Desierto de los Leones in Mexico City
History of the Former Convent of Desierto de los Leones
On January 1606 the viceroy of New Spain placed the first stone for the construction of the Holy Desert in the Mount of Santa Fe. This great settlement was meant to be a place where the Carmelite friars could dedicate themselves to contemplative life.
Two centuries later, when the friars moved to another monastery, one third of the Desert was given away to the surrounding towns, the convent’s chapel was partially destroyed and in 1914 the president in turn, Victoriano Huerta, authorized building a restaurant in the premises.
Despite so many changes (it was a refuge for revolutionary soldiers, they planned to turn it into a holiday home for the president and they even started installing divisions to harbor a zoo), nowadays its surroundings are protected as National Park, and the building itself is considered a Historic Monument.
According to the Discalced Carmelites’ law, the convent had to be built in an isolated place where they could find abundant water and live away from urban centers. These are the characteristics you’ll find when you visit this magnificent landmark nestled among pine trees and diverse animal species. Don’t worry; lions are not part of the local fauna, even if the site’s name makes reference to them (leones = lions). Actually, it’s said that it owes its name to the De Leon family who collaborated with the construction of the building. Also, according to a legend, the area used to be inhabited by ocelots, but even if that were true, you won’t find them there anymore.
How to go to Desierto de los Leones
In order to get there, you can take the southern route through Antiguo Camino al Desierto de los Leones in Mexico City, or the western route, through the Autopista México-Toluca. Upon arrival, you’ll find a fabulous forest where you can organize picnics, walk your pets, run and practice trekking our mountain biking.
Likewise, you’ll get the chance to enjoy Mexican snacks such as quesadillas –corn tortillas filled with grilled cheese– or sopes –corn dough topped with beans, salsa, cheese, cream and onion– in one of the local restaurants.
On-site Museum of the Former Convent of Desierto de los Leones
After enjoying the natural landscape, enter the majestic building that’s been turned into a museum. Visit the cells, chapels and gardens, but specifically, DINKtravelers recommends going to the Chamber of Secrets. This area’s architecture enables sound to bounce from one corner to another. This way you’ll have a blast whispering secrets to your travel companions while they hear them at the opposite end of the room!
Finally, you’ll love to learn that according to several legends, there’s a treasure buried underneath the Desert. In fact, fortune hunters have asked for permission to excavate there (they made a couple of attempts in the nineteenth and twentieth century) though nothing has been discovered yet. Perhaps it’ll be you who finds the famous colonial treasure!