Chapultepec Park, located on the western side of Mexico City, receives thousands of people daily. During the course of the day, this great lung of the city is teeming with life: street vendors with their carts offering fried food, jarritos (small jars) (drinks made with mineral water, lemon and chile), hot dogs, candy, toys and balloons; children playing, couples strolling, some people sit on benches, reading, and some others relax under the shade of the trees.
But the park has another facet known only to a few. At night, when the crowds are gone, the only thing you hear is the sound of crickets and the wind whistling through the trees. In the midst of the darkness and silence, you are able to sense the vastness of this great natural area.
Would you like to go deeper into the woods when the sun goes down? On Wednesday nights you can participate in tours that will allow you to live an unforgettable experience. The tours are made on bicycles or on board a tram, and offer the opportunity to visit landmarks and little know corners of this place.
The tour starts and ends at the Casa del Lago Juan Jose Arreola. Here, visitors board the tram that takes them to discover several beautifully illuminated areas of the park. A guide and an old forest caretaker lead the tour among songs, anecdotes, jokes and a love story.
Mute witness to history
Besides being an important nature reserve –it is the largest urban park in Latin America – Chapultepec Park is a historical treasure. pre-Hispanic people referred to it as “place of springs”, where Nezahualcoyotl built the aqueduct which supplied Tenochtitlan with water.
After the arrival of the Spaniards, the park became the property of Hernan Cortes, until King Charles V revoked this allocation. The construction of the imposing castle began in 1785, when it was home to the Military Academy, where cadets fought during the American invasion of 1847. Subsequently, it was the seat Maximilian and Carlota’s Imperial Palace, who restored it and embellished its gardens. It became a presidential residence from 1884 to 1944, when it was handed over to the Museum of National History.
Which are the places you will be visiting?
The tour takes about an hour and a half, a little longer if it is done by bicycle. Some of the places you will visit are:
Nezahualcoyotl’s Ahuehuete Tree: the “oldest tree” in the park is over 500 years old. Tradition has it that it was planted by the poet Nezahualcoyotl at the request of Emperor Moctezuma.
Fountain of Frogs: a reproduction of the fountain located in the Maria Luisa Park, in Seville, Spain. Its base is covered with colorful tiles that were manufactured in the town of Triana, in Seville. Eight bronze frogs spouting water, sit on its periphery, and at its center is the figure of a duck sitting on a turtle.
Casa del Lago (House on the Lake): its construction began in 1906, while general Porfirio Diaz was president. It was home to the first Automobile Club in Mexico, and was the stage for gatherings and ballroom dancing of the Mexican aristocracy. As of 1959, it became an important center for cultural dissemination.
Quijote Fountain: this charming little square is surrounded by four benches covered with colored tiles recreating scenes from the Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha book. Two columns stand at its sides; one of them supports the bronze statue of Don Quixoje with the face of painter Salvador Dali, and the other, the statue of Sancho Panza, with the face of Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera.
To enjoy your visit to the utmost, taken into account the following tips:
Speak in a low voice and turn off your cell phone to hear the sounds of the forest.
Wear warm clothing and comfortable shoes, as part of the journey is traveled on foot.
If you are riding a bike, bring your own light and carry safety equipment.
Casa del Lago Juan Jose Arreola
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, del. Miguel Hidalgo, C.P. 11850, Mexico, D.F.
First section of Chapultepec Park
Pedestrian Access from Reforma Avenue, through the main gate to the zoo.
Every Wednesday from November to March. The tours will be suspended in rainy season.
By tram: 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
By bicycle: 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.