“Puebla de los Ángeles”, “Angelópolis”, “City of Angels”
Our third place we visit in our tour while in Mexico take us to another of the must sees places the country has to offer. It is in fact, two cities right next to each other, the smallest volcano in the world, and the largest pyramid in volume in the world. Plenty to see and do, ideally on a two day visit although if time is your limitation a well planned one day visit is enough as it was in our case.
Both cities, but specially Puebla (4th largest city in Mexico), do follow the usual orthogonal street planning with a central square, usually named Zocalo, where the cathedral and city hall buildings are located. From all the cities we visited, plus the many villages we passed by while on buses, this was repeated on and on. Having such city planning, it is almost impossible to get at any point lost.
The best way we discovered to visit cities following this pattern, but also hosting many historical buildings and sights all around the central streets off the Zocalo is by doing spirals or zig zags. Both ways are quite self explained.
Plan for Puebla most of the time. There is really a lot to see. It is full of colonial buildings everywhere and the Talavera tiles adorning many of the houses gives a special feeling about the place. Something unique you don’t see elsewhere in Mexico, only some buildings here and there but not so many in one place.
Back when I was looking for information and planning this trip, I only got to know of Cholula (obviously apart from the sauce) because of my research. The largest pyramid by volume in the world came straight to my attention and it is then when I knew I wanted to get there. It was not long either until I found that between both cities is the smallest volcano in the world. The route for the day was very clear then. I absolutely recommend you to follow my steps and include in your visit those three places or you will regret if not afterwards.
Moving onto next subject, food. We ate here like nowhere else in Mexico. Very big portions, great quality and really good prices. You must try Mole Poblano, a sauce containing chillies and chocolate among others spices and mostly served with turkey. Other great dish is Chiles en Nogada, this is mince meat with spices and fruits inside a poblano chile topped with walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.
Thanks that I try to check in using Foursquare if WiFi available at the places I go, now I can check back and retrieve the name and address of the restaurant we had out great lunch. Totally recommended. El Meson de Don Pancho, on Calle 12 Poniente 301B. Order the Platon Poblano and you will get a mix of various Puebla dishes, but be aware this is for 2 people even they do not specify this in their menu. It is huge! I could not imagine a single person eating that all.
For more information about Puebla, check Wikipedia and Wikitravel websites, as for Cholula this Wikipedia and Wikitravel. Mexico’s currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN, MEX$ or $). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Puebla:
- Zocalo/City Centre Main historic colonial area. UNESCO heritage site.
-Cathedral Built between 1575 and 1640, has two of the tallest church towers in Mexico.
-Municipal Palace and Portal Hidalgo It’s the City Hall.
-Palafoxiana Library Built in 1773. 1st library in the Americas and the only one to survive today. Next to Cathedral.
-Hose of the Dean Is the oldest house in Puebla from 1580, next to Cathedral.
-Church of the Company and Carolinian Building In Calle 4 Sur.
-Church of Santo Domingo North of Zocalo.
-Church of San Cristobal In 5 de Mayo.
-Casa de Alfeñique Named for the intricate mortar work that covers its façade, (alfeñique is a kind of sugar and almond candy). Calle Norte with Avenida 4, north-east of Zocalo.
-Theatre In Calle Norte and Avenida 6, north-east of Zocalo.
-Church and Monastery of San Francisco Next to the Theatre.
-Fountain of the China Poblana In Heroes de 5 de Mayo, made of cantera stone and Talavera tile.
- Uriarte Talavera workshop Ceramic tiles and pottery was introduced in 1550 using the knowledge of Talavera de la Reina in Spain. This workshop can be visited, located in Avenida 4 Poniente 911 con Calle 11. (Direction west of Zocalo).
- Cuexcomate Is the world’s smallest volcano, located on a square halfway between Puebla and Cholula. For 10Mex$ you can go down inside.
What to see and do in Cholula:
- Tlachihualtepetl The largest pyramid in the word by volume and world’s largest monument. Only a small part has been excavated and exposed to public. The Spanish church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is on the top.
- Popocatepetl Volcano You get the best views of it, the city of Cholula and beyond from the church on top of Tlachihualtepetl.
- Zocalo Also named Plaza de la Concordia It’s the historical centre where to find the cathedral, churches and the colonial houses.
Coming from Mexico City is easy by bus. Those depart from from TAPO Bus Station (Terminal de Oriente), just across from the metro station of San Lazaro.
Different companies do the route, among them ADO, personally the best bus company to travel in Mexico. Another company is Extrella Roja but those buses do not have toilet and do more stops along the way. The journey time is less than 2 hours, but expect on the return to be longer because of the traffic.
The cost for ADO for a return is around 328 Mex$, while the Estrella Roja is 260 Mex$.
Once you arrive to Puebla Bus Terminal, you will need to get a taxi to the city centre. Be aware they do not have taximeters hence negotiate before. Usually it’s 40Mex$ for short distances. Within Puebla centre you do not need any further public transportation since distance are small and sights located one after another.
As for how to get to Cuexcomate and Cholula, the best you can do is get a taxi to drive you to both places, wait for you, and make your return in the same taxi to the Puebla Bus Station. Negotiate a price and save yourself from the hassle of getting public transportation. You will loose hours trying to move while for few Dollars or Pesos you have the comfort on being driven door to door. As a guideline for you, we paid 20 USD for 2 people. 10 each was great for having the driver with us and waiting for us all the time we needed.
We cannot recommend any place to sleep as we were on a day return trip from Mexico City where our base was. The good point is that you should not worry at all in finding a good place. There are plenty of hotels, mostly family run business in nice colonial houses. Those, from the experience we had in other cities, were perfect, clean, comfortable at a great cost. A good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, Hotels Click, LateRooms or Ebookers.