San Juan Parangaricutiro, Michoacán, Mexico
In 1943 a volcano called Paracutín erupted sending debris and ash over the surrounding villages. This must have been a bit of a shock, since the volcano emerged suddenly out of a level cornfield. The closest village of San Juan Parangaricutiro was hastily evacuated. Over the next 8 years lava flowed out of the volcano and completely covered the village although, thankfully, because of its evacuation, no lives were lost. The only building that wasn’t completely buried was the church. Its steeple juts up out of the hardened lava, telling the story of human-made construction defying nature.
Although technically abandoned, the Iglesia Parangaricutiro receives a steady flow of visitors to its altar which has been decorated by the locals. Many come to pray, but it is also open for visitors to explore.
The best way to get to the church is by walking or riding a horse. Horses can be hired very inexpensively, even when you include renting a horse for your guide to ride (otherwise he walks). The road only goes as far as the lava flow. Once there, you must dismount and go the rest of the way on foot. It is not an easy path, with plenty of rocks, crevices and other tripping hazards that make the approach dangerous especially for anyone who has a mobility challenge.
There is also a visitor’s center close to the village of Angahuan where you can read about the birth of the volcano, considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and view photographs taken over the years of the lava flows.
Latitude: 19º 32′ 1.26”
Longitude: -102º 14′ 50.08”