San Jose de Gracia: Exploring Aguascalientes to the Fullest
The Magical Town of San Jose de Gracia is filled with vegetation, great natural spaces, and lots of fun!
During my years traveling the Country, I had never come across a place that combined fun activities packed with adventure and a touch of spirituality.
So, join me for a tour of San Jose de Gracia in Aguascalientes, an unknown town that is much more than you might expect.
How to get to San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes
The town is located northwest of the state of Aguascalientes and sits between the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Aguascalientes Valley.
To access San Jose de Gracia from Mexico City, you must take highway 57D to Santiago de Querétaro and then highway 45D, which takes you directly there.
You can also take a plane to Aguascalientes City since the Magical Town is only 56 Km away from it.
How did San Jose de Gracia come about?
The territory was initially inhabited by the Chichimecas coming from Tepatitlan.
In 1780, the Real Audiencia de Nueva Galicia appreciated the town’s potential and provided primary titles.
Its historical contribution dates back to 1811 when the priest Miguel Hidalgo took refuge in San Jose de Gracia after the defeat by the Spanish army at the Calderón Bridge.
Hidalgo, who arrived recommended by a soldier from San Jose, did not hesitate to hide in the town while awaiting instructions from the insurgent army, leaving it five days later, heading for the Hacienda de San Blas (now Pabellón Hidalgo).
In 1954 San Jose de Gracia was confirmed as a municipality; in 2015, it was named Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town).
With an altitude that exceeds 2,000 meters above sea level and as in the entire Sierra Madre Occidental, San Jose de Gracia enjoys a sub-humid temperate climate, with an average rainfall of 600 mm per year and an average annual temperature of 16 °C (61 °F).
June and July are the hottest, while December-January is the coldest.
The pleasant climate of the sierra invites you to enjoy it with warm clothes and the always useful umbrella just in case.
Top things to see and do in San Jose de Gracia Aguascalientes
Let’s start our tour of San Jose de Gracia in downtown. Here you will find a simple but elegant main square and the symbolic municipal palace adjacent to it.
Undoubtedly the attraction that gets the most attention, especially from believers from around the world, is the imposing statue of the Broken Christ, located in the Plutarco Dam, a masterful work of engineering in its time.
Another important attraction, if you want to get in touch with nature, is the Boca del Túnel Park, a huge space to enjoy various activities in full swing.
Admire the Cristo Roto (broken Christ)
Among the five most significant monuments in all of Mexico is this immense statue, 29 meters tall, divided between 25 meters of the sculpture and 4 meters of the concrete base that supports it.
The spectacular image is on the island of the Calles Dam, so its access is only by water.
After arriving on the island, you must climb some stairs to the sanctuary.
The large sculpture of Christ, which is missing its right arm and leg, was inspired by the tragedy that struck the town due to the dam’s construction, which forced a massive exodus of the population when the water level rose.
Today, it is one of the most visited monuments in Mexico, receiving parishioners from all over the world.
The Main Square
The Main Square has beautifully landscaped areas and a picturesque circular kiosk in its central part.
Another attraction of this space is the “eagle’s head,” which was made in honor of the Father of the Nation, Miguel Hidalgo, commemorating his brief visit to the town when he escaped from the Spaniards.
The Main Square is surrounded by historic buildings such as the Parish Church and the Municipal Palace, as well as many shops that provide services of all kinds.
The Plutarco Dam
This reservoir, also called Calles Dam, in honor of the president of the republic, Plutarco Elías Calles, has a storage capacity of 340 million m3 of water.
It was built in 1927 by the American company J.G. White and was part of an essential movement for the modernization of the irrigation system in the agro-industrial field.
The work would also be responsible for destroying the old San Jose de Gracia since the water buried the old town.
In the Plutarco Dam is the imposing monument of the Broken Christ.
Where is Boca del Tunel?
Adrenaline lovers have their spaces and amusements in San Jose de Gracia at the Boca del Túnel Adventure Park.
With a beautiful lagoon and rock formations, it is an ideal environment for horseback riding and biking.
You can also jump on the two zip lines available and cross the 13 suspension bridges the park has, including one 105 meters long and 15 meters high that crosses the lagoon.
The park’s entertainment will provide you with a lot of excitement on your trip to San Jose de Gracia, with several experiences only suitable for the most daring.
What is the food like in San Jose de Gracia?
One of the typical dishes of the region of Aguascalientes is pacholas, a preparation in which beef is ground in a metate and then mixed with chili and spices, a real delicacy.
Another recipe that is the pride of San Jose de Gracia is “membrillete,” a sweet originally from Spain whose preparation consists of steaming the quince fruits until a paste is obtained, which is mixed with refined sugar and left to rest, serving it as a delicious sweet when it cools down.
Likewise, the locals are experts at cooking all kinds of meats and stews, so get ready to put on a few extra pounds.
Get some handicrafts
The typical handicrafts market of San Jose de Gracia Aguascalientes is the ideal place to get a nice souvenir for your trip.
You can buy a statue of the Cristo Roto (Broken Christ) that fits in your home or an item made of low-temperature ceramics, a local handicraft specialty.
You can also buy a wide variety of salty or sweet Mexican snacks in the market.
Best hotels in San Jose de Gracia Aguascalientes
There are several options for lodging in San Jose de Gracia.
The Hacienda Rocha Hotel, located very close to attractions such as the Calles Dam and the Cristo Roto (Broken Christ), has first-class services and all the amenities for a pleasant stay.
A little farther away from downtown, specifically in the Sierra Fria forest, are the Cabañas las Manzanillas, a place full of tranquility where you will find relaxation and inner peace.
The cabins are designed in a rustic style but are very comfortable and equipped with all the necessary amenities.
In Trojes de Alonso, less than 20 km from San Jose de Gracia, you will find the comfortable hotel Las Trojes, which has a swimming pool, gym, bar, spa, and business center, the most modern hotel in the area.
Where to eat
Montecristo Restaurant, located on the Pabellón de Arteaga – San José de Gracia Highway, Km 10, is a place with friendly service. You will taste delicious dishes of the local cuisine.
El Mirador Restaurant is very well known in San Jose de Gracia. You can eat while enjoying live music and even karaoke; it also has a game room to entertain the children and offers an excellent view of the dam.
Another option is the Pueblo Viejo Restaurant, which is centrally located, with a varied menu and good drinks.
What are the main traditions of San Jose de Gracia?
The town’s inhabitants have the custom of bathing in the dam on June 24, the day of San Juan, since the reservoir’s water is considered blessed that day.
From January 5 to 8, a regional fair dedicated to corn is held, and the other important festival is the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on December 8.