Founded in the 16th century on the shores of the tranquil Lake Pátzcuaro, this town remained largely undisturbed for several centuries until it was "discovered" by international and Mexican tourists. The town's founder was Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, who implemented a plan whereby area villages were assigned a different skill, and to this day their descendants have continued this tradition: artisans in nearby Paracho produce excellent guitars; those in Tzintzuntzán are known for their green-glazed pottery; hand-beaten copper plates and vases come from Santa Clara; lacquerware from Quiroga; fanciful catrinas (high-society ladies with the face of a skeleton) from Capula; and the finest rebozos (shawls) are handwoven in Nurío.
Many of Pátzcuaro's principal sights are near the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga and Plaza Bocanegra in the center of town. Lake Pátzcuaro, which you must surely visit, is a 10-minute cab ride from the center of town. Note that the archaeological areas are closed on Monday. If you want to visit the surrounding villages you can hire taxis, or, though you might have to change once or more, the ubiquitous colectivo minivans that serve Pátzcuaro and environs.
On the days preceding November 1 the town is inundated with tourists en route to Janítzio, an island in Lake Pátzcuaro, where one of Mexico's best-known Day of the Dead graveyard ceremonies takes place. Many younger people take the journey to the village of Tzintzuntzán, where for them Day of the Dead festivities are focused primarily on partying.