Mineral del Chico
Two hours from Mexico City and mere minutes from Hidalgo State capital Pachuca, the old mining town of Mineral de Chico is worlds away from the rat race. At an elevation of 2,351 meters above sea level, the climate is invitingly mild, chilled by brisk mountain breezes and occasional precipitation carried across the El Parque Nacional de Chico Hidalgo. Mineral de Chico forms a mere pocket of the evergreen 2,000 hectare park, now has become as popular for climbing, as it is for its views. Dominated by rocky spires and verdant bluffs, El Parque Nacional de Chico Hidalgo sets the perfect backdrop for this pit-stop town, whose claim to fame also happens to be a visually enthralling natural wonder.
Surrounded by thousand year-old pine forests and huge massifs, Mineral de Chico is a town where legends refuse to die and traditional ways of life are still very much core to its appeal. One such legend is tied to La Peña de Las Monjas, a series of sheer, colossal rock formations said to date back to the 17th Century. Legend has it these rocks are the cast vestiges of six nuns whom partook in the Great Procession from Parroquia de la Purisima Concepcion to Actopan Atotonilco. Weary from the burden of carrying food and various icons of the church, the sisters hatched a plan to withdraw temporarily from the procession for rest, subsequently taking a short cut through the forest to later catch up. Of course, the sisters never rejoined the Great Procession; nor did they reach Actopan Atotonilco. Locals refute the possibility of witchcraft, leading to only one other conclusion – God Himself smite the Sisters, as punishment for their desertion. Whether or not you believe this old tale, the rocks of La Peña de Las Monjas bear an uncanny resemblance to nuns, complete with habit and wimple!
Romanticized by hazy mists and winding cobblestone streets, Mineral de Chico implores every visitor to reach for the camera. The Gothic spires of Purisma de la Concepcion and domed city hall dominate the scene of colorful adobes and small vendor stands, however, you might want to save your snaps for the fountain – one of the many quirky works of art dotted around town. Beset upon a small plinth at the center of the main plaza, the Fountain of El Chico merges the wondrous beauty of the town's natural surroundings with several intertwined legends. A rock forms the base of the fountain upon which a lady sits, flanked by three crested herons and a small cascade creating a halo of light around the scene.
The highlight of Mineral de Chico lies a short walk East from the town and into the forest. Beneath a lush arboretum of ancient pines in a moist forest clearing gushes Cascada de El Chico – the twin waterfall phenomenon responsible for the town's Pueblos Magicos status. Said to a be a source of healing and magic, the Cascada garners attention for its unique aesthetic – two boulders jutting out from the cliff-face, over which the cascade creates a huge curtain of water. Although the pool does seem ideal for bathing, many decline the temptation due to the cold temperature. This is a mountain stream after all!