Is Bernal worth visiting in 2024? Things to do & Reasons to Visit

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Bernal first hit our radar when we were researching Pueblos Magicos which we could visit as part of our epic 100-day Mexico road trip. But as soon as we saw a few photos it went from a maybe to a must-see.

Now it’s one thing to see some pics and want to see a place in person but the question remained, “Is Bernal worth visiting for more than just a photo opportunity? The short answer is YES, but read on to find out why.

Where is Bernal?

Bernal, or San Sebastián Bernal, is located in central Mexico, roughly a one-hour drive from Santiago de Querétaro and 3 hours north of Mexico City. The town is one of the most popular day trips from either of these cities.

We feel that Bernal is best visited from Querétaro and can be included with other Magic Towns like Tequisquiapan and Amealco de Bonfil to create a great little road trip loop.

Is Bernal worth visiting in 2024?

We did give you the answer earlier but now is the time to dig a little deeper and explain WHY we feel you should add Bernal to your hot list on your next trip to Mexico.

We spent 4 days in Bernal and every minute of it felt special. From the first walk along the main street in the historic centre, which feels like something from a Pixar movie, to the final view of La Peña as we drove away.

How many days do I need in Bernal?

Most people who visit Bernal do it as a day trip, or even less than that, they do it as a single stop on a larger day trip. But I have to wonder how many of those people leave wishing for more time in this enchanting town.

In our opinion, the bare minimum stay would be overnight. At least you get to experience the town when it switches out of “tourist mode” after the buses leave and settles back into its full authenticity.

To do justice to Bernal you should plan for a 2 or 3-night stay, perhaps longer if you are the outdoorsy type and plan on some additional hiking and climbing, or just want to enjoy time in a cute Mexican town.

Bernal is also a handy place to base yourself if you plan on exploring the wine region or the other Pueblos Magicos in the region. You could spend almost a week here before feeling you have seen and done everything on offer.

How do you get there?

The only way to get to Bernal is by road, but there are a few options when it comes to transportation. As mentioned above, visiting during a group tour is the most common way to arrive.

Other options include using Mexico’s excellent bus system, getting an Uber from Querétaro, or renting a car. There are plenty of worthwhile locations nearby if you are planning a road trip that includes Bernal.

Best things to do in Bernal

For such a small town Bernal has plenty to offer visitors who decide to invest more than just an hour or two. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

1. Explore the Historic Center (Centro Histórico)

Wander through the picture-book historic centre, where you’ll find beautiful colonial architecture, colourful churches, and a refreshingly slow pace of life. Don’t miss the view down the street towards La Peña.

2. Majestic Monolith: La Peña de Bernal

Standing tall and proud, towering over the town like an ancient guardian, stands the colossal monolith of La Peña de Bernal. This geological wonder is one of the three largest monoliths in the world, captivating visitors with its sheer size and majestic presence.

3. Cheap and delicious regional food

Indulge in local delicacies such as gorditas, enchiladas queretanas, and cecina, each offering a unique and mouthwatering experience. Be sure to try my favourite, Tortas Ahogadas.

4. Bernal loves a festival

Bernal is a town that knows how to celebrate. Events like the Fiesta de la Santa Cruz, a spirited celebration that pays homage to the town’s patron saint, and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), are just two of the events that are celebrated to the max.

5. Great for the Great Outdoors

If you love hiking, mountain biking or rock climbing then Bernal will make you feel right at home. And if you want even more stunning scenery visit the nearby Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.

6. Get out of town for some wine and cheese tasting

Bernal is right in the centre of what is known as the Querétaro Art, Wine and Cheese Route. Using a private driver or renting a car to go for some tastings can be a fun day out.

7. Soak up the peaceful vibe with an evening in town

While Bernal knows how to throw a party when the festivals roll around, they also know how to chill when the time is right. An evening strolling around the historic centre is a relaxing and beautiful way to experience the town.

What can you eat?

The food scene in Bernal is a delightful mix of traditional Mexican cuisine and regional specialties. Savour a variety of flavours and dishes that showcase the culinary heritage of the area.

Here’s what you can expect from the food scene in Bernal:

Authentic Mexican Cuisine: Bernal is known for its authentic Mexican food, featuring flavorful dishes made with fresh ingredients. From tacos and enchiladas to tamales and mole, you can indulge in the vibrant flavours and spices that Mexican cuisine is famous for.

Regional Specialties: Bernal is located in the state of Queretaro, known for its distinctive culinary offerings. Don’t miss the chance to try local specialties like gorditas, enchiladas queretanas, and barbacoa, a slow-cooked meat dish. These dishes showcase the unique cuisine and cooking techniques of the region.

Street Food: Exploring the streets of Bernal, you’ll find street food vendors offering delicious treats. Try antojitos such as tlacoyos (masa filled with beans or cheese), esquites (corn cups with toppings), or elotes (grilled corn on the cob). These tasty snacks are perfect for a quick bite while exploring the town.

Traditional Bakeries: Bernal is home to charming bakeries that tempt visitors with their fresh-baked bread and pastries. Treat yourself to traditional pan dulce (sweet bread), conchas (shell-shaped sweet bread), or empanadas (filled pastries) for a delightful culinary experience.

Where to Stay in Bernal

Bernal may be a small town but that doesn’t mean you are limited with accommodation choices. Here are our recommendations for your trip:

Casa Celia Hotel Restaurante is a great option for anyone looking for an amazing location at a budget-friendly price. This hotel is ideally located between the Pena and the town centre.

For a unique luxury experience, Zidada Hotel and Chalets is the ideal choice. This beautiful property offers free onsite parking and is within easy walking distance of restaurants and cafes.

Common questions about Bernal

Is Bernal safe for tourists?

As a town that relies heavily on tourist income Bernal locals understand the importance of making them feel safe. And we felt safe walking in any part of town, at any time of day.

As with any travel, you should be aware of your surroundings, secure your valuables, and use commonsense to avoid areas that you feel anything less than comfortable.

How is the walkability?

The historic centre of Bernal is reasonably flat and walking through the streets very manageable. The surrounding area is quite hilly and will test your calf muscles.

Don’t be concerned though, as it is still a comfortable town to wander around unless you have mobility issues. If you need help getting around, you can always find one of the zippy mototaxis to take you where you want to go.

What is the best time to visit Bernal?

The best time to visit Bernal, Mexico, is during the spring and fall seasons. From March to May and September to November, the weather is pleasant, with mild temperatures and lower chances of rainfall. During these months, you can enjoy comfortable temperatures for exploring the town and its surroundings.

A great time to visit is during the Fiesta de la Santa Cruz in May, giving you an unforgettable opportunity to be immersed in the traditional celebrations and party mood that sweeps through the town for several days.

Where do I find the town name letters in Bernal?

Like many Mexican towns, Bernal has large, colourful letters spelling out the town name. Unlike most other towns the letters of Bernal are not in the town centre but a few blocks away, located to take advantage of the magnificent backdrop of the Peña.

To get to the letters begin at the Gazebo and head down the alley behind the Parroquia where you will intersect with Calle 5 de Mayo. Turn right and then left into Calle Cristóbal Colón.

At the next intersection, turn left onto Calle Independencia, and in a minute or two you will see a small amphitheatre on your right, and inside the gates, you will find the letters.

The view here is impressive and you may even be lucky enough to be there during one of the many local events held in the amphitheatre.

Is Bernal Worth Visiting? Our opinion.

Our epic road trip through Mexico was heavily influenced by our desire to experience as many of the beautiful small towns of Mexico as possible, the Pueblos Magicos, and Bernal was the first stop on our adventure from our starting point in Queretaro.

We knew very little about the town except that it lived in the shadow of one of the three largest monoliths in the world. We Aussies have Uluru, the largest of these in our backyard, so we were interested in a comparison.

It turns out that they are very different. And I must admit that having a movie-set perfect Mexican town at the base of this enormous rock really does create something very special.

Not only does Bernal have one of the prettiest town squares in Mexico, but it exudes an incredible atmosphere of tranquil country living, and you can immediately tell that the locals have enormous pride in their town.

Almost everything we ate during our stay was well above average, delicious, and extremely inexpensive. From mouthwatering breakfast treats and smoothies at Veintidós Café, to the lunchtime gorditas and tortas ahogadas at Gorditas Doña Coco, and finishing with the super cheap, and awesomely delicious street tacos and extras at Taqueria La Flamita.

Getting caught in the middle of the festivities and excitement of the Fiesta de la Santa Cruz was the icing on the cake, putting Bernal firmly in the running for the most outstanding experience we had in Mexico.

So if anyone ever asks us if Bernal is worth visiting, or if they ask for recommendations on beautiful Mexican towns, we will be promoting this little gem forever. Go there… but not just on a day trip.

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