From the road, on board the car, it seemed that we could reach the Peña de Bernal by foot, but the minutes and kilometers passed and it hardly seemed that we were approaching. La Peña is much bigger than it seems, and that makes me feel emotion and respect for nature.
Arriving in the town of Bernal, in the state of Querétaro, near other famous destinations such as Tequisquiapan and San Juan del Río, is still, fortunately, a journey into the past, approaching the year of its foundation, 1647. There are no resorts, franchise restaurants or buildings over 3 floors, and I hope that it continues for a long time.
Handicraft of the State of Michoacán in the streets of Bernal
To get to Bernal, either by car or by bus, you have to pass through industrial, livestock and wine-growing areas, which, despite the proximity, have not hit provincial atmosphere of Bernal. From the road the Peña de Bernal, the third largest monolith in the world and the main attraction of the area, looks very close, it seems that it is possible to reach it just walking. But as one approaches, and the minutes and kilometers pass, one realizes the true size of the rock, since it is a in fact single rock.
After arriving from Mexico City, the first thing we want to do is eat. One of the first houses of the village (built even before the church) and, in fact, the first inn, was the current restaurant El Mezquite, founded by the owner, Lieutenant Alonso Cabrera and still belongs to the family. The name of the restaurant is due to a mezquite (tree) with more than 600 years of known existence that lives in the yard and gives shadow to the diners. The food in the restaurant is good, specializing in traditional Mexican dishes; nevertheless, the best thing of all is the view you have of the Monolith.
View of Peña from El Mezquite Restaurant
After enjoying our food, it's time to go around. The town, 45 minutes from the City of Querétaro, and 2 and a half hours from Mexico City, in the few blocks that make up its small center, has much to offer the visitor. The Chapel of Souls, the Temple of San Sebastian Martyr, the Mask Museum, and of course the walk through its beautiful cobblestone streets, full of tourists, vendors of snacks and crafts.
"San Sebastián Bernal" Temple
The highlight is, precisely, to visit La Peña, what remained of a volcanic neck that rises 350 meters above the surface. The street that goes from the center to the entrance of the Peña is winding, steep, bordered by vendors, restaurants and small hotels. There are a series of precarious staircases, made of uncut stone, and loose dirt roads where it is necessary to grab grasses or tree logs to continue. Near the top there is a plain and horizontal area, after a non-stop climb it is possible to lie down and take pictures of the town, which can be seen full from that height.
View of Downtown Bernal from the top of La Peña
It is possible to enjoy the special parties that take place in Bernal at specific times, such as the Spring Equinox (from March 19 to 21) and the Santa Cruz Festivities (from May 1 to 5) during which a procession to the top of the rock to place a cross, between others. Besides, over the route to San Juan del Río, every summer, it takes place the "Festival de la Vendimia", where visitors can see the process to make wine, grow grapes taste many kinds of cheese.
View of the Peña from Downtown
The fact that the government has recognized Bernal as Magical Town impels to maintain its typical image. Something that adds value and interest is that during the Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which took place in 2009 in Abu Dhabi, the designation as "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity to the places of memories and living traditions of the Otomí-Chichimecas de Tolimán was granted: the Peña de Bernal of the State of Querétaro ".