What To Do in Malinalco, Mexico? – the 5 Adventures To Put on Your List

“Mal” translates to “bad” in Spanish, but it seems something was clearly lost in translation on my recent trip to the Mexican town of Malinalco. Actually the name of this “Pueblo Magico” located just a two and a half hour drive outside Mexico City comes from its indigenous past. A past both rich in sorcery and legend along with a deep association to the goddess of witchcraft and black magic, Malinalxóchitl.

Malinalco-Group in the town center

Town Center in Malinalco with fellow adventures about to discover the magic in this Pueblo Magico

Yet, visit today and travelers shall find a rural town serving as a gateway to adventure.  From my few days in the region, here are five adventures to put on your list, essentially, the  “what to do” when visiting Malinalco in the state of Mexico.

La Grieta Cave Camping

The most unique adventure offered, a night camping on the side of a mountain, provides the thrilling aspect of crawling into a small cave (or crack) twenty meters up on a mountainside to spend the night.

LaGrie ta-Camping with Maliemociones in malinalco, mexico

Making our way down in the morning from the overnight cave camping

The La Grieta camping overnight adventure starts just before sunset with a forty-five minute (not too strenuous) hike up the mountains side. Once up at the location, they are just two “rooms” or caves to utilize. The first provides the living and dining space and allows campers the option to stand up as needed. Here one of the guides from Maliemociones prepared dinner (and eventually breakfast in the morning) while everyone socialized and shared details about their travels.  The other room, essentially a crawl space for sleeping with incredible views, becomes the place to retire for the evening. Harnessed to a safety line with your feet nearly over the edge falling asleep may not happen too quickly for some. It takes time to gain a comfort level with the surroundings which included a comfortable level with one’s position on the rock floor. Yet by morning light everyone will agree it was well worth the effort  before the rappel down and head back to town.

the morning view from la grieta overnight cave cmaping with maliemociones in malinalco, mexico

Buenos dias Malinalco, the morning view

Travel Tip:

Head to bed only when ready. Once positioned in to the sleeping quarters it is definitely lights out.  At this point it becomes even a greater challenge to use the bathroom as one needs to climb over others sleeping also attached to the same safety line (and potentially wake them up) before taking the already required climb down the mountainside to find a place in the forest.

My advice, skip the cervezas at night around the fire and pack a small bottle of sipping spirits  instead. The evening, certainly a moment to celebrate, blends well with the local mezcal.

Ruta de Mezcal

Taking the dirt roads out of town led to a mountainous terrain abound with local agave plants. This agave distilled, known as Mezcal (not tequila as that is solely distilled from blue agave grown only in Tequila, Jalisco) continues to gain global popularity and the delicious artisinal  batches from Malinalco certainly lifted my spirits.

Smashing the roasted pina when making the Mezcal in Malinalco, Mexico on the Ruta de Zapote

It was fun, but maybe I’ll let him do it.

In this developing tourist route just minutes from the town’s zocalo visitors can visit a few “fabricas” with in a few miles offering both tastes and views into the craft of making this Mexican magic. Known locally as the Ruta de Zapote for the small town wrestling with the concept to bring a bigger artisinal and sustainable production to the area, one can learn the entire process. Plus, at times visitors can also lend a helping hand smashing up the roasted pina (which tasted extremely sweet) too.

Mezcal-La-Cascada-Mezcal from Malinalco, Mexico , photo by craig Zabransky

Who wants a pour?

Travel Tip:

Purchase a bottle. In fact, I personally watched them fill my bottle directly from the large vat and paid $100 pesos ($6 USD) for it. It was certainly well worth the money and made for many memories during my time in Malinalco. And if it’s not for you, it makes a great souvenir, you can always bring a bottle back for me.

Waterfall Rappel at  Cascada del Obraje

The majority of personal rappel experience came from my adventures in Tuxtla, Chiapas just a year earlier. Those adventures certainly built character, aided in my confidence and prepared me for this 57 meter (187 feet) waterfall descent at Cascada del Obraje outside of Malinalco.

Cascada del Obraje, a chance to rappel down the waterfall outside of Malinalco, Mexico

the black dot near the top – that’s me.

Working with the guides from Ocuiltlan and Maliemociones I was harnessed in and prepped for my descent.  I assigned my left hand as my dominant hand (I am lefty) to operate as the brake (behind me) with the other was to hold the rope in front of me. Focused on obtaining a position similar to sitting on a chair: knees bent and back straight, I started to descend slowly.

In most rappels (for me) a moment exists when the realization occurs and I “understand” my distance from the safe ground. This is usually  followed by a sudden urge to finish and complete the rappel and get back to stable ground quickly.   Yet on this adventure I found myself in no rush at all and really focused on not just technique, but on appreciating the epic experience.  Perhaps practice makes perfect, perhaps it was just part of the Magic of Malinalco.

Cascada del Obraje, enjoying the rappel descent on the waterfall outside of Malinalco, Mexico

Living the matnra on my shirt…. and enjoying the rappel through the aterfall

 Travel Tip:

On a waterfall rappel – embrace the water. The highlight of this experience was in the midst (and mist) of the waterfall. The refreshing cool, crisp water in my face and the many mini rainbows encircling me made this waterfall rappel a memory to cherish for a lifetime.

See my entire Rappel > here.

Malinalco Archaeology Site

Mexico is rich with numerous archaeological sites dating back hundreds of years through many of its ancient and pre-hispanic civilizations. Located just off the streets in the town of Malinalco a sign points to a path taking visitors to the entrance of a largely unexcavated site once dedicated to train the Aztec elite warriors.  The four hundred plus step climb provides for incredible views and the chance to see the site and its impressive monolithic architecture.

the Malinalco ruins in malinalco, mexico

The House of Eagles, a sanctuary for the Eagle and Jaguar Elite Aztec warrior class

The architecture directly carved from mountainside (living) rock, such as the structures of the “House of Eagles” or “Structure IV,” have no equal in Mesoamerica. Much still remains a mystery about this site and visiting these sacred grounds serves as a great reminder about impressive civilizations once thriving in this part of the world.

the ruins of Malinalco, in malinnalco, mexico

Off with the head? … no, here the sacrifice was in the training to become an elite Aztec warrior

Travel Tip: 

Take your time on the way up and read the signage (in both English and Spanish) to learn more about the site. The valley views will delight and at the altitude of 1,750 meters (over a mile high) they can also certainly take your breath away. Truly breath-taking.

Canyoning Las Bocas

Less than an hour ride from Malinalco is La Joya Redonda and the opportunity to Canon las Bocas.  Complete with climbs, natural water slides, jumps, rappels, and history dating back to the Mexican revolution, visitors are led over, across, and through multiple challenging obstacles. These canyons test people, but these same canyons also reward them with an exhilarating experience in the refreshing beauty of nature. The running water energizes while traversing the mountainous terrain invigorates the soul.

Canon Las bocas, and receiving instructions for the water slide from Maliemociones in Malinalco, Mexico

Getting instructions for safety on this canyon water slide – Yippee!

Then just before our ascent and the chance to allow our bodies to rest and warm up, we found our way inside one of the bocas (mouths), a small cave, used as a hiding place during the Mexican Revolution. Interesting to think about the different clothes, gear, and helmets those folks were wearing and the different type of adventure they found in front of them .. another reason to be thankful about how fortunate with the opportunity to enjoy this canyoning adventure. .

a group image, all smiles from the group of tourists visiting Malinalco in Mexico, taking the Canon Las Bocas from Maliemociones

the Brave elite group of Adventurers in Malinalco for ATMEX 2018

Travel Tip:

Lunch is Served. After hours of exercise in the canyon hunger happens. Once dried off and changed to dry clothes (definitely pack a change along with a second pair of footwear too) lunch is served on Mexican time.  Farm to table never tasted so good. Simple hand rolled tortillas cooked on the stove in front of you along with a fresh chicken from the farm in a savory sauce. Delicious. It remains one most memorable meals in on my recent adventure in Mexico.

What to Do in Malinalco?

Ready for Adventure?

Ready for Adventure?

The small rural town of Malinalco leaves a big impression with five adventures to put on your list of what to do in Malinalco. Some can be labeled adventurous in mind, some adventurous in spirit, (others adventurous in the spirits,) and some perfect for those  seeking an adventurous physical challenge. Truly something for everyone and every type of adventure seeker, that’s the magic of Malinalco.

Stay Magical, Craig

I was a guest as part of an ATMEX 2018 FAM to discover the Pueblo Magico of Malinalco. Special thanks to my new friends at Visit Edo Mexico (Visit Mexico State) and also my guides too.




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