery, which was founded in the 16th century. The complex contains the Church of San Francisco, the Church of La Soledad, two open chapels and a large atrium, with much of the building material obtained from the nearby yacata pyramids that the Spanish destroyed. The church has a large number of religious art pieces from the colonial era.
  • Ihuatzio (7 km south-east of Tzintzuntzán). One of the most extensive and complex sites of the State of Michoacán. The archaeological remains are distributed in an approximate area of 50 hectares, only partially open to the public. It was an astronomical observatory and ceremonial center. Although they are relatively small, the pyramids dedicated to "Curicaueri" and "Xaratanga" are remarkable. First occupation: 900–1200 CE; second 1200–1530 CE.



The Night of the Dead around November 2 is quite busy and the cemeteries (pantheons) are magnificently dressed up in marigolds and attended to by families.

The Festival of Señor del Rescate is another important festival, and is celebrated during Carnival, just before Ash Wednesday (late February to early March).

Lead-free white clay, high temperature pottery, embroidered textiles with pre-Hispanic motifs, works with vegetable fibers.

Fish churipo, grain atole and corn products.

  • 1 Las Yacatas, Av. Yacatas 99, +52 434 344 3105. Th-F 13:00 - 19:30, Sa-Su 10:00 - 19:30, closed M-Tu. Regional Mexican cuisine served in a clean, modern dining room with views overlooking the archaeological site. Vegan options available. Locals recommend the tacos de jamaica.
  • 2 Casa de Blanca, Av. Lázaro Cárdenas #304, Centro, +52 434 115 6249. W-M 10:30 - 17:30, closed Tu. Traditional regional cuisine served in an attractive rustic dining room. A variety of moles are available, usually served with pork, with options like black chiles, green chiles, and red chiles. Tortillas are fresh and handmade.




  • 1 Posada Tzintzuntzan, Tercer, +52 434 344 3347. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Comfortable hotel with simply furnished rooms. Tasteful design, very clean.
  • 2 Los Alcatraces, MEX-120 Km. 120, +52 434 344 3297. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Traditional hotel with on-site restaurant. Rooms are clean and comfortable, but can be loud, particularly rooms facing onto the street.
  • 3 Lago Sol, Carr. Quiroga - Patzcuaro, Ojo de Agua, +52 434 344 3165. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Traditional hotel with lakeside location. Gardens, swimming pool, and tennis courts.

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