Guide to Taxco

Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico

About Taxco

Just over 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Mexico City is one of Mexico’s most beloved colonial towns. Perched on a steeply sloping hillside 5,000 feet above sea level, Taxco (“tass-ko”) was once a silver mining town, but with silver nearly exhausted, it is now best known for its silver craft.

The American architect and writer, William Spratling, established the first silver workshop in Taxco in the 1930s and revitalized the slumbering economy. Today, Taxco is one of Mexico’s principal tourist destinations, and silver jewelry and goods are the mainstay of its local market traders.

This city is picturesque in a very traditional Mexican way—white stucco buildings with red-roof tiles, winding cobbled streets, antique churches, and romantic little plazas overlooked by bougainvillea-laced balconies. Because it was laid out on a steep incline with no regard to logical patterns, Taxco’s streets have a roller-coaster feel about them—true seat-grabbing ascents, descents and twists—especially if you take a ride in the Vocho (Beatle) taxis or combis (mini-buses).

As a well-preserved colonial town, Taxco is a treasure trove of valuable historical architecture. In the town center, you will find many examples of sixteenth through nineteenth century architecture. The pride of Taxco, El Templo Santa Prisca, was a gift from Taxco’s great silver-mining baron, Don Jose de la Borda, who nearly went broke financing its construction. This eighteenth century baroque style cathedral marks the heart of town; its unmistakable rose-colored twin towers dominate the main plaza, Plaza Borda, and beguile onlookers with its elaborate beauty.

As a silver crafts center, Taxco is unrivaled in Mexico. Hundreds of platerias (silver shops) line the streets, offering beautiful designs at a great value. See What to Buy in Taxco, below for tips about trading here.

Taxco’s streets are a bustle of activity and they come alive particularly over the weekends. The locals as well as visitors fill the main plaza and restaurants on a Saturday night—chatting, laughing, and merry-making. Because sidewalks are so conspicuously absent on its colonial cobbled-streets, you must share the road with lots of foot and vehicular traffic. It can feel congested at times, but you can always slip down an alley to find a quiet café and take a reprieve from the crowds.

A city rich in artistry, history, and romanticism, Taxco is worthy of any traveler’s short list of must-see places in Mexico.

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Key Attractions

Colonial Center

The center of the city has been excellently preserved and has a great colonial feel and atmosphere about it. The streets are cobbled and steep; small alleyways lead off the roads and some eventually break open into quaint little plazas.

Taxco is an authentic colonial city. It has been declared a national heritage site by the government and building regulations here are strict—take a look at the local gasoline station to see how keen they are to keep the place looking and feeling colonial.

By night the town lights up softly, adding a wonderful feel and atmosphere to the whole place; the lighting, coupled with fewer people as day-trippers leave, changes the ambiance of the town as it becomes more relaxed and romantic.

Taxco also has several noteworthy churches; the most magnificent, Parroquia de Santa Prisca, is on Plaza Borda (the Main Square) and its pink stonework is revered world-wide. The interior decoration here is also magnificent: marvel at the of the gold-covered altars and the exquisitely sculpted figures. There are seven other colonial-era sanctuaries that noteworthy: Capilla de Santa Veracruz, Capilla de la Santisima Trinidad, Capilla de San Miguel Arcangel, Capilla de la Virgen de Guadalupe and Ex-Convento de San Bernadino de Siena

Museums and Art in Taxco

Casa Borda Centro Cultural

The eighteenth century home of benefactor Jose de la Borda, this magnificent mansion sits on the western end of Plaza Borda. It exhibits sculptures, paintings and photos by artists from the state of Guerrero, and serves as the town’s main cultural center.

Museo de Arte Virreinal

Built in the sixteenth century, this Moorish-influenced grand edifice is one of Taxco’s oldest colonial houses and exhibits works of religious art from the colonial period. Among its small and modest collection are relics taken from Santa Prisca including a well-preserved example of a colonial funeral altar.

Museo de Guillermo Spratling

This museum is named after the great twentieth century American patron of the city, William Spratling, who opened a silver workshop here, producing unique silver designs which skillfully combined pre-hispanic motifs and modern art-deco styles. His love and promotion of the city brought about its economic revival. The museum hosts pre-Columbian works of art from Spratling’s private collection—the inspiration for many of his designs. You can also see some fine examples of Spratling’s signature silver design work in the form of jewelry, tableware, and other decorative pieces. To see more of his silver work, you’ll need to visit the Rancho Spratling (see below), located in Taxco Old Town.

Panoramic Views

One of Taxco’s main attractions are its topographical vantage points from which to admire a sprawling carpet of green hills, valleys, and cliffs. You will find several great vantage points in and around town, but two of the best for panoramic views of the town and surrounding mountains are the Monte Taxco and the Cristo Monumental.

Monte Taxco

The only cable car system in town leads straight up to a four-star hotel resort named Monte Taxco. Go to the north side of town—just off Avenida de los Plateros—and look for the signs to the teleferico (cable car station). There’s a small fee to pay, and on the cable run you’ll enjoy an eye-catching ascent over a deep gorge with good views across the city and the surrounding mountains. Named for its location, the Monte Taxco Hotel has a restaurant and bar which is precisely positioned to give you a panoramic view of Taxco and the surrounding natural landscape.

Cristo Monumental

Opened in 2002, the Cristo Monumental (Christ Monument) is now one of Taxco’s most prominent landmarks and an exceptional vantage point. The towering statue of Christ with outstretched arms (reminiscent of Rio’s famed Cristo) stands atop Cerro de Atachi. The statue itself is three meters in height set on a pedestal and looks over Taxco like a protective symbol. You can walk (you’ll need to be fit for the steep climb) or take a taxi up to the monument.

Attractions Near Taxco

Las Grutas de Cacahuamilpa – These are limestone caverns (grutas), formed naturally over the course of millions of years by water flowing down through the mountains. Some of the chambers reach heights of around 250 feet. There is about a mile of pathways through the caves, which a guided tour will take you through and highlight the main attractions inside. The caves are about 30 miles north-east of Taxco, but well worth a visit. Tours are generally in Spanish, and occasionally an English tour will be offered if there is sufficient demand. The air temperature inside the caves is considerably lower than the temperature outside, so if you’re prone to chills, take a pull-over with you.

Taxco El Viejo – About five miles south of Taxco is Taxco El Viejo (Taxco Old Town), which features a couple of attractions and offers visitors serene surroundings.

Ex-Hacienda San Juan Bautista – This is an old Ex-Hacienda named after Saint John the Baptist, which today hosts the School of Earth Sciences (an offshoot of the Guerrero State University) and a museum.

Rancho Spratling – This ranch is a working silver craft workshop that today continues the traditions of high quality silver craft that William Spratling started in the 1920s. You can witness the silver artisans at work; silver goods are available for purchase. The ranch is just south of the Ex-Hacienda San Juan Bautista.

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Getting There & Around

Getting There

By Air – The closest airport to Taxco is the Cuernavaca airport, although most visitors to Taxco will arrive at Mexico City’s airport. Connect to the Mexperience guide about Flights and Air Travel in Mexico.

By Bus – You can travel to Taxco on a luxury bus from Mexico City (southern bus terminal, known as Taxqueña) or from Cuernavaca. The trip takes around three hours from Mexico City or less than two hours from Cuernavaca. The buses leave frequently with services every day of the week. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.

By Car – Driving to Taxco is fast and efficient using the toll-road from Mexico City south of Highway 95D. Taxco is beyond the colonial city of Cuernavaca and will take you around 2 – 3 hours to get to from the capital. See additional information about Driving in Mexico on Mexperience.

Car Rental – To explore Mexico’s colonial towns and cities, consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn what you need to know about car rental here.

Getting Around

Local Buses – Besides using your feet to get around this very walk-able town, try the local transportation. Known as combis, these mini-buses are an economical way to get around town. To get to the town center, look for the combis that have “Zocalo” written on the windshield.

Taxis – Taxis in most of Mexico’s colonial towns and cities are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. Taxi travel is very affordable in Mexico, in comparison to the USA, Canada and Europe, and so provides a viable means of public transportation in Mexico. For detailed information, read the Mexperience guide to Taxi Travel in Mexico.

Local Events Calendar

Taxco’s cultural calendar features a number of significant annual events; if you can visit the city during one of them, they are a real experience to encounter. Note that the town will be considerably busier and hotels will be booked during these times, so advance planning is essential.

Maundy Thursday – The Thursday before Easter sees religious presentations and processions pass through the streets of Taxco.

January 18th and 20th – Festivals of Santa Prisca and San Sebastian respectively.

Juan de Alarncon – “Jornadas Alarconianas“: A cultural festival takes place each summer to commemorate this famous, Taxco-born playwright. Dance, street performances and concerts are the main attractions. Check with the local tourist office for dates and details (see below).

Feria de Plata – Silver Fair: Mexico’s silver Mecca would not be complete without its annual silver festival! This festival celebrates silver craft in the area and various activities take place including annual silver craft competitions. The fair takes place during the last week of November or the first week of December – check with the local tourist office (see below).

Practical Information

Telephone: Connect to the guide about Communications in Mexico on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.

Exchanging Currency: Banks with ATM machines are found in the central area of Taxco. During business hours the local Casas de Cambio will buy foreign currency in cash from you. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.

Pedestrians Take Note! Pedestrians and motor vehicles—including taxis, mini buses, mopeds, and 4×4 off-roaders which some visitors rent—share the narrow spaces between the picturesque buildings which make up the rich tapestry of architecture in this colonial town.  Take care when you are walking the streets, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when traffic and visitor levels increase significantly. Also wear a good pair of walking shoes—the steep cobble streets become even more precarious after a good rain, leaving stones very slippery.

Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.

Internet Access: In addition to access via mobile data networks, internet cafes can be easily found in towns and cities across Mexico.  WiFi is ubiquitous now, and you can connect easily and often free from cafes, shops, hotels, etc.

Restaurants

This city is as rich in its culinary offerings as it is in silver. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a good meal in Taxco. Look for the typical mole dishes or Guerrero-style steak and chicken. The finer restaurants will also have an international offering with foods that are especially familiar to the North American and European tourist—hamburgers, pizzas and crepes.

La Parroquia. Mexican and international food right on Plaza Borda (zocalo) in front of La Prisca. Plazuela de los Gallos 2. (762) 622 3096

El Acerto. Mexican and international food in a trendy, sports-bar with wide windows overlooking the zocalo. Great for a meal, snacks or just cocktails. Plaza Borda No. 12 altos. (762) 622 0064

El Adobe. Mexican food (with some international plates) in a cozy, antique setting. Plazuela de San Juan No. 13 Altos. (762) 622 1416.

Cafe Sasha. A bohemian, lounge-bistro serving vegetarian, Mexican and international foods. Great place for a cup of java. Local art and live music. Calle Juan Ruiz de Alarcon 1.

What to Buy in Taxco

Visitors would be remiss to visit Taxco without engaging in its main trade: silver shopping. The main streets of Taxco feature an endless string of platerias (silver shops) and you can hardly pass by one without having an eager vendor beckon you to look inside. Jewelry, platters, statuettes—whatever may be fashioned from silver—you can be sure to find it here and at a good price.

There exist three commercial venue types in Taxco where you can make silver purchases: an established silver shop, a jewelry center where rows upon rows of stalls are manned by small independent silver traders, and street fairs and markets. It’s a good idea to take some time to browse several places before purchasing anything so that you get an idea of the available styles, quality and prices. The silver shops on Plaza Borda tend to charge higher prices and may not be as open to negotiation, but they also are among the most reputable vendors.

Whichever one you choose to patronize, you should know how to distinguish sterling silver from silver-plated. Pieces made from solid silver are stamped “.925” which certifies that the piece is at least 92.5% silver. Objects which are cast in cheaper metals—nickel and pewter are the most common—and covered with a thin silver plating are unstamped .

Some of the more unscrupulous traders may try to palm-off imitation silver, known as “alpaca” or nickel silver; however, there isn’t a huge amount of fraud of this kind as silver is a relatively inexpensive precious metal, especially compared to gold, but it’s possible to be misled, especially if you buy from vendors off the street. A little forward research can help you to buy good quality silver pieces.

We recommend that you look up the current international price for silver, quoted per ounce, so that you arrive in Taxco with an idea of the value of the pieces that you are considering for purchase. Solid silver pieces are priced based on their weight, and price mark-ups for artisanship are added depending upon the designs or if a notable artisan has been involved in the creation of the piece. Carry a small magnet on your person and use this to test pieces which are purportedly solid silver: precious metals are not magnetic.

Beware of taxi drivers trying to give you ‘advice’ on where to buy silver. Some silver shops give tips or commissions to drivers who bring potential customers to their stores. A common ruse is for the taxi driver to belittle ‘other’ places and tell you that a certain other place offers better quality at a fraction of the cost.

All good establishments will offer you a printed receipt displaying the store’s name, a description of the item, and its sale price; this can be used in case any matters arise afterwards relating to the purchase you made.

Although silver is the primary product visitors shop for in Taxco, don’t overlook some of the other authentic Mexican crafts which are sold here too; for example, embroidered clothing, papier-mâché art, wood carvings, brightly painted scenes on amate (wood bark) paper, and hand-woven baskets.

Local Climate

Taxco enjoys year-round warm and dry weather. Its altitude makes it feel spring-like year-round. Rains tend to happen more frequently during the months of April thru November, but as with most monsoon areas, they tend to be fierce and brief in the late afternoon, leaving the evenings dry and cooled off. The winter months can get cooler in the evenings and overnight, so take a sweater with you if you are traveling in Taxco during these times.

Weather & Climates in Mexico

Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico

Make your next travel experience in Mexico something special

To arrange colonial tours in Mexico, contact Mexperience and we’ll help you make it happen: Plan Your Mexico Trip