Top Five Attractions in Cholula, Mexico
April 3, 2019
by Nico Pedraza
If you want to dive deep into Mexican culture, and history, visit Cholula, —a small town which has gained the esteemed title of pueblo magico— located in the region that was once home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations. Cholula reflects an indigenous legacy, while also containing a rich colonial heritage. This picturesque town stands out as an important cultural center of Mexico for its puzzling Mesoamerican architectural remains, awe-inspiring pyramid, delicious Poblano dishes and drinks, and a strong sense of mestizo culture identity.
Located at only 7 kilometers west of the state’s capital, the lesser-known pueblo contains enormous cultural and historical significance. Cholula houses the largest pyramid in the world, and oldest in Mesoamerica, under what seems to be a nature-made hill, topped by a 16th-century Catholic church. This sole structure is in itself already a perfect display of the Mexican essence: a mixture of pre-Columbian culture and Spanish colonial influence. The sight of the bright-yellow-colored chappell upon a hill dominates Cholula’s skyline, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Cholula also offers a unique array of mestizo food, indigenous snacks, and pre-Hispanic drinks that make it a wonderful foodie destination.
Learn more about the best that Cholula has to offer with this list of the top five attractions in the lovely Puebla pueblo.
1. Walk around Cholula’s ruins
Cholula’s archeological site is massive, and its pyramid, the Tlachihualtepetl (which means man-made mountain in Nahuatl), is actually the largest temple in the world. Besides this incredible structure, there’s also an open field with a self-guided tour through the pyramid’s south and west ceremonial grounds, and 280 meters of underground tunnels. You may access the pyramid and church atop for free and is available by foot; only about a ten-minute walk (more like a hike!), of long stairs that start downtown, at the pyramid plaza. The hill is easy to spot since it’s the highest point in town, and there are signs to access the main stairs. The open-field ceremonial grounds and underground tunnels have an entrance fee of $70 Mexican pesos (as of 2019, about $3.5 USD), they are self-guided and have informative signs in Spanish and English throughout the way. Altogether these sites will certainly transport you to Toltec times and invite you to know more about Mexico’s history before the Spanish conquest.
2. Visit the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios
Besides its rich indigenous heritage, Cholula also has some colonial legacy, most notably its Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, a beautiful building that dates back to 1574 and is decorated with all the opulence of the time, including gold-plated interiors. The church is my second-favorite structure in Cholula, (only topped by the impotent pyramid underneath it), because of its breathtaking beauty. There is no entry fee to the church, though voluntary donations are welcomed. Apart from this impressive church, Cholula is also home to some of the state’s most colorful colonial streets and downtown square, which you will see from almost anywhere in the downtown area.
3. Have some Mole Poblano
Although all of Mexico is famous for its hybrid, flavor-rich gastronomy, the state of Puebla is particularly celebrated, in part because it was here where the acclaimed mole poblano was created. And yes, you may certainly try mole poblano all throughout the state of Puebla, but Cholula has less crowded restaurants and mercados, which provide a more pleasant dining experience.
Mole poblano is a delightful mixture of flavors that dates back to pre-hispanic times when it was offered to the gods as a gift. And we can certainly see why —the dish is exquisite. The deliciousness of this dish stems from its complexity: a paste made from mixing dried-out chilies, tomatoes, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, tortillas, and chocolate. These ingredients are traditional in Mexican cuisine, and the sophistication that goes into the process of mixing them reflects a culture that is based on indigenous practices and has evolved over time.
Mole Poblano is available at most traditional Mexican sit-down restaurants downtown; and at most fondas, which are restaurants that change their menu daily. My personal preference is to eat at a place with an established menu. Although sit-down restaurants might be a bit pricier than fondas, the quality and flavor are usually worth the higher price. Besides, the price difference is not huge, sit-down restaurants will have mole poblano for about $150 Mexican pesos, and fondas will offer it for about $115-125 MXN.
4. Eat a Bug!
Another great way to travel to the past through Cholula’s food is by trying some pre-Columbian snacks, particularly the chapulines. These bugs are a species of grasshoppers found all over south-central Mexico, and eaten in most of this region. Chapulines have a very distinctive taste: a rather sour flavor that could be attributed to the process of toasting them with garlic, salt, and lime. They are a great on-the-go snack because they are found on pretty much any street in downtown Cholula, and are quite affordable, ranging from $40-$50 Mexican pesos per 100gms of chapulines. Plus, they are a healthier alternative to fast food, as they are high on protein, and low on carbs and fat.
5. Try a pre-Hispanic Drink
Pulque and cacao are pre-Columbian drinks, that are characteristic of Cholula. Pulque is made with agave, through a fermentation process similar to the first steps of the elaboration of Tequila. Cacao is a watery, nutty, hot paste, made from the seed of cacao (the delicious root ingredient of Chocolate —which, by the way, is also a Nahuatl word!). These drinks are available in small stands and shops along the streets of the downtown area, or on the town’s mercado, which is located two blocks away from the main square. Apart from being delicious, these drinks are also cheap, costing about $60 MXN for a liter of pulque and $45 MXN for a cup of cacao.
Now that you know where to go and what to eat in Cholula, you’re ready to experience one of Mexico’s most charming towns!
Leave a Comment...
April 6, 2019
I love it , very amazing information , fun and very professional, the article made me go with my mind to the place and made me Saborit those delightful flavors, I really like to share this perfect information.
Thank you so much .
April 26, 2019
Muy claro y entretenido!