City in a New Light: Taxco, Mexico

Nearly 500 years old, Taxco has never looked more radiant.

Built on rugged ripples of valley surrounded by mountains in the central highlands, about a hundred miles southwest of Mexico City, this colonial town naturally folds in on itself. That creates shadows that obscure many of its loveliest features, including the main square of Plaza Borda.

Now, a new project called City of Light is putting the final touches on illuminating the town’s buildings and streets. Energy-efficient lighting refocuses attention on Taxco’s architectural beauty, such as the 18th-century Santa Prisca Church, a masterpiece of the ornate Spanish baroque style of Churrigueresque.

Yet this former silver-mining hub has long been a bright spot, attracting travelers to shop its platerías (silver shops) for jewelry and to wander its cobblestoned streets below wrought iron balconies heavy with bougainvillea.

Project architect Gustavo Avilés insists the city’s new lightscape is more than a standard beautification effort, saying the glow brings people into the streets and encourages them to experience Taxco in fresh ways. “You can’t help but feel curious,” he says, “about what lies beneath the places our gaze can’t reach.”

This article, written by Julie Schwietert Collazo, appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Insider’s Tip: Stay at the hilltop Boutique Hotel de Cantera y Plata, with views overlooking Taxco from private terraces.