Often it can feel like Mexico's designation of "Magic Town" can be a kiss of death. What deems these pueblos eligible for the Magic Town title is their quaint, authentic charm. But with that comes hordes of tourists and, eventually, gentrification. Case in point: Sayulita.
Still, dozens of Magic Towns have managed to retain their sleepy, small-town charm. For example, two towns just outside of Mazatlan allow visitors to feel as if they've stepped back in time.
An hour from Mazatlan is El Rosario, a Magic Town that has a history as being one of the most important silver mining towns in Mexico. In fact, more than 43 miles of tunnels were built underneath the city for mining purposes.
As it grew in importance in the silver trade, a village formed around it, bringing a church, culture and tradition. The Church of Our Lady of Rosario is one of the focal points o the community, with Baroque architecture on the outside and layers and layers of gold plating within.
In the middle of El Rosario is the small Iguanero Lagoon, where locals spend the afternoon swimming. Cross the hanging bridge to visit the small island in the center which is packed with iguanas and turtles. In fact, the entrance to the El Tajo mine, which was how the city was founded, was flooded in a cyclone in 1935, which is how the lagoon was created.
About 45 minutes outside of Mazatlan's Zona Dorada is El Quelite. Recognizable by red-tile roofs and quintessential pastel-colored buildings, this is undeniably Mexican countryside. The cobblestone streets and vines of bougainvillea certainly add to the experience.
Here travelers can buy pan dulce from the local bakery, with a brick oven manned by an 82-year-old veteran. A must for a visit in El Quelite is a stop to the cemetery, which is not only culturally important, but visually impressive with its many altars and above-ground tombs.
One of the most impressive times to visit El Quelite is around Dia de los Muertos, when the cemetery glows with hundreds of candles and is decked with offerings. El Quelite is also known for one of the most unique dining experiences in Sinaloa: El Meson de los Laureanos. This hacienda-turned-restaurant is more than just a spot for a good meal, it's an event in itself. Its central courtyard is full of surprises, from iguanas, parrots and free-roaming roosters to the backyard farm with goats and donkeys. The menu is packed with true farm-to-table ingredients from grilled meats and soft cheeses to guacamole, quesadillas and all of the fixings. This is also a spot where local artisans come to sell their crafts, from textiles and pottery to paintings and sculptures.
The best part about these towns is that it is rare to see a massive tour bus and camera-toting tourist. These are still places that live and operate as they have for centuries: no gelato parlors, no bohemian clothing boutiques, no $10 taco stands. These Magic Towns just outside of Mazatlan are still, well, magical.