Puebla, Mexico: Surroundings
The ADO bus lines feature four hour, double-decker bus tours giving an overview of downtown Puebla and the nearby town of Cholula. Cholula is home to one of the most impressive churches in Mexico and the remains of Pirámide Tepanapa, the widest pyramid ever built. Today, the pyramid looks more like a hill than a man-made structure, due to neglect. Miles of tunnels branch inside the structure and the entrance is on the north side. Visitors can roam freely or hire a guide at the entrance. There is also a small museum on-site featuring a scaled-down model of the pyramid’s sections and ceramics from that time period. Atop the great structure stands a symbol of the Spanish Conquest – the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios. On sunny days the church offers a great view towards the city and the towering volcanoes nearby. Cholula’s Zócalo features three excellent churches, plenty of restaurants and shops, as well as the wonderful Museo de la Ciudad de Cholula, housed in a restored colonial building. The museum’s collections include jewelry and ceramics found at Pirámide Tepanapa and many colonial paintings and sculptures. Cholula’s outskirts have even more fantastic churches like Santa Maria Tonantzintla and San Francisco Acatepec.
Just 40km west of Puebla stand Mexico’s second and third largest peaks, Popocatepetl (at 5452m) and Iztaccíhuatl (at 5220m). Iztaccíhuatl is a craterless dormant volcano, while Popocatepetl is quite active and access to its summit has been restricted in the past decades. Climbing Iztaccíhuatl is possible but should only be attempted by experienced climbers. A guide is also recommended, since the ice-covered upper slopes are riddled with hidden crevices.
The regional capital of Tlaxcala and the nearby town of Cacaxtla are well maintained colonial towns featuring impressive churches and stunning plazas, surrounded by 18th century buildings. Shops throughout the two towns sell folk art objects, traditional rugs and colorful carnival masks. Museo Regional Tlaxcala has a good collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts and colonial paintings, while Museo de Artes y Tradiciones Populare presents regional costumes and masks as well as pulque samples (fermented beverage made from cacti). Cacaxtla is home to one of Mexico’s most impressive ancient ruins, containing wonderful murals, sculptures and a sacrificial altar. 2km from Cacaxtla are the much older ruins of Xochitécatl, featuring some exceptional pyramids.
Visitors to Puebla will most likely travel through Mexico City and should definitely spend some time exploring the country’s capital. Mexico City or Ciudad de Mexico and its surroundings offer numerous fantastic museums, archeological sites, an electric night scene and a good taste of Mexican culture, including traditional foods and frequent music and dance shows.