Last updateFri, 29 Apr 2016 3pm

A Magic Rock next to a Magic Town

In the state of Querétaro, they say La Peña de Bernal is the third largest monolith in the world.

Others place it at number ten, but everyone agrees that this monolith deserves to be listed right along with Ayers Rock, El Capitán and the very Rock of Gibraltar itself. 

With its peak at 2,510 meters above sea level, La Peña is also claimed to be the world’s highest monolith, again by local people (Australians would certainly not agree.)

All this, you’d think, should have turned the Peña into quite a tourist attraction, but over the years, the only people I ever heard mention it have been my dyed-in-the-wool rock-climbing friends. In fact, I’m sorry to say that this picturesque Peña doesn’t even merit a footnote in my beat-up 2004 copy of Lonely Planet Mexico.

What a pleasant surprise then, was a suggestion by my wife and her sister that we spend two nights in the little town of San Sebastián Bernal, situated right next to the mighty monolith. Bernal was declared a Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) in 2006, the two sisters told me, perhaps interested more in boutiques and restaurants than the humongous monolith.

The day after Christmas, we headed for Bernal, which is located 50 kilometers northeast of the city of Queretaro. There are two principal ways you can get there from Guadalajara: the northerly route via San Juan de los Lagos and Leon, or the southerly route via La Barca and La Piedad. Both take about five hours by car. We chose the latter route and paid about 300 pesos in tolls, one way. As for our route, we were guided by the Google Maps App, which worked beautifully. The only times we went astray were when ambiguous road signs disagreed with Google. “Ruta Rápida a Irapuato,” said one sign. Like fools, we ignored Google and ended up on a two-lane highway full of potholes, which was anything but fast.

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