Do Temazcal in Mexico and Thank Me Later: Everything You Need to Know
Visiting Mexico any time soon? Then I must insist you do a Temazcal ceremony. If you don’t know what this is, then read on.
Many of you know I was in Mexico City recently. It was a quick trip, just a few days visiting an old friend and the city that stole my heart in 2019. It is the last place I traveled to before the Pandemic, and in fact it was just a few weeks after coming home from my 3.5-month stint in Mexico when lockdowns happened around the world.
I didn’t have a set itinerary for the trip to CDMX this time around, and indeed I didn’t do much save for eat delicious food and bask in the nostalgia of being in my old ‘hood. But there was one thing I knew I wanted to do while I was there, and that thing was Temazcal.
Since my first Temazcal experience in October of 2019, I have been wanting to do it again. This is something that NO ONE should miss when traveling to central Mexico. Now, Let’s get into it.
Everything You Need To Know About Temazcal in Mexico
And Why You Should Do It
What is Temazcal?
Temazcal is a Pre-Hispanic ritual that dates back thousands of years to Mesoamerican civilizations.
The uses for Temazcal in ancient times were numerous, including as a cleansing practice for warriors before and after battle, curing illnesses and ailments, and childbirth. In fact, the shape of the structure is said to represent a womb, and the ceremony rebirth. When you emerge from the Temazcal you are born anew.
The Temazcal is basically a sweat lodge. But so much more than that.
The ceremony is performed in an igloo-type structure made of clay. The heat inside comes from volcanic rock set in fire for 2+ hours beforehand. And let me tell you, it gets HOT. The amount of sweat you lose in a Temazcal ceremony is something like a sauna on steroids. Temazcal feels like a cross between a sauna and steam room. The heat starts out dry, but in both ceremonies I attended, the rocks were doused with water and herbs, emitting fragrant, cleansing steam and intensifying the sweat.
Every Temazcal ceremony will be a bit different. In fact, our guide on this recent Temazcal experience in Mexico City advised us that even at the same location and with the same guide, the ceremony will always be unique. The energy of the day, of the guide, and especially of the participants will shift the feel and flow of the experience.
That being said, there is no real way for me to tell you how your Temazcal experience will go. The first ceremony I attended, in Tepoztlán, consisted of our guide reciting ancient chants, very much leading the way, while we spoke very little—just to say yes or no, that we were okay with the heat. We were just along for the ride. In the second Temazcal experience, our guide led the ceremony, but there was a lot more input from participants. We spoke more, we interacted with one another, and in a way created the experience we were in. Two very different styles, but both were moving and left me feeling incredible afterward.
Temazcal is a time for introspection, for connecting with the earth and the universe around you, for being still, for taking on old beliefs, for self-acceptance, for connecting mind, body, and spirit. It is meditation in the form of a powerful physical practice.
It can be different things for everyone who tries it. So try it.
What to Expect
I can’t tell you what will happen inside the Temazcal when you go, but I can tell you what the overall experience was like from start to finish in the two different Temazcal ceremonies I’ve taken part in.
Temazcal & Massage Backyard Experience in Tepoztlán
Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico
-Arrive at Temazcal. Take quick shower and remove clothing. Wrap selves in towels and enter Temazcal. This clay structure was in someone’s backyard, and it was a family operation. They have been doing Temazcal ceremonies for decades.
-Temazcal ceremony inside the clay structure. Much sweating. Much cleansing. Wishing you did not drink half a bottle of wine beforehand.
-Exit the heat of the Temazcal and enter the cool night air feeling cleansed, refreshed…different. Maybe a little shaky, light-headed or faint, but probably not in need of medical attention.
-Sit in a chair eating fruit and sipping herbal tea, allowing your body temperature to regulate and your heart rate to slow.
-Hop up on the massage table. Lay face down feeling pure, unadulterated bliss while one of the family members works away any tension the temazcal didn’t already take care of. I’m not normally a massage person because I hate being touched by strangers, but it is impossible not to enjoy it after Temazcal. Come to think of it, anything you do after Temazcal will feel amazing. But getting to lay in the quiet, extend your sense of stillness and contentment for a little longer, was what did it for me.
-Leave feeling, happy, content, at peace, zen as fuck.
Mexico City, Mexico
Daytime, 12:00 meetup
-Car ride to Temazcal location. Listen to guide explain the history of Temazcal and different variations. This is where he tells us to forget what we read in the reviews, that every Temazcal experience is unique.
-Arrive at Ectagono, an urban oasis where the Temazcal will take place. Be blown away by the tranquility of this nature area.
-Pick herbs. A large herb and flower garden grows at Ectagono. We were told to pick whatever appealed to us and as much of it as we wanted. These herbs would be used later in the Temazcal ceremony.
-Drink cacao. Cacao is what chocolate was before it was processed with tons of sugar. It is said to have many health benefits such as improved blood circulation, decreased risk of depression, and cancer-preventative properties, as well as spiritual benefits like heightening meditation, opening the heart, and increasing energy. Cacao is used in many spiritual rituals, including in this Temazcal.
-Strip down to your bathing suit or comfortable clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and very, very sweaty.
-Let your guard down and leave it at the door. Enter the Temazcal. Prepare for a one-of-a-kind experience that will utilize every one of your senses. Get into it. Feel it. Surprise yourself.
-Emerge from the Temazcal into the bright sun and pleasant temperature of the outside world. Maybe feeling like a new person.
-Take a quick spritz in the cold outdoor shower.
-Lay on a straw mat on the grass, drinking lemongrass tea and watching butterflies flit by. Keep quiet and still, hold onto and process all that good good you just got. Feel like a million bucks.
-Leave feeling happy, at peace, exhausted.
To read more about this Airbnb experience (or to book) click here: Prehispanic Shaman Renewal – Airbnb
That sums up my two experiences doing Temazcal in Mexico. If I haven’t sold you by now, I don’t know what will. I plan on doing Temazcal every single time I step foot in Mexico, and I’m very interested in finding other places in South and Central America to do it too. Now, onto some need-to-know information.
Where can I do Temazcal in Mexico?
Temazcal can be found all over Mexico (and in other countries, like Guatemala and Nicaragua, as well.)
I have done Temazcal in Tepoztlán, one of the famous Pueblos Mágicos in central Mexico, about two hours South of Mexico City, as well as in a sort of quiet natural Oasis called Ectagono within the bounds of bustling Mexico City.
Doing Temazcal when visiting Tepoztlán is a must. It is one of the things the town is most famous for—that, the climb up a million or so stairs to the top of the mountain overlooking the town, and the Saturday market in which you can buy food, clothing, souvenirs, and all the XL Micheladas you can handle. Because Temazcal is such a popular thing to do in Tepoztlán, there are many, many options in town of where to get your Temazcal fix. The Temazcal experiences will range from upscale spas to a backyard of someone’s home. We went with the latter option after checking out numerous Temazcal locations and comparing schedules and prices. We ended up getting a fantastic deal on a private Temazcal experience followed by massage
I wish I could remember the name of the Temazcal place in Tepoztlán, but sadly I cannot. What I do know is it was not a fancy spa or a crowded group experience. The intimate backyard Temazcal ceremony was quiet, chill, and absolutely perfect. I’m so glad that’s the feel we went with. Comparison shop while you’re in Tepoztlán, and find what setting is the best fit for you.
The second Temazcal experience I had was in Mexico City through an Airbnb experience. After my first time in Tepoztlán—where Temazcal is THE thing to do—I had low expectations that a Temazcal ceremony in Mexico City could live up to the hype. And one listed on Airbnb, at that. I’m happy to say (since I don’t say it very often) that I was wrong. It was AMaZiNG. Luis was an exceptional guide. And the reviewers—who gave suspiciously positive feedback—were right.
You can book the Mexico City Temazcal Experience HERE on Airbnb.
Other Parts of Mexico:
Sadly, I do not have a ton of experience with Temazcal in other parts of Mexico as most of my time was spent in central and southern Mexico. I was not able to find a solid resource with a list of Temazcal locations, but it was easy enough to google “Temazcal Oaxaca” or “Temazcal Mazatlan” or “Temazcal Merida” and find plenty of options. Wherever your Mexico travels take you, you should be sure to look for a Temazcal location nearby. And if it is a bit of a trek to get to, I assure you it will be worth it.
Tepoztlán is one of the best places to do Temazcal.
And Mexico City's not so bad, either.
Things to know before doing Temazcal
Don’t drink alcohol beforehand.
I did the first time and felt nauseated and light headed for the first bit of the ceremony. I was able to power through it, but I did consider jumping ship when the heat got hot. Even if you don’t make yourself sick, you might miss out on some of the good, good healing powers of the Temazcal. Save the drankin’ for another day.
If you are doing Temazcal in Mexico—or anywhere else for that matter—you are about to lose a lot of water. You are about to sweat a LOT. It is super important to hydrate both before and after your temazcal ceremony.
Don’t wear your favorite clothes.
Some Temazcal experiences (mostly the private ones) will be best undertaken in the buff or very close to it. We sometimes forget in our various spiritual journeys and intellectual pursuits just how closely the body is connected to our minds and our spirit. The Temazcal ceremony is a potent reminder of this fact as your body is a major part of the ceremony. It only makes sense that doing it with as little as possible between you, and the heat, and the Temazcal would be preferable. That being said, not all Temazcal experiences are clothing-optional. For the Temazcal sessions done in groups, swimsuits are appropriate attire. And when choosing one, don’t go for the white option.
You’ll be sitting inside of a clay hut and sweating your tail off. You might be sitting on a straw mat, a stone bench, or the ground. In any case, it is not the place for an Instagram-worthy outfit or a new suit you can’t wait to show off.
It’s not magic—It’s what you make it.
Like most things in life, the Temazcal ceremony is what you make it. You have tremendous power over how you feel and the experiences you have. Don’t go into the Temazcal ceremony with preconceived notions, wanting to feel a specific thing, or thinking Pshhhhh ritual shmitual, this sht is wack. Entering the Temazcal in this frame of mind just might have you leaving disappointed.
If you leave yourself open to whatever happens, whatever feelings come up, whatever sensations you feel, to whatever the moment brings, then you will have an experience to treasure for the rest of your days. I *trea-sure* both Temazcal experiences I’ve had. It makes me warm and fuzzy to think about. Makes me think I should get my butt back over the border to do some more Temazcal in Mexico.
I know you’ll feel this too if you go into the Temazcal ceremony with an open mind and heart.
The heat inside the Temazcal is intense. I have used the word intense several times in this post for a reason. Yes, Temazcal is a beautiful experience, and yes, I recommend every person try it at least once. But it is not worth injury or ill-health to do it. If at any point you feel that the heat is too much, if you are dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, feeling faint, TELL YOUR GUIDE and exit the Temazcal. In both of my experiences with Temazcal in Mexico, the guides asked us several times if we were okay and if the heat was too much. But if for some reason your guide does not ask you, you must speak up about your needs if you are feeling unwell.
It doesn’t mean you’ll have to sit the whole thing out. Sometimes a bit of fresh outside air and a glass of water are all you need to feel okay getting back into the ceremony. If you do need to sit it out, take comfort that you at least got some of the healing benefits of the ceremony before you had to depart and enjoy the rest of your day. Sit in the quiet, meditate, sip tea. Stay in the Temazcal mojo even while outside of it.
Ending the experience in a hospital is not something anybody wants. Take care of yourself.
You should do Temazcal in Mexico. You should do Temazcal anytime you have the opportunity, no matter where you are.
Of all the experiences I have had in my 3+ months living and traveling in Mexico, those two Temazcal ceremonies are among the most memorable and valé la pena. Worth it. Worth the money, worth the time. If I had a four-day trip planned, I would have no problem dedicating an entire day to do a Temazcal ceremony. It is THAT good.
Just do it. And thank me later.
Hey you. Yes, you! Thanks for stopping by!
I’m Toni and I run the show here at A Wheel in the Sky. I hope you liked reading this post about Temazcal and that it will inspire you to do it yourself. Traveling to Mexico soon? Check out some of the posts below for trip ideas or to hear more about my 3-month stint traveling, living, and learning Spanish in Mexico. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider subscribing so we can be travel-pals!
Cheers! Hasta pronto!