View of Fraile Plaza in Jalpan de Serra
Jalpan de Serra is in the north of Querétaro. It is called the "heart of the Sierra Gorda" in part due to is geographic location in the city and the fact that it is the only city in the biosphere. Jalpan is closely surrounded by mountains, with cobblestone streets around the very center. Mornings frequently are foggy or cloudy, with the sun burn such off by midday. Ecotourism and tourism related to the five Franciscan monastery declared a World Heritage Site have recently become an important part of the economy. The Jalpan Dam has become important as a habitat for aquatic birds.
Xichú, in the state of Guanajuato, was founded in 1585 as a mining town, with the municipality containing a high elevation at Cerro El Descarado, at 2,400masl and a low elevation where the Santa María River and the Xoconoxtle meet at 826 masl, the lowest in the state. It has a population of over 11,000 people and although very few are indigenous, Huasteca influence is notable.
Zimapán is the largest city in the Hidalgo portion of the Sierra Gorda. Unlike other parts of the Sierra Gorda, this area has been dominated by the Otomi, with the Spanish city founded in 1522. It is primarily a mining center, extracting various metals and stones from the steep mountains that surround it. The municipality has a fairly significant number of indigenous language speakers; over 3,000 in a total population of about 34,000.