Surrounded by rocky crags and hills covered in cactus, subtropical forest, and deciduous habitat, this brilliant little mountain town at about 430 meters (1,410 feet) above sea level began life as a mining town. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, tons of gold and silver were extracted. During its heyday Alamos (which in English means "poplars") was home to some 30,000 people. Rich mine owners and merchants built palatial homes, many according to designs favored in southern Spain. Today it's a quiet town which, if you include surrounding ranches, is home to 10,000 people; many of its dignified old mansions and haciendas have been repurposed as luscious-looking inns and private residences.
Most of the town's buildings retain their original facades, and due to its old-fashioned charm and historical significance, the Mexican government has designated it a Pueblo Mágico. UNESCO has Alamos on its short list for World Heritage Site status. These designations both prevent personal whimsy from destroying Alamos' architectural harmony, and infuse the town with funds to help preserve it.
Surrounding the Alamos' two main plazas, the Plaza de Armas and La Alameda, are colonial buildings whose arcaded storefronts provide shade from the strong Sonora sun while giving the town a characteristic and charming appearance. Although without the arcades, lovely buildings from the 19th and 20th century blend well with the older architecture.
Travelers visit year-round, but the town springs to life after the summer heat has abated and expats begin arriving to re-establish their territorial rights. Many have purchased grand old homes and restored them to glory; Alamos is a popular second home to American and Canadian snowbirds and retirees (approximately 500 at last count). During the cooler months, house parties and home-and-garden tours are scheduled. The last part of January, the 10-day Alfonso Ortiz Tirado Music Festival brings international artists and orchestras to town.
The rest of the year Alamos dozes in the still air of the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Visitors can sneak a kiss on Callejón del Beso (Lane of the Kiss), wander through el Museo Costumbrista de Sonora, or send up a prayer in the church of La Purísima Concepción, facing the main plaza. Walk up the dirt road behind Hacienda de los Santos for a birds'-eye view of the town and surrounding countryside. There aren't a lot of tourist attractions in Alamos---about 50 kilometers (35 miles) in from the coast at Navajoa---but that's part of its simple charm.
In October 2008, Hurricane Norbert caused a great deal of destruction and even loss of life when---seemingly targeting this town above others in the region---driving rain filled the usually dry arroyos that ring the town, causing great flooding and destruction. In August 2009 a tourism office representative estimated the town to be 80 percent up to speed, with all the usual hotels, restaurants, and other attractions open for business. Two new bridges are being built, but in the meantime access is no problem via well-marked detours.
For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our Alamos Travel Guide.