Puebla City

We just posted a tour story on an area of Mexico that you probably haven’t read much about: Puebla. The capital city is Mexico’s fourth-largest, but it only gets a trickle of foreign tourists. Once you head out of their to the “Pueblos Magicos” scattered around Puebla state, there are even fewer of them.

That’s not because of a lack of things to see and do though. The historic center in the capital is absolutely huge, as in 391 blocks containing 70 historic churches and more than 1,000 colonial-era buildings. You can roam from museums to restaurants to pottery shops for days and still only cover a fraction of it. Part of the joy here is just strolling the streets and admiring the buildings: many of them are covered in local tile.

Puebla Cathedral

Talavera tile is the main claim to fame for this city and it gets exported around the world. It’s also all over Mexico. If you’ve dined at a fine restaurant in Mexico or eaten at someone’s home, there’s a very good chance there was some talevera pottery on the table.

The other draw here is the poblano food, including the namesake mole poblano, a complex, slow-cooked, chocolaty sauce that’s usually put on chicken. We learned how to make this and a few other items at our Poblano cooking class, then got to eat our creations.

While many visitors will just have a night or two in Puebla on an itinerary also hitting Mexico City and Oaxaca, we came to dive deeper and headed up north to Cuetzalan. This is one of the original Pueblos Magicos (magical towns) in Mexico and remains one of the most deserving of the recognition. It’s perched on a steep hillside, filled with stone buildings and flagstone streets. Clouds roll in and out, vendors come from miles around to sell their wares, and it truly feels magical here while sitting in the square and taking it all in.

Cuetzalan street

There’s a lot to do and see in the area outside Cuetzalan too, from an ancient pyramid site to caverns to waterfalls swelled by frequent rain. This is one of those beautiful historic hill towns you expect to be thronged with tourists. Since it’s a few hours from the closest city and kind of a pain to get to, however, you probably won’t have a lot of competition when reserving a hotel room.

We finished up our trip with a visit to another magical town, Cholula, which combines a historic colonial center with a partially excavated pyramid that has the biggest base of any in the world. It’s the largest pyramid in the Americas no matter how you measure it, but most of it is under a thousand years of dirt and vegetation. You can go from one side of the base to the other through original tunnels, however. Not for the claustrophobic…

See our full feature story here: From Chalupas to Cuetzalan: Touring Puebla in Mexico.