Buried in Lava – The Ruins of San Juan Parangaricutiro

"The Pompeii of Mexico"

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Photo by Thomassin Mickaël CC by

The ruins of San Juan Parangaricutiro stand testament to the wonder of nature. This stunning church is all that remains of a Mexican village. The volcano Parícutin erupted on 20th February 1943, and a year later its molten rock slowly made its way down the mountain slope to the town. Today, only the tops of the cathedrals are visible; the rest of the village rests underneath layers of ash and lava.

Paricutin Volcano Photo 1943
Photo circa 1943 showing the erupting volcano and church.

The Parícutin volcano is one of the world’s youngest, erupting in 1943 from the cornfield of local farmer Dionisio Pulido. Over the next several years the volcano continuously erupted, engulfing over 233 square kilometres. Taking the lives of 3 people the eruption also engulfed two local villages including San Juan Parangaricutiro.  Today the volcano is considered a geological wonder.

Located in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, visitors should head to the village of Angahaun. Once there, you will discover a quaint Mexican village, and you can start making your way to the site.  Not surprisingly, this place has become a bit of a tourist destination, and although not well known, the locals are more than happy to help for a fee.

Despite the eagerness of the local guides, horses will not be necessary unless you intend to go beyond the church ruins and to the volcano as well. A simple 30-minute hike will take you to the stunning location, and is well worth the visit. As you will be hiking on sharp lava, be sure to wear footwear appropriate for hiking.

Many decent viewpoints surround the location, making for great photographs and if you plan it right, this location will make for a fantastic sunrise or sunset. Happy shooting and enjoy visiting this lesser-known volcanic wonder.