Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- The airport code for Morelia is MLM. Continental ExpressJet (tel. 800/523-3273 in the U.S., or 01-800/900-5000 in Mexico) has direct flights from Houston. Volaris (tel. 866/988-3527 in the U.S., or 01-800/122-8000 in Mexico), a Mexican discount airline, flies nonstop to/from Los Angeles. A few domestic carriers connect Morelia to other cities in Mexico, principally Mexico City.
Morelia's airport is Aeropuerto Francisco J. Mújica, a 45-minute drive from the city center on Km 27 of the Carretera Morelia-Zinapécuaro. A toll road connects the airport to the city and shaves 20 minutes off the drive. Taxis meet each flight. Budget has a rental car office (tel. 800/527-0700 in the U.S. and Canada, or 443/313-3399).
By Car -- The slow route from either Mexico City or Guadalajara is Hwy. 15 -- a winding and narrow road with beautiful vistas, which can be appreciated at leisure because you inevitably get behind an old truck that can barely climb the mountains. (Morelia sits at an elevation of 1,950m/6,396 ft.) The fast way is the modern toll highway that connects Mexico City and Guadalajara. Exit at the turnoff for Hwy. 43. It's clearly marked. To Morelia from either city is about 3 1/2 hours and 200 pesos. From Guanajuato (2 1/2 hr.), take this same Hwy. 43. From Morelia to Pátzcuaro (1 hr.), there is Hwy. 120, a four-lane road. The toll road from Ixtapa connects to this highway. From Ixtapa to Morelia now takes about 4 hours and costs 200 pesos.
By Bus -- Buses to Morelia from Mexico City depart from the Observatorio station. ETN, Pegasso, Primera Plus/Servicios Coordinados, and Autovías all go to Morelia. Make sure to request a directo or via autopista. The trip takes 4 hours, and there are usually three or four departures every hour. ETN offers the best service. You will arrive at the new Central Camionera in the far-northwest side of town. First-class and deluxe bus service to and from Morelia uses Terminal A, and regional service to and from Pátzcuaro uses Terminal B. Service from Guadalajara is also frequent. From Guanajuato, your best bet is Primera Plus and Servicios Coordinados, usually changing buses in Irapuato. From Ixtapa, Autovías has two departures per day; Parhikuni has six. You can buy bus tickets from most travel agencies in town.
Visitor Information -- The city government, in association with local guides, has a tourist information kiosk on the Plaza de Armas (main square). It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 8pm. The city operates a website (www.visitmorelia.com) and prints a free quarterly magazine with a calendar of events (La Guía de Morelia), which is handy.
City Layout -- The heart of the city is the cathedral, with the Plaza de Armas on its left (west side) and the Plaza Melchor Ocampo on its right (east side). The wide street passing in front of the cathedral is Avenida Madero, the city's main street. It meets the lovely colonial aqueduct 1km (2/3 mile) east of the cathedral. This segment of Madero, along with several blocks to either side, is the old part of town. From the fountain, the aqueduct heads southeast toward what has become the fashionable part of town.
The largest civic celebrations are in September, the month of the fiestas patrias. Independence Day is celebrated on September 15 and 16. Then, on September 29 and 30, Morelia celebrates the birthday of its favorite son, José María Morelos, a patriot and revolutionary hero. The second celebration is actually bigger than the first, but both include parades, street parties, and large fireworks displays.