Uruapan Michoacan is the second-largest city in the state, after Morelia. Known as the avocado capital of the world, Uruapan exudes natural beauty and fertility, and visitors who travel here find themselves in a historical city that maintains not only several beautiful old colonial buildings, but also a traditional and more relaxed way of life. It is situated on the banks of the Cupatitzio River, and enjoying the views on and around the river, as well as relaxing in restaurants along its banks, typically forms a major part of travel to Uruapan. The town is also famous for the large colonies of Monarch butterflies in the area. One of the largest Monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico is located nearby, the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Uruapan Michoacan's fertile soil and idyllic greenery is fed by the rumbling waters of the great Rio Cupatitzio. When the Spanish monk Fray Juan de San Miguel arrived in the area in 1533, the lush flowers and trees prompted him to name the place Uruapan, which means "eternal spring" in the native Purepecha language. San Juan founded the town, designing the market square, hospital, chapel, and laying the streets out in a grid. Today the fertile land produces huge amounts of avocados that are exported internationally, and an avocado festival is held every year in November.
The Cupatitzio River can best be seen at the Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio, located a fifteen-minute walk from downtown Uruapan. Here you can trace the course of the river as it journeys through calm pools, impressive waterfalls, and white rapids, as well as hike through the forest with trees several hundreds of years old. The Cupatitzio National Park is also a haven for wildlife, and is a particularly good place for bird-watchers. One of the most interesting clubs in Mexico is located in the National Park: Bar Rio is situated in an abandoned underground waterworks not far from the river. Another national park in the area is the Parque Nacional Eduardo Ruiz, where you can see the fountain where the Cupatitzio River originates.
Another impressive natural feature close to Uruapan Michoacan is the Paricutin Volcano, part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Now inactive, Paricutin first erupted in 1943 from a vent in the soil of a cornfield. Within the next year, the volcano grew to more than 1,000 feet tall, burying two villages in the vicinity. In 1952, the volcano grew quiet and is now considered extinct. One of the youngest volcanoes in the world, Paricutin is a popular destination for hikers and tourists on horseback, which can be arranged with local tour agencies.
Among the most popular attractions of Uruapan are the Monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve protects the wintering habitats of the Monarch butterfly and covers more than 216 miles of land. The reserve includes several large butterfly colonies, one of the largest of which is El Rosario. El Rosario is one of the few Monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico open to the public and can be explored easily from your base in Uruapan Michoacan. The best time to visit is in February-March, when you can see giant masses of butterflies courting and mating.
In addition to the natural beauty of the region, visitors who travel to Uruapan can see several old churches in the town, and many hotels and inns, such as the Casa Chikita, a local bed and breakfast, are designed in the style of traditional Mexican houses. Baja may be more famous for coastal destinations such as Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, but Uruapan is worth visiting if you're interested in Mexican history—or a quiet place to relax.