The capital of the state of Michoacan and 160 mi/260 km west of Mexico City, the scenic city of Morelia was built by conquistadores in the Spanish colonial style. Its center declared a national monument, Morelia is well worth visiting to see the architecture (much in pink stone), the cathedral, the State Museum and the Plaza de los Martires. It has a reputation among Mexicans as a foodie destination, with an abundance of excellent restaurants.

Also visit the Casa de las Artesanias to see many of the local crafts—especially the green-glazed pottery for which this area is known. Homemade candies derived from colonial recipes are another of the town's specialties, and you can sample them in local shops set up in the Mercado del Dulces (sweets market). Make arrangements at the kiosk in the main square to take a free walking tour of the historic central area (English-speaking guides available).

About six hours east of Morelia is the Santuario Mariposa Monarca, a nature reserve where millions of monarch butterflies spend the winter after an arduous flight from Canada. Visitors can climb to the 10,000-ft/3,100-m peak and walk through the forest and marvel at the sight of trees covered by these beautiful creatures.

Just south of town is Santa Clara del Cobre (sometimes known as Villa Escalante), famous for ornate handmade copperware. Patzcuaro and the nearby craft villages are an hour away.

Michoacan state is reportedly the base for one particular drug cartel in Mexico. Although public violence is sporadic in Morelia itself, check current advisories for any trouble.

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