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San Miguel Ameyalco, Mexico

La Escondida

A fairy garden in an old hotel hidden in La Marquesa forest. 

La Escondida, a fairy garden restaurant in La Marquesa forest, claims to be the most beautiful in Mexico, and this might just be true. 

Its story began in 1959 when Toluca was poised to become the tourism, cultural, and nightlife capital of Mexico. Don Eduardo purchased a piece of land near a river in between Toluca and Mexico City with the intention of building a restaurant-inn. The business’s beginnings were humble, just a little log cabin where he and his sister would host travelers. Eventually, he built a European-styled hotel across the riverbank, the Gran Hotel Austria. 

The 1960s proved that Toluca would not become a tourism hot spot after all. The hotel was usually vacant, and the restaurant was obscured from the road by the canyon it sat in. Rather than giving up, Don Eduardo leaned into his restaurant’s secrecy. He named it La Escondida, “The Hidden.”

He undertook a massive landscaping project, cultivating the riverbanks and the surrounding woods into a veritable wonderland. The cabin evolved into a wooden castle, flanked by balconies, bridges, and a shrub labyrinth. Topiary animals dotted the hillsides, accompanied by the ducks and geese that lived on the river. In the many nooks and crannies of the landscape, Eduardo tucked “magical people” and their homes. Statues of gnomes, trolls, and fairies with mischievous expressions are hidden around every corner, their houses, cottages, and castles perfectly crafted in miniature. At night, the miniatures were lighted so visitors could see the furniture inside.

Don Eduardo set up a gigantic chef statue by the side of the road to alert people to the restaurant, and La Escondida became a tourist attraction in its own right. The hotel still rarely housed guests, and the restaurant’s reputation was little more than decent, but people flocked from all over for the marvelous fairy gardens.

Little has changed at La Escondida. The vacant hotel now hosts events, and the restaurant still serves buffets of traditional Toluca cuisine, but the main draw is undoubtedly the gardens, where every detail is imbued with wonder and charm.

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