Thursday, February 25, 2010

Malinalco, the Valley of the Lunar Goddesses

It’s not often that off-the-beaten track locales in Mexico receive coverage. We all hear the latest about resorts along the Mayan Riviera, or the newest over-the-top luxury hideout in Los Cabos but if you dig a little deeper, what you will find is a culture steeped in rich tradition that consist of colorful fusions of Pre Hispanic and European religions and cuisines.

I recently had the privilege of living in Malinalco for six months. This small village of 7,000 inhabitants is tucked between two mountain ranges in the southwestern portion of the State of Mexico. I just cannot curb my enthusiasm for this magical valley town and its majestic natural beauty. - it is no wonder this hot spot for healers, gurus and Mexico City’s jet set has been coined the valley of the lunar goddesses.

So, what is there to do in this tiny verdant sub tropical town?...Discover! Start with a walk up to Cerro de Los Idolos, a monolithic structure (there are only four in the world!) surrounded by pyramid ruins. If you’re lucky enough to run into Martin, the local shaman, spiritual guide and keeper of his native Aztec/Mexican history, you may change your mind about the use of the term pyramid. An enthralling historian and recent author, Martin takes those who are willing through a fascinating journey of Mexican history. The view from atop the ruins in breathtaking and the backdrop of lush mountains and eagles swirling overhead is mesmerizing. Next on your list visit the museum in town below that recounts why the monolithic structure was built, which is a story unto itself about spiritual warriors (not the Mel Gibson Apocalyptic type), the dedication to nature, humans and holiness.

After all of the scenery overload, and if you’re daring enough to try Mexican street food, walk back to the town center and try a Tlacoyo, or blue corn maize-based tortilla that is shaped like a canoe and cooked on demand. Tlacoyos in Malinalco are usually filled with fava beans and served with your choice of homemade green or red salsa with a sprinkling of fresh cheese on top. If you prefer a sit down meal Los Placeres is fantastic. Also just off the main square, their chef uses his creativity to heighten the flavors of regional Mexican ingredients in a contemporary fashion. The doblados of hibiscus flower and cheese are to die for. Fresh trout, brought in daily from neighboring lakes, is served with ingredients ranging from local herbs to coconut, depending on the changing menu. When in season the black zapote fruit margarita is magnificent, its texture is thick and delivers sweet yet sour velvet smoothness to the palate. After a lengthy lunch enjoy the walking around to view the town that includes an outdoor market filled with an extensive array of tropical fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and native to the region. A visit to the main cathedral is also a must to view the hand painted frescos of mostly flora and fauna that adorn the cloister, which are a rarity in Mexican catholic churches.

After a day of sightseeing venture across town (everything is in walking distance) to Ollinyotl, a holistic center serving the community and visitors that is a real jewel both aesthetically and spiritually. With its zen-like architecture and stunning views of Ascensión mountain, the center includes a yoga studio, mediation labyrinth, spa, temazcal, café and gift shop featuring artisanal and handcrafted items. There are numerous activities and promotions offered throughout the week that range from specialty massages such as Cranio-Sacral therapy to full moon drumming circles. For a mind-body detox, try the Temazcal sessions on Sunday. The 2 and ½ hour steam bath in an enclosed dark space may sound daunting but a guide takes participants through a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation in a group setting using herbs, song and chanting.

From Malinalco day trips to Xochicalco (an astonishing archeological complex of pre Hispanic ruins), Cuernavaca, and numerous natural sites, such as lakes and hot springs, can be easily arranged.

Where to stay:
Quinta Ascensión B&B
Cerro del la Ascensión 8, El Llano
Malinalco, Mexico
Tel: +52.714.147.1567
Where to eat:
Los Placeres
Plaza principal 6 B
Barrio de Santa Mónica
Malinalco, México
Tel: +52.714.147.0855

Where to Repose:
Calle Cerro de la Ascención esq. Calle Cerro del Ciriaco
Barrio de San Juan
Malinalco, México
Tel: +52.714.147.2015

Local Travel Expert:
Adamarie King
Connoisseur's Travel
A Conde' Nast Traveler Magazine Top Travel Specialist: 2001 - 2010
Tel. +01.312-559-0549