Puebla is a state in Central Mexico with scenic mountain landscapes dotted with snow-capped peaks and a few smoking volcanoes. Several important archaeological sites are in the state, including the great pyramid at Cholula. Puebla was the historic home of a number of indigenous cultures including the Totonac and the Otomi. With its proximity to Mexico City, Puebla makes for an easy side trip or weekend destination and has 10 charming colonial era towns that have been designated as Pueblos Mágicos.
- 1 Puebla — the state capital is rich in history and cultural tradition, it is surrounded by volcanoes and snow-capped mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 2 Atlixco — this Pueblo Mágico is famous for its large ornamental flower arrangements and its yearly celebration of El Huey Atlixcayotl.
- 3 Chignahuapan - ridiculously scenic small town with good food and a museum dedicated to the axolotl
- 4 Chipilo — a town that retains the culture and language of the immigrants from Veneto, Italy, who settled here in the late 1800s
- 5 Cholula — the site of the Great Pyramid of Cholulawhich is the largest pyramid on a platform in the world
- 6 Cuetzalan - highland colonial city with nearby Totonac archaeological ruins, waterfalls, and a huge cave system
- 7 Pahuatlá - quaint mountain village in northwest Puebla
- 8 Tehuacán — known for hosting many festivals that celebrate traditions and costumes from the ancient native peoples
- 9 Xicotepec — small mountain town in the center of Puebla's coffee growing region
- 10 Zacatlán — scenic small town known for its native heritage and its apple orchards
Other destinations edit
- 1 Iztacchuatl-Popocateptl National Park — Home to the active volcano Popocatépetl; the second-highest mountain peak in Mexico, and its sister volcano, Iztacchuatl.
- 2 La Malinche National Park - Popular volcano with easier hiking and climbing routes
- 3 Pico de Orizaba National Park — Home to a dormant volcano that is the highest volcano in North America.
- 4 Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve — world heritage listed biosphere reserve and IUCN world biodiversity hotspot in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains
The state is one of the most industrialized in the country, but most of its development is concentrated in Puebla and other cities. Many of its rural areas are very poor, forcing many to migrate away to places such as Mexico City and the United States.
Culturally, the state is home to the traditional dress known as china poblana, mole poblano, active literary and arts scenes, and festivals such as Cinco de Mayo, Ritual of Quetzalcoatl, Day of the Dead celebrations (especially in Huaquechula) and Carnival (especially in Huejotzingo). It is home to five major indigenous groups: Nahuas, the Totonacs, the Mixtecs, the Popolocas and the Otomi, which can mostly be found in the far north and the far south of the state.
Get in edit
By plane edit
Puebla Airport (PBC IATA) is the largest airport in the state, though many parts are easily accessible by flights to Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX IATA) or Santa Lucia Airport (NLU IATA).
By bus edit
Many cities and towns in the state of Puebla have direct bus service to and from Mexico City. Most buses to Puebla leave Mexico City from the Taxqueña bus terminal. The biggest bus station in the state is the CAPU terminal in Puebla and the major bus company in the state is ADO.
- 1 Central Autobuses CAPU, Blvd Norte.
Get around edit
Buses are widely available and serve most cities and towns in the state. ADO is the largest bus operator, but a number of smaller companies often provide better or more frequent service on certain routes. Combis are also common on major routes. Taxis are widely used and are often the most convenient way to get to smaller towns.
The state has 2,600 historic buildings, antiques, bars and pottery workshops. The downtown of the capital is filled with churches, government buildings and large homes, built by indigenous hands for their Spanish overlords. This downtown was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Outside of the Puebla metropolitan area, the state promotes natural attractions such as the cacti of Zapotitlán, the 100-million-year-old fossils of Cantera Tlayùa in Tepexi de Rodríguez and smaller ones such as waterfalls, churches, caverns, archeological zones, former monasteries, traditional markets, fresh water springs, and lakes.
The early 16th-century monasteries on the slopes of Popocatepetl are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Archeological sites edit
Archeological sites include Cantona, a 12-km² (5 sq mi) site, in the north of the state between the municipalities of Tepehualco and Coyoaco. The site was occupied between the 7th and 11th centuries CE and reached its height at the time many other urban centers were falling. The site is filled with a large number of patios which measure 50 x 40 meters or larger.
Cholula was once a major Mesoamerican city with a multicultural population that was bound by a common religion based on the worship of Quetzalcoatl. The city was a pilgrimage site for the worship of this deity. Its architecture was complex and shows various foreign influences. Its height was reached between 100 and 900 CE along with Tula and Teotihuacan. The site is known for its Great Pyramid.
Tepexi el Viejo, southeast of the city of Puebla, was founded as the seat of one of the most important Popoloca dominions and control much of what is now the south of the state from 1200 to 1500 CE.
Unlike other sites in the state, Yohualichan was dominated by coastal groups, which eventually abandoned it in the face of incursions from peoples from the central highlands. The site was a ceremonial center which was probably dominant over other similar sites. Containing niched pyramids as well, it is related to the El Tajín site in Veracruz.
Tepatlaxco is located on the south side of the Totlqueme mountain. It is centered on a ceremonial center which has more than eight structures, surrounded by numerous smaller mounds. Much of the site was constructed into the mountain itself, causing it to blend in. In addition to the mountain, there are two large ravines to give the site added protection. The most important structure is named Mound A, which also shows the longest occupation. It measures nine meters high and 36 meters at its base.
Natural attractions edit
Natural attractions in the state include the Bosque Mesófilos de la Sierra Madre Oriental in the north of the state, Piedras Encimadas Valley, Iztacchuatl-Popocateptl National Park, La Malinche National Park, and the Pico de Orizaba National Park. The best-known wilderness area is the Izta-Popo National Park, which the state shares with neighboring State of Mexico. It is 55 km (34 mi) west of the state capital and the two often snow-covered volcanoes are easily visible from this area, and important to the state culturally. The park is an area protected by the federal government because of its biological diversity and considered to be the “lungs” of the area due to its forests. Access to the park, especially to the volcanoes themselves is more restricted than in the past due to past ecological damage. Even further restrictions are put into place when the Popocatepetl volcano is active. However, the park has numerous hiking and horse paths in the forests that cover the lower elevations. On the slopes, there are many small caves, which in pre-Hispanic times were often used for ceremonies.
The Sierra Madre Oriental, locally called the Sierra Norte, is a series of rugged mountains covered in abundant vegetation, which has had an isolating effect on the people here over the centuries. The Valle de Piedras Encimadas (Valley of the Stacked Stones) is near the town of Zacatlán. It is really a series of small valleys covering 400 hectares filled with conifer forest. The attraction here are the stone formations which resemble stones stacked one over the other which take on numerous forms. Some have been said to resemble objects such as dogs, elephants, human heads and monsters. Most of the area is only accessible by foot or horseback.
In the center of the state, just before the land rises to the north to form the Sierra Norte, there is an area filled with lakes, both with water and dry. The dry lakebeds contain water only during the rainy season, which runs from summer through fall. The two largest are Salado and Totocingo Lakes. The first is 7 km long and 2 km wide and the second is larger. The largest “wet” lakes are Laguna Preciosa, Laguna Quechulac, Laguna de Atexcac and Laguna de Aijojuca.
- Ruta de los Conventos del Popocatépetl — A challenging week long bicycle tour visiting the earliest 16th-century monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl. Along the way you‘ll cross two national parks, an active volcano, and more historical sites than any reasonable person would ever want to visit.
Towns throughout Puebla celebrate special dates with their own local festivals, including celebrations to honor the town's patron saint. The largest and most important events include the Day of the Dead in Huaquechula, the Carnival of Huijotzingo, Spring Equinox in Cantona, Fiesta de Santo Entierro y Feria de las Flores, the Fería del Café y el Huipil, the Huey Atlixcáyotl Festival, the Quetzalcoatl Ritual and of course, Cinco de Mayo (locally known as Battalla de Puebla), celebrated in the entire state.
Many of Mexico's most iconic foods trace their roots to the state of Puebla, including the complex, richly flavored sauce called mole and iconic chiles like the jalapeno. Other foods common to the state include atole with chili pepper (chileatole), spicy mole verde, barbacoa, chilate with chopped onion, cemitas, cecina, guacamole with lime, and mole de caderas or mole espinazo. Many of these are found in the Sierra Mixteca region. The state is best known for cemitas, mole poblano, chiles en nogada and chalupas.
The cemita is a kind of sandwich on a roll, related to the torta, particularly popular in Mexico City and the pambazo, which is of French origin and popular in several areas in central Mexico. The cemitas were prepared at home and filled with potatoes, beans and nopal cactus and eaten by the lower classes. Later, an establishment in the Mercado Victoria market began to sell them to the public filled with meat from bull's feet with a vinaigrette, herbs, onions and chili peppers. This new filling was a hit and eventually this and other variations became a staple in many markets and popular eateries. Today, many varieties exist but all are prepared using the same type of bread.
The best-known mole is named after the city of Puebla, mole poblano. Many food writers and gourmets consider one particular dish, the famous turkey in mole poblano, which contains chocolate, to represent the pinnacle of the Mexican cooking tradition.
According to the legend of chiles en nogada, there were three sisters from the city of Puebla who were in Mexico City. When the Army of the Three Guarantees entered the capital at the end of the Mexican War of Independence, they were feted by many. At one of these parties, the three sisters fell in love with three of the army's officers. Soon after, Agustín de Iturbide himself was set to visit the city of Puebla. Remembering the sisters, the soon-to-be emperor wanted to visit them. Wanting to impress Iturbide but not knowing how to cook, the sisters turned to the nuns of the Santa Monica convent who were famous for their food. The nuns decided to invent a dish for the sisters, which would represent the three colors of the new Mexican flag. On the appointed day, the banquet was prepared with the dish now called chiles en nogada, which pleased Iturbide.
Chalupas are thick corn tortillas fried in lard then covered in red or green chili pepper sauce and topped with shredded meat and various ingredients such as shredded chicken, pork, chopped onions, chipotle peppers, red salsa or green salsa. Chalupas are popular in other areas of central Mexico but are considered a specialty of Puebla, where they are served from humble street carts to upscale restaurants.
Beer, tequila, and mezcal are sold everywhere and pulque is not uncommon, though it certainly isn't as popular as in other parts of Central Mexico. If you want to experience a true taste of regional Puebla spirits, there are three you will want to keep a watch for:
- Ancho Reyes - Rum made in Veracruz is the base for this spicy liqueur which has been made in Puebla for more than a century. The rum is infused with ancho chile peppers. Ancho are dried poblano chiles. Available in both a red and a green variety. Red is the original and uses ripe red chiles. Green is a more recent invention and uses younger, green chiles.
- Yolixpa - Liqueur that is said to date back to the time of the Aztecs. It is an aromatic liqueur based on rum, infused with a blend of aromatic botanicals (aka, herbs). The drink is popular in the town of Cuetzalan, where it is made using from 20 to 30 different herbs, including mint, lemon balm, sage, and wormwood. Modern versions are often sweetened with piloncillo, an unrefined brown sugar.
- Rompope - Spiked eggnog is called rompope throughout Latin America, and in Puebla, typically includes rum or brandy, in addition to the usual blend of milk, eggs, and cream flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg. Pueblan tradition holds that the first rompopes in the new world were made in the 1600s in Puebla by the Santa Clarita nuns. And who ever said nuns don't know how to have a good time...
Stay safe edit
Puebla is one of the safer states in Mexico and you should have no problem exploring it as long as you use common sense: keep your belongings secured, don't flaunt cash or valuables, and don't talk smack.