Last Updated on September 29, 2023
Indigenous people named Tequisquiapan for the steaming hot springs and minerals discovered in the arid highlands of Central Mexico in the 1600s. Today, the colonial town is better known as Tequis.
It has become a weekend getaway for visitors with a taste for sparkling wines and artisan cheeses.
I was looking for a place to relax when friends and I scheduled a few days in Tequis in November of 2022. We’d spent the previous week in wildly popular San Miguel de Allende, celebrating Day of the Dead festivities.
Tequis: San Miguel without Crowds
Tequis did not disappoint.
The pace was slower in the historical district around Santa Maria de la Asuncion Catholic Church. The towering sandstone beauty dating to the 1800s immediately reminded me of San Miguel’s more famous pink parish church, but without the crowds.
Prices for handwoven baskets and embroidered linens were lower in Tequis’s artisanal markets than in San Miguel.
No dinner reservations? No problem.
Finding a table in the city’s family-run restaurants was as easy as strolling through the front door. And the food, while not gourmet like San Miguel’s, was just as flavorful.
Boutique Hotel Patricia Invites Relaxation
Cabanas Quinta Patricia, our boutique hotel, was a quick walk from town. Its expansive garden of flowering plants and fruit trees reminded me of a well-tended country estate. As soon as we dropped off our luggage, we plopped into lounge chairs in front of the soothing cobalt-blue pool.
We felt safe in Tequis, as if we were among friends.
Cynthia Castro, who manages the hotel’s nine cabanas, has extended family on both sides of the border. She welcomed us warmly, sharing her favorite restaurants and introducing us to the sights.
Located about 120 miles northwest of Mexico City, Tequis is a pueblo mágico, or magical town – towns identified by Mexico for their “magical” qualities, from astonishing beauty and rich history to extraordinary legends. Teqius, in the state of Querétaro, is also a stop on the Querétaro Wine and Cheese Route, attracting visitors from Mexico City, the city of Querétaro, as well as a growing number of international wine enthusiasts.
What to see in Tequis
Its full name may be hard to pronounce, but this Spanish colonial city of 50,000 residents is an easy place to spend a few days.
When we finally ventured outside the walls of Quinta Patricia, we headed for Miguel Hidalgo Square, the heart of the city. The parish church dominates the plaza and skyline with an ornate bell tower and a clock dating back to 1897.
A string orchestra concert at the beautifully appointed church enticed us inside on our first evening in town. We joined locals and visitors in a pew for a joyful hour of classical music.
Outside the church, the pedestrian-only square is the place to stroll in the evenings. During the day, people fill wrought iron benches beneath shade trees. There’s also a gazebo made of stone and wrought iron, a terra cotta fountain, and a platform where musicians frequently perform.
Porticos Welcome Shoppers
White-washed two-story buildings trimmed in terra cotta colors surround the square. Arched porticos on the ground level draw visitors inside to boutique hotels, art galleries, wine bars, apparel stores, and cheese shops. Upstairs, behind wrought-iron balconies, open-air restaurants and bars overlook the square.
A warren of narrow cobblestone streets and alleys meander off this square. Brightly painted storefronts festooned with magenta bougainvillea display cheeses, sparkling wines, hand-crafted baskets, confections, and other regional goods.
Two artisan markets are chockablock with tiny booths and artists selling everything from household goods to embroidered clothing and handmade baskets and other souvenirs. A stroll through the meat and produce market ignites the senses with its kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and smells.
Tequis: A Shopper’s Dream
Shoppers could easily fill several suitcases in Tequis (like my friend did). But there is plenty to see and do outside the city. Rolling hills studded with cacti and wiry grasses emanate in all directions, with the epic purple-mountain peaks of Mexico’s Sierra Gordas looming to the east.
Tequis is a stop on Queretaro’s Wine and Cheese Route. The Central Mexico region boasts nearly 20 wineries and nearly as many farms producing artisan cheeses. Numerous companies offer tasting tours, but you can visit independently or sail above the vineyards in a hot air balloon.
Grapes flourish in the area’s semi-arid temperatures and volcanic soil, particularly varieties typically cultivated along the Mediterranean Sea.
Now Mexico’s second-largest wine producer behind Baja California, Querétaro is best known for white and sparkling wines, though reds are becoming more common.
Spain’s Freixenet a Popular Wine Stop
Stops on the wine trail often include Finca Sala Vivé by Freixenet. The Spanish Cava producer planted its Mexican vineyards in the 1980s. Sparkling wine tastings include a guided tour of an 82-foot-deep wine cave. Visitors can also ride horses through the vineyards and then enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine and a picnic lunch.
Visitors can also tour artisanal dairies that make cow, goat, and sheep cheeses. Cava Bocanegra, just outside Tequis, has guided tours of the farm and a cellar where cheeses are paired with wine, mezcal, and craft beer.
Several balnearios, or hot springs, still surround the city, though most look more like water parks. We spent a few hours in the steamy pools at El Geiser, a desert oasis that’s fed by one of the largest volcano vents in Latin America. The family-oriented resort east of Tequis includes a beach, waterslides, and spa treatments. El Geiser has a hotel, cabins, and a tiki-themed restaurant.
A Day Trip to a Monolith
My favorite day trip took us to Bernal, also a pueblo mágico, named after a rock monolith visible for miles. The volcanic dome, sacred to indigenous people as a source of power and energy, is the world’s third-largest freestanding rock. Only the Rock of Gibraltar and Brazil’s Sugar Loaf are taller.
We didn’t have time or energy to hike the rock’s steep slopes, so we rode a tuk-tuk to the base to watch others climb. The picturesque colonial town, about an hour’s drive north of Tequis, is also a stop on the Querétaro Wine and Cheese Route.
What to eat
The enchiladas verde at K’Puchinos Restaurant rivaled any I’ve tasted in Texas or Mexico. We found excellent food at all the restaurants we visited.
Most are family-owned and serve a variety of Mexican standards, from rich mole to tacos and gorditas, accompanied by local wines and cheeses.
Where to stay
When Castro’s grandfather began building Quinta Patricia as a family vacation compound in the 1960s, overnight options were limited. As the city’s popularity grew, the family converted the property into a boutique hotel. The nine-room quinta includes family-sized rooms like our three-bedroom unit with a full kitchen and three baths.
Today, Tequis boasts more than 50 hotels, some with spas.
The closest airport is Querétaro International Airport, which is about 25 miles or an hour’s drive northwest of Tequis. Public buses serve the area; individual drivers can also be arranged. But with a rental car, we explored more of the surrounding area.