There are 2 unique things to see in Uruapan, Mexico. Uruapan is the greater town of Nuevo San Juan where Paricutin Volcano and Church can be found.
Parícutin de Volcán
Paricutin Volcano is one of the youngest volcanoes in the world. When it erupted in 1945, it buried the towns of Paricutin and San Juan, to which 100s of homes were lost. The eruptions continued for about 9 years before the Volcano became quiet. The Volcano is hot and considered still active because steam can still be seen in some places around the cone, but it hasn’t erupted since the 1950s.
San Juan Parangaricutiro Church
When the Volcano erupted one of its casualties was the Church. The Church, in its current form, is covered with hardened lava except for the tops.
Uruapan is located about 110 km or 1hr 40 mins west of Morelia and 420kms or 5 hrs from Mexico City, in Michoacán state. Uruapan is the second-largest city in the state of Michoacán, closest to the Volcano, but we opted to stay even closer, in the village of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro.
The original San Juan Parangaricutiro was buried in lava, leading to a relocation of the entire village, which is why the new village has ‘Nuevo’ in front of the name, which means ‘new’.
The start to visiting 2 unique things in Uruapan
We left right after sundown from Morelia, a beautiful UNESCO city, to begin our drive to San Juan, where we would be spending the night, prior to our drive to Paricutin volcano in the morning.
The temperature drop was quite noticeable in San Juan. We went from being comfortable in long sleeves to feeling chilly even with an extra layer.
For some reason, many of our accommodations in Mexico did not supply hot water. If they did, then you would have to leave the tap running for a long time and wait for the water to start getting warmer.
Even then it wasn’t warm enough for a shower and we had to skip giving the kids their nightly baths to avoid putting them through a cold shower and freeze. Instead, we gave them a face wash, rugged up for the night and went to bed.
For early morning starts we find that it is much quicker for us to be out the door if we sleep in the outfit that we are wearing the next morning. This is especially a time-saver with the kids in the morning as they are ready to go once we have our bits and pieces packed into the car and there is no need to wake them up to get changed.
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Once we were on the road we started following the Google Maps directions to the Volcano. We had been driving for 2.5 hrs, climbing up the mountain, even though it was showing as 20 km to get to the Volcano and there were 2 more hours to go.
We reached a certain point when the terrain simply wasn’t suited to the type of car we hired and we got stuck in some mud. It wasn’t actually mud, it was very soft soil that was dumped throughout the way up the mountain.
We were able to get past all of them as we were able to drive around, but this one was a particularly large load that was dumped across the entire path for a few meters.
We had a slight panic as there was not a soul in sight and we had driven up so far from Uruapan with no mobile reception for ages.
Luckily, a huge truck was coming down the mountain, a couple of guys jumped out and I was getting my phone ready with a translator I downloaded earlier, as most people in Mexico spoke only Spanish.
To our surprise, one of the guys spoke English fluently and asked if we were stuck to which of course we said yes.
Those two guys helped push the car out of the sliding ditch in no time. They asked us where we were going and said there’s no way our car was going to make it up the mountain.
What’s more, we weren’t even on the right track. We went to the wrong side of the mountain and even if we did make it through it would take a long time, to walk to the volcano itself.
We were at a crossroad at that point and were wondering whether we should continue trying to get to the Volcano, as this trip required 6-7 hours (exploring included) using public transport.
We had a car, so we could get to places faster but we had already lost some hours going to the wrong side of the Volcano. We decided to give it a shot and go for what we came for.
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The correct entrance to the volcano could be accessed if we took a right at the fork on the road, instead of the left that we took at the town, San Juan. We kept going along this road until we saw the signs for the San Juan Parangaricutiro Church.
Once we got closer, we took a left turn and proceeded with the Church signs, until the sign for the volcano came up and then we followed those signs from that point on.
We kept to the road and eventually the road started increasing in volcanic ash to the point that we started slipping and sliding to the sides.
Let me emphasise that if you are the driver you will need a bit of concentration and focus to get through this part.
You will need the right amount of momentum fast enough to go forward and move through the slipperiness and slow enough that you are not sliding all over the place or off the road.
If you feel that this could be too tricky for you, then you could always park the car as far as you can go comfortably and walk the rest of the way. We had two babies that we had to carry, so this was not a possibility for us on this hot day.
We got to a large clearing and my husband asked me to quickly look for where the continuing road was if I could find it since he needed to keep the momentum going. I pointed in a direction in the front, but I didn’t think this could be right as I couldn’t see any Volcano on the horizon.
I scanned quickly to the sides and there it was on the right. We found it and what a marvellous sight it was! It was the first Volcano I had ever seen in real life and this was a highlight for our trip, along with the lava-filled roads.
It was unspoiled by tourism and it was wonderful to see a lot of it in its natural and rugged forms.
We could not climb the Volcano from this side as there was no path, but this was perfect for us since we got so close to the Volcano with the car, and we didn’t have to trouble ourselves with hiking and carrying the kids and essentials in the heat.
We got the photos and the memories that we came for with 2 unique places in Uruapan, Mexico
This worked to our benefit in the long run as we had a flight to catch that night and we had a long drive ahead of us, back to the airport in Mexico City.
If you are planning to get there by bus, there are plenty available from nearby towns, which are regularly running to Angohuan, from where you can get guides to hike or ride a horse to the Volcano.
A guide will cost around 300 MXN for his horse and 300 MXN for your horse, so if you are a couple, it will be 900 MXN or you can do a walking tour but you still need a guide for the Volcano. However, you won’t need a guide for the Church.
These 2 unique things to do in Uruapan, Mexico will be sure to be a great addition to your travel list.
Things to take to 2 unique places in Uruapan, Mexico
- Shoes with grip
- Comfortable clothes
- Google Offline Maps pre-downloaded to your phone (there is no reception)
Cash + Credit Card – If you plan on taking toll roads to and from other States
Fees/ Permit to enter the area
300 MXN for a guide + 300 MXN per person to the Volcano return if you are taking a bus to Angohuan
40 MXN per person to pass through the boomgate for entry into the Volcano