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Part of Mexico’s storied central highlands and a magnet for quality of life seeking foreigners, Querétaro state is home to four World Heritage Sites, five Pueblos Mágicos, four archaeological sites and a magnificent Biosphere Reserve.

Its central location, modern infrastructure, excellent connectivity, and diversity of leisure and outdoor recreation attractions make it a privileged destination. Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Mexico City (and with its own international airport), the capital, Querétaro (pop. 642,100), is an important center for culture and international business. Increasingly, foreign-born expats are following the footsteps of passport holders from around the world that have been living here for decades in support of the state’s manufacturing and assembly industries. Today, folks from abroad are arriving at younger ages, bringing children, and enjoying the appealing urban and country town settings.

The historic downtown area comprises historical sites sprinkled with shops and restaurants featuring Querétaro’s renowned regional cuisine. The rich, post-Baroque buildings of the Historic Monuments Area—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—will take clients back through time (ask about the fun guided Segway tours). The andadores (pedestrian- only streets lined with kiosks and open-air cafés) are a favorite place to shop for fine handicrafts and hand-embroidered clothing.

Among the marquis sights: the Palacio Municipal (also known as La Casa de la Corregidora), where Hidalgo, Allende and Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez hatched their plans to revolt against Spain; the Convento de la Santa Cruz that housed the emperor Maximilian before his execution; and the Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo, with its curling buttresses and a lavishly gilded interior. Just a few miles away, the Aqueducts de Querétaro—a remarkable feat of engineering with 74 towering arches—stretches across a four- lane highway.

As one of the world’s leading aerospace hubs, Querétaro is also a modern metropolis with excellent city hotels serving executives and event attendees at its cutting-edge Convention Center. Leisure clients, however, might prefer to stay in the colonial center at one of several top-notch boutique hotels.

Outside the city is the Sierra Gerda Biosphere Reserve, the 7th-largest in Mexico and the most diverse in terms of ecosystems. Here stand five Franciscan missions—Concá, Jalpan, Landa, Tilaco and Tanco—collectively declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their imposing architecture represents the last phase of the evangelization process in Mexico, and each pictures the indigenous substrate that lies beneath the Franciscan Baroque imagery.

In the Sierra eco-travelers can enjoy stay in a cabin at one of several eco-tourism camps, and engage in zip- line tours, four-wheel driving, cycling, motorcycle or jeep rides, rappelling, and other activities. It’s perfect for family adventures—and the regional gastronomic specialties are not to be missed.

Querétaro is part of the second most important wine regions in the country and is the leading wine exporter nationwide. Its vineyards are located between Tequisquiapan and Bernal, with cheese factories nearby that produce everything from fresh cheeses to mature sheep and goat cheeses. The Art, Cheese and Wine Route is the perfect way to enjoy it, with visits to the sanctuaries on the route, stops at exhibits in different wine cellars and shopping for local crafts.

Special attractions include these highlights:

  • The Pueblo Mágico of San Sebastián Bernal: This quiet town’s main attraction is the Peña de Bernal, the third-largest monolith in the world. Rock-climbing, browsing the town and dining are favorite pursuits.
  • The Pueblo Mágico of Cadereyta: The lovely provincial town is home to two greenhouses specializing in cacti: the Quinta Fernando Schmoll and the Regional Botanical Garden Manuel González de Cosío.
  • The Pueblo Mágico of Tequisquiapan: Take a spectacular balloon flight, visit a vineyard, enjoy a tour of the opal mines or relax in its restaurants and cafés with family or friends.
  • The Pueblo Mágico of San Joaquín: Famous for its local traditional music—the huapango huasteco—it’s home to the Ranas archaeological site, waterfalls and spectacular landscapes.
  • The Pueblo Mágico of Jalpan: Its traditions, picturesque streets, the oldest of the five Franciscan Missions make Jalpan de Serra a Pueblo Mágico. Don’t miss the delicious cecina, a local type of jerky.