If you find yourself in Puebla, Mexico with a day or afternoon to spare, consider taking a short trip to the town of Atlixco, one of Puebla state’s 9 Pueblos Magicos.
Although the label Pueblo Magico (‘Magic Town’) is being tacked on every town left, right, and center these days, Atlixco really deserves its spot on the list. Everything about this town is purely magical; from its picture perfect center square to its teeny tiny church on the hill. Its quaint streets and charming atmosphere will make you fall in love…so bring a date and let the sparks fly!
From Puebla, Atlixco is a quick 20-30 minute drive (tip: make it 30 and don’t risk getting caught by the various fotomultas along the way!). You’ll have to pay one toll fare to get out of Puebla and once on the way back, but it’s an affordable 30 pesos. You can also take the ‘ libre’ but the continuous speed bumps may make you lose your breakfast!
If you don’t plan on driving, you can take a cheap bus to Atlixco from the caseta in Puebla. Just get on any bus marked `casetas` and look for the ‘ORO’ office. Here you have two choices: Arco or Oro. It`s a short ride so either one is fine. Just get in the right line and you`re good to go!
Once you have arrived in Atlixco, here are a few suggestions of ways to spend your day:
- Walk through the greenhouse
- Have a coffee in the main square (Zocalo)
- Have a drink in a trendy bar ( try close to the greenhouses, or in the center)
- Climb to the church
- Check out the nearby waterfall
Stop and Smell the Roses!
Atlixco is known for its flowers (hence named Atlixco de las Flores) and flower-lovers (and plain old` lovers!) will enjoy a walk through the town’s many greenhouses, located on Heroes 5 de Mayo. A stroll in this part of town will allow you to enjoy the true essence (and aroma!) of Atlixco. My personal favorite are the bugambilias but buds of every shape, size, and color are sure to be found here!
If you are visiting at holiday time (Day of the Dead, Easter) you can also enjoy the flowers in the Zocalo. On these occasions, you will find a large display of flowers set out in patterns, which you can see by walking on a raised platform above the square. It really is quite unique, and definitely worth a visit! Christmastime is also quite like a fairytale, with poinsettias set in every corner and icicle lights adorning every tree.
Making the Climb
As you head into Atlixco, you will see one of the town’s main features: its itty bitty church perfectly perched upon a central hill. If you have seen the Santuario de Los Remedios atop Cholula’s Great Pyramid then this church may damper in comparison, but trust me it is worth a visit. The view from the top is spectacular and the climb is a little steeper–giving you all the more satisfaction upon reaching the top. To get here from the Zocalo follow Avenida Hidalgo until you hit the Exconvento de San Francisco. If walking, cut behind the church and follow the street up. If driving, continue around and then to your left. Whatever you do, do NOT go down Circunvalacion Xochiquetza, or else you may never come back with your sanity intact! What I mean by this is, there are various houses built into the hill, and the streets that reach them are very narrow and hard to maneuver between. How Atlixquenses get home every day without dropping to an untimely demise is beyond me!
Ok, so once you’ve made it to the parking lot, start climbing! There are various forks in the road, but all lead to the same place, so choose one and move on up! Although the church is most often closed, you can enjoy a great view of the surrounding volcanoes which lie just beyond Atlixco. If it`s a clear day, you may even see Popocatepetl piping out some steam.
Cool off and Chill out in San Juan Atlixco
If you’ve seen everything Atlixco has to offer but aren’t ready to head back to the big city, try your best to find the nearby waterfall in San Juan Atlixco. Armed with Google Maps and some basic Spanish you should be ok, but expect a couple wrong turns along the way! To get there from Atlixco you first need to find `Metepec` which is another little town about 10 minutes away. When you enter Metepec and see the Zocalo on your right, turn right at the corner and then left again at the T-stop. About 200 meters down you will turn right onto a small, windy road leading you up the hill. After this, it’s about 15 minutes along the road that you will see signs for the `cascada`. Trust me, the waterfall is worth the navigational troubles! At the base, you can relax and have a snack or drink or you can venture a bit up the little trail on the right side of the waterfall. There you can find a quiet spot to sit or even dip your toes in the edge of the stream, just be careful because the water is powerful!
Christmas and the Villa Iluminada
As an aside, if you happen to be in Puebla at Christmastime you have even more reason to set off to Atlixco as this in the time of the town’s annual Villa Iluminada. Basically, the entire center is decorated with lights, displays, and decorations. Luckily, the Mexican Christmas season starts early and ends late so you can enjoy this from the end of November until the 6th of January every year.
Arriving in Atlixco, head to the Zocalo and start wandering the streets from there. You’re not likely to get lost as long as you follow the lights! Along your walk, you’ll find light displays, typical snacks, a mini market, and even a little fair ground as well! If you’d like a short break to bask in the glow of the lights, I recommend stopping for a hot chocolate or cappuccino at the cafe found smack dab in the center of the Zocalo. You’ll feel like you’re in an old-time movie watching lovers walking hand in hand bathed in the warm glow of the lit up trees and the soft red of the square’s many poinsettias. Finally, don’t forget to stop by the Government building (right beside the cathedral) and see the enormous and vivid pinata display. You can even buy one as a souvenir if you’d like.
Hopefully this article will inspire you to check out the beautiful flowers, waterfall, and small-town charm of Atlixco, Puebla!