Have you ever visited a city that you didn’t expect to be very good?
But then you arrive…
And you fall in love with the place.
That’s what happened to me with Puebla.
Friends from Mexico urged me to go, so I added it to my Mexico itinerary.
Then just before leaving for Puebla, an American friend told me that it was an ugly and unsafe city.
Blogs and guidebooks weren’t any more inspiring than my friend was, and as far as using them to figure out what to do in Puebla, they were about as useless as a wooden frying pan.
However, by the end of my first day in Puebla, I loved the city. And when I finally had to leave, I didn’t want to go.
So, why is Puebla one of my favorite cities in Mexico and why do I think it’ll be one of yours too?
I think it’s all about knowing where to stay, what and where to eat, and what to see in Puebla. If you know this, you’ll uncover a gem of a city. In this article, I’ll tell you how to do all that as well as how to get to Puebla, navigate its bus station, and stay safe
Here are 20 things to do in Puebla that’ll help you discover what a beautiful city it is:
- Visit Puebla’s lively Zocalo
- Discover its unique and beautiful architecture along its pretty streets
- Explore Puebla’s cutest neighborhood at Alley of Frogs
- Take in the art and Talavera pottery in the Artist’s Quarter
- Shop for handicrafts at Parian Plaza
- Visit Puebla’s many museums: Museo Amporo, Museo del Alfenique, and Museo San Pedro de Arte
- Explore the galleries and take in a concert at the House of Culture
- Step into the oldest library in the Americas at Biblioteca Palafoxiana
- Be in awe of the most uniquely designed churches in the world
- Sit back and relax on an affordable bus tour of the city
- Explore the city on foot with a free walking tour
- Eat THE best food in Mexico – I’m not exaggerating
- Roam Calle de Dulce for Puebla’s traditional sweets
- Go deeply into Puebla’s culture with a food tour
- See the largest pyramid in the world in Cholula
- Get a look at some of the few surviving ancient murals in Cacaxtla
- Wander through the ruins of Cantona and its 24 ballcourts
- Hike up some of Mexico’s tallest volcanoes
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Things to Do in Puebla: Central Historic District
I have to admit that when I was traveling by taxi from the bus station to my hotel, I thought my friend was right: Puebla is ugly. But once my taxi reached the central historical district, the city turned from an ugly frog into a handsome prince. After a day of exploring the area, I realized that this city is a hidden gem that more foreign travelers should discover.
Here are a few things you can do in Puebla’s Central Historic District:
1. Visit Zocalo de Puebla – Central Plaza
The number 1 thing to do when you arrive in Puebla is to visit the heart and soul of the city: the Zocalo. This is the cultural and historic center of the city. Compared to Zocalo’s in other cities, Puebla’s is the most festive I’ve been to. It’s got the usual tree-lined park with a fountain in the middle and with streets and a cathedral wrapping themselves around the park. But what makes the atmosphere so lively is how small and compact it is and how much the sidewalks are filled with outdoor restaurants. Visit especially in the evening.
The Zocalo was the first block to be constructed in Puebla and from there all the other roads radiated outward. It was originally rectangular, but because the shape was considered ugly, it was changed to a square. Until the eighteenth century, it was the main market of the city. Surprisingly, bullfights were also held in the central plaza from 1566 to 1722.
2. Discover the beautiful architecture of Puebla
After you’ve made your rounds of the Zocalo, wander along the streets radiating out from the park. This is where you’ll find some of Puebla’s most beautiful architecture.
2.1 Puebla’s architectural style
Talavera Tiles: Puebla is famous for decorating the exteriors and interiors of its buildings with blue, green, yellow, and orange ceramic tiles called azulejos. The ceramic is the same material used in their Talavera pottery. If you’ve visited Portugal, you’re probably familiar with this architectural style as Lisbon is well-known for decorating its buildings with azulejos.
The other features that stood out for me was the intricate white stucco decorating their windows and doors against the building’s red brick.
2.2 My two favorite buildings
These are two of my favorite buildings. The one on the left is found right across from the Central Plaza in the Los Remedios restaurant on Avenida Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza (Google Maps) and the one on the right is a small art gallery called Canto de Los Angeles on Calle 7 Ote (Google Maps).
Here are some of my favorite streets where you can find some stunning architecture:
2.3 Calle 5 de Mayo
Starting at the corner of the Zocalo is Calle 5 de Mayo (Google Maps), a pedestrian-only street lined with trees, beautiful old buildings, shops, and street vendors selling everything from balloons to food to cell phone accessories.
Go in the evening when the food carts come out and the street lamps come on. This is when the street is at its liveliest.
Look above the first floor shops at the intricately carved decorations and European-inspired balconies and street lamps.
2.4 Calle la Dulce / Avenida 6 Ote
Another of my favorite streets is the colorful Avenida 6 Ote (Google Maps), also known as Calle la Dulce (the Street of Sweets).
Besides the beautiful and colorful buildings, the street is famous for its many stores selling traditional Puebla sweets. Jump to my section on foodie things to do in Puebla to find out a good shop to buy some.
2.5 Calle 3 Ote
No, John Lennon never made it to Puebla. But he had one fan in the city who was so obsessed that he paid for the construction of a stone marker commemorating the legendary singer.
The other part of the street is lined with neon bright pink, blue, yellow buildings.
2.6 Calle 6 Norte and Avenida 5 Ote
Calle 6 Norte (Google Maps) has some interesting architecture as well as a lot of shops selling Talavera pottery.
Make sure to check out the facade of Museo del Alfenique on the corner of Calle 6 Norte and Ave 5 Ote.
2.7 Calle 4 Sur
Calle 4 Sur (Google Maps) goes right in front of Templo de la Compania de Jesus and the Plaza de Democracia. It’s got some beautiful buildings and a church that will stop you in your tracks.
3. Alley of the Frogs (Callejon del Sapo)
Alley of the Frogs (Google Maps) was made for Instagram. I couldn’t get enough of the colorful buildings, the cobble-stoned streets, and the charming cafes and art galleries.
On Saturdays, the street I suspect becomes even more charming when it is closed off for an antique market.
There are two parts to Alley of the Frogs: one lined with vibrantly colorful buildings (above) and the other a pedestrian-only section (below).
Why is it called Alley of the Frogs?
Long ago, the nearby San Francisco River would flood and cover the area attracting frogs. Hence, the name Alley of Frogs.
4. Plaza Parian
If you’re looking for souvenirs and handicrafts, a good place to start is the outdoor market at Plaza Parian (Google Maps).
You can buy everything there from Talavera pottery to traditional candy to t-shirts.
At the start of the Plaza Parian is a young woman with a mobile food cart selling 4 taquitos for MXN$15 (US$.75). They’re very tasty.
5. Artist Quarter
The next fun area to explore is the Artist Quarter (Google Maps).
There’s a small plaza with a couple of statues. One is of three women (photo above) and another is of an artist and his easel.
The other interesting part is the tree-lined lane connecting the plaza to Parian Market. On one side are little artist studios where you’ll find artists painting and displays of their artwork.
The other side of the street has some restaurants and cafes.
Things to Do in Puebla: Museums and Historic Buildings
6. Museo Amparo
If you’re going to visit one museum in Puebla, make sure it’s Museo Amparo. This wonderfully eclectic museum has everything from Maya artifacts to colonial art to aerial photos of present-day Mexico.
The museum has an added bonus: a rooftop terrace with beautiful views of the Puebla skyline. In pre-COVID times, there was an outdoor restaurant on the terrace.
7. Museo del Alfenique
- OPEN: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Tu – Su
- COST: MXN$40
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Originally, the Alfenique museum was the home of a wealthy family. Today it’s a museum with displays on regional history and art. Unfortunately, the displays have no English explanations, so if you’re not fluent in Spanish, you won’t get much out of your visit. It’s too bad about this because Puebla has such a rich history.
Architecturally, though, the museum is stunningly beautiful. So even if you don’t enter, check out its exterior and take a peek at its courtyard.
If you’re a student or teacher, you get half price (from MXN$40 pesos to $20.
8. Museo San Pedro de Arte
- OPEN: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Tu – Su
- COST: MXN$40 (free on Su)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Museo San Pedro de Arte is one museum I’m kicking myself for missing during my time in Puebla. The photos look cool and it looks like an interesting place to learn more of Puebla’s architecture and history.
9. House of Culture of Puebla / Casa de La Culturas
- OPEN: 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM (M-F); 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Sa and Su)
- COST: free
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Across the street from a side entrance to the Cathedral is the House of Culture of Puebla. It’s a cultural center for the people of Puebla.
The Center holds temporary exhibitions of contemporary and traditional art. Some of the contemporary paintings are worth checking out. You can watch dance performances and movies and listen to concerts at the cultural center as well.
This is also where you’ll find the Biblioteca Palafoxiana.
You can visit its Facebook page for info on upcoming exhibitions and cultural performances.
10. Biblioteca Palafoxiana
- OPEN: 10:00 AM- 6:00 PM (Tu – Su)
- COST: MXN$40; you might get a discount if you show your student or teacher ID; free to just look and take a photo from the outside
- LOCATION: Google Maps
Inside the Cultural Center is the oldest public library in the Americas and the only remaining original library of the religious orders of Mexico. Called the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the library is definitely worth a visit. You can just peek in from the outside and take a photo for free or pay to enter and explore in more depth. I did the former.
In 1646, Bishop Palafox y Mendoza gave his personal library consisting of 5,000 books to the Colegio de San Juan y San Pedro. His stipulation was that the books he gave were to be made available to anyone who wanted to study and read them.
Over the years, other bishops, religious organizations, and private individuals donated their books to the Palafoxiana, helping it grow to over 40,000 books and rivaling those libraries of eighteenth-century Europe. The library sustained damage from earthquakes, but with the help of the World Monument Fund, the building has been restored and the interior renovated; preserving the city’s cultural heritage.
11. Churches of Puebla
I don’t usually get excited about church architecture as I do other buildings. But in Puebla, the churches have the most original and beautiful architectural design I’ve seen in the world. Their exteriors are at least worth checking out.
Here are five other churches that you should see.
11.1 Catedral de Puebla
Want to be impressed? Then walk through probably Mexico’s grandest and most imposing church—the Cathedral of Puebla (Google Maps). It feels more European than Latin American and more gothic than baroque with its dark nearly black stone exterior.
The church was originally supposed to be built in Mexico City, but because the ground there wasn’t hard and stable enough, the cathedral was moved to Puebla.
11.2 Templo de la Compania de Jesus
The Templo de la Compania de Jesus (Google Maps) is probably the easiest church to visit as it’s conveniently located between the Zocalo and the Alley of the Frogs.
I simply adore the exterior of the church. The bottom is this dark gothic-like stone, while the Baroque upper half resembles an elaborate wedding cake.
11.3 Capilla del Rosario, Templo de Santo Domingo
I sadly never got a chance to visit the Templo de Santo Domingo (Google Maps) and see the famous Capilla del Rosario.
From photos, the outside isn’t that special but the interior is the highlight, particularly the Capilla.
11.4 Exconvento de San Francisco de Puebla
I visited the Exconvento de San Francisco (Google Maps) while on the Free Walking Tour and I am glad I did. I probably wouldn’t have visited it on my own as it’s a bit out of the way.
However, one particular item inside the church is what it’s all about. The corpse of a most beloved Franciscan friar who helped many people especially the homeless is on display. Father Sebastian died in the sixteenth century and his corpse is still intact. It’s a ghoulish sight that is hard to look away from and forget.
11.5 Templo of Our Lady of Guadalupe
I came across Templo of our Lady of Guadalupe (Google Maps) as I was walking to the train station. I never, though, got a chance to enter.
However, the outside of the church is covered in Talavera tiles.
Things to do in Puebla: Tours
The bus tour and walking tour were the two most important things I did in Puebla. Without them, I wouldn’t have known about the city’s cool neighborhoods and streets because guide books and blogs don’t mention them.
I highly recommend doing the bus tour on the first day and the walking tour on the second or third day, or if you don’t have time, just do one but on the first day. They’re both great! Of course, with the walking tour, it does depend on whether your guide is any good.
12. Bus Tour of Puebla
- OPEN: all times of day
- COST: MXN$100 (US$5)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
You might not be a bus tour kind of person.
But because Puebla is so big and not much has been blogged about it and guide books don’t do it justice, the tour is a good thing to do on your first day. It’ll introduce you to neighborhoods that you never thought of visiting before.
The tour is also reasonably priced at MXN$100 (US$5) and only an hour.
You can find double-decker buses parked along Avenida 2 Sur beside the Central Plaza. There are three or four bus companies that offer bus tours of Puebla.
We also got to go to the Historic Fort area, which I never would have visited since it’s quite far away from the historic center.
Unfortunately, there were no English audio guides. Only Spanish.
13. “Free” Walking Tour
- OPEN: 11:00 am (2 to 3 hours)
- COST: tip your guide at the end (don’t be cheap!)
- CONTACT INFO: Facebook or freetour.com
The best thing to do in any Mexican city is to do the “free” walking tour. Puebla has one that is excellent. You’ll get a tour of almost all the streets I mentioned above plus a few other places most tourists don’t go to. Another added bonus is that you get to learn about the history and contemporary culture of the city.
I love that my guide pointed out some works of art located along the streets that I had missed, including this wonderful map of old Puebla made out of Talavera tiles. I wish I remembered the street it was on.
We visited the oldest bakery in Puebla and a place that made tortillas.
Our guide took us to Paseo del rio San Francisco, an area of abandoned textile factories that was rescued and renovated and turned into a mall, convention center, office space, hotels, restaurants, shops, art galleries, and a park.
We also visited the Artist Quarter, the Alley of the Frogs, and some other neighborhoods I would never have visited on my own.
My tour lasted nearly 3 hours.
You can find out about the tour by visiting their Facebook page. Make sure to contact them via Facebook messenger to know when and where to meet the guide. Another way to book the Puebla walking tour is through freetour.com.
Things to do in Puebla: Food
If you are one of those people, who travel to eat, then you’ll love Puebla. Spend your time trying as many of its specialties as you can and sampling some of its famous sweets.
14. Eat the Best Food in Mexico
But Puebla has THE best food in Mexico.
If it’s any consolation, you are second.
The best thing to do in Puebla is to eat and eat and eat.
Here is a list of 6 must-try dishes, all invented in Puebla. I’ve also included the restaurants I ate them at, which were all recommended to me by locals.
14.1. Chiles en Nogada
I firmly believe that there is a best Mexican dish. The winner would be chiles en nogada.
Eating chiles en nogada in Puebla is special because this is where the dish originated. Unfortunately, you can only eat chiles en nogada in August and September as it’s eaten in celebration of Mexican independence. But luckily, during those months you can find it at almost every restaurant.
Restaurants: El Mural Puebla, Santa Clara, and La Mexicana
14.2. mole poblano
Mole poblano consists of braised meat (usually chicken) covered in a rich dark sauce made with over 30 ingredients. The most special one is chocolate.
Many Americans think that mole comes from Oaxaca. But actually, it originated in Puebla.
The mole in Puebla is different from that of Oaxaca. Pueblo’s flavors are more complex and the chocolate taste is more apparent than Oaxaca’s. I prefer Puebla mole.
Restaurants: El Mural Puebla, Santa Clara, and La Mexicana
4.3 Enchilada tres mole
There are many different flavors of mole. I’ve heard 7 or 8 but I’ve also been told the number is infinite. In fact, mole is just another word for “sauce”.
The easiest way to try several different moles at once is to order enchilada tres mole. You’ll get 3 enchiladas, each one covered in a different mole: rojo (red), poblano (dark brown), and verde (green).
Restaurants: El Mural Puebla, Santa Clara, and La Mexicana
Before you eat a cemita, make sure you are starving because these sandwiches are huge!
The name, cemita, comes from the same name of the sesame-seed covering the bun. The seeds are an essential ingredient in the sandwich. Inside, the ingredients are pretty standard: fried breaded cutlet (I ordered breaded pork called Milanesa), fresh Oaxacan cheese, avocado, onion, jalapenos, and the herb, papalo (sort of like cilantro). Mine came with tomatoes and lettuce as well, but I’ve read that those ingredients aren’t traditional.
For more info on this sandwich, read this terrific article on how a writer at Serious Eats fell in love with cemitas.
14.5 Tacos Arabes
Do you like Middle Eastern food? Turkish food? Greek food? Lebanese food?
then you’ll love tacos arabes.
Just like the name suggests, tacos arabes are Arab tacos.
They’re a cross between a taco and a schwarma.
The story goes that Middle Eastern immigrants (either Lebanese or Iraqi) brought their schwarma making tools, ingredients, and skills with them when they settled in Puebla. The spit-roasted lamb of the Middle East was replaced with spit-roasted pork, but the pita bread and the marinated spices of cumin, oregano, and onions remained.
When I ate my taco arabes, I was given a sour cream/yogurt sauce with a touch of olive oil instead of the typical Mexican salsa. I almost thought I was back in Greece.
Supposedly, tacos el pastor comes from tacos arabes. The story goes that the Chilangos (people of Mexico City) took the tacos arabes’ idea of roasting the meat on spits and adapted the Puebla tacos even further to fit Mexican tastes, thus inventing tacos el pastor.
Restaurant: Tacos Arabes Bagdad Centro (Google Maps)
14.6 Chalupas Poblanas
You know the restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally, played by Meg Ryan, pretended she was having an orgasm to show Harry, played by Billy Crystal, how easy it was for women to fool men.
Well, I swear, I had a real food orgasm when I first ate a Puebla-style chalupa.
These things have so much flavor in them that even sitting here miles away from Puebla I can still recall what they tasted like.
Originating in Puebla, Chalupa poblanos are small fried masa tortillas covered first in salsa (red or green) and then topped with shredded chicken, pork, or chorizo. You can also add cheese, lettuce, onions, etc.
Restaurant: Cemitas y Tortas La Poblanita (Google Maps)
15. Sample Puebla’s Famous Sweets
Puebla is so famous for its sweets that it actually has a street named Calle de la Dulce (Street of Sweets). Near the main square, the street is lined with shops selling the city’s traditional candies, cookies, and anything with sugar in it.
How did Puebla become famous for its sweets?
There are two stories my free walking tour guide told me, but let’s go with the second one because that’s the one based on research by a historian. Nuns from the Convent of Santa Catalina had a recipe for some sweets. They taught the local mestizos how to make, them who then sold the sugary treats outside their churches after mass.
The three most traditional sweets are camotes, jamoncillo de pepita, and tortitas de Santa Clara. But I have to say my favorite is Cocao de con leche.
Shop: Dulceria Talavera (Google Maps)
16. Food Tour
I love food tours and although I didn’t go on one while in Puebla (I had just been on an expensive one in Oaxaca). I do highly recommend doing one if you have the time while you’re in Puebla. I wish I had.
One highly recommended tour is the Taste of Puebla tour with Eat Mexico Culinary Tours.
Day Trips from Puebla
Cholula is a city of 118,000 people located 40 minutes by train from Puebla. There are a few good things to do in Cholula, so I highly recommend adding it to your Puebla itinerary.
17.1 The Great Pyramid of Cholula
My primary purpose in visiting Puebla was to see the great pyramid of Cholula and the church that stands on top of it.
Cholula is the largest pyramid by volume in the world today. It’s 177 feet (54 meters) high and almost 45 acres (18 hectares) wide. The Pyramids of Giza are taller, but Cholula is wider.
Church of Our Lady of Remedies
When you arrive at Cholula, the first thing you’re going to see is an orangish or yellowish-colored (depending on the light) church sitting on top of a hill covered in vegetation.
This is the Church of Our Lady of Remedies (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios), which was built in the 1600s. You can get to the church by walking up a road that wraps around the hill.
So, where’s the pyramid?
The pyramid lies under the trees, bushes, and grass that cover the hill. It is the actual “hill”, but the only part of the pyramid that you can see is its base.
Dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl, the pyramid was first constructed in 200 BCE and over the next 1700 years whoever dominated Cholula added another layer to it so that it became bigger and bigger. There are supposedly four layers under the vegetation. You can see a model of the different layers in the on-site museum.
By the time the Spaniards came, though, the pyramid was so overgrown with vegetation that they thought it was a hill. They liked the idea of building a church that dominated the town, so they built it on top of the hill.
The highlight of a visit to Cholula, though, is a series of tunnels under the pyramid. They were originally built by archaeologists to research the structure. You can explore the tunnels with or without a guide.
There is also a small museum on-site with a miniature replica of Cholula showing the different layers of the pyramid.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t enter the church, the pyramid, the museum, or the tunnels when I was there in September 2021. At that time, both structures were open only on weekends (COVID) and I visited on the weekday.
17.2 Regional Museum of Cholula
- OPEN: 9:30 – 5:00 pm (Tu- Su); closed on M.
- COST: MXN$40 (US$2)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
The Regional Museum of Cholula has a little surprise inside that you don’t want to miss! Besides the usual ancient and colonial artifacts, it’s got the coolest, wildest, and most fantastic alebrije I’ve ever seen in all of Mexico.
Alebrije are statues made of wood depicting colorful animals and mythical creatures (the original ones were made of paper). The ones in this museum range from the usual elegant animals (iguanas, armadillos, rabbits, etc.) to life-sized skeletons, dragons, monsters, and fantastical creatures.
17.3 Downtown Cholula
Before leaving Cholula, try to stop downtown near the main Plaza to see the Convento de San Gabriel Arcangel and Capilla Real de Naturales.
The exterior of the convent is kind of architecturally cool but the interior is not all that interesting. However, the interior of the Capilla is quite unique, and you should definitely take a look inside. It is made up of 49 small domes kind of like a mosque.
Getting to Cholula:
I got to Cholula via the Puebla-Cholula Tourist Train. This comfortable and modern train would take passengers for FREE directly to a station across from the pyramid.
Let me just emphasize that word again: FREE.
Unfortunately, the train wasn’t generating enough revenue, so it is currently no longer running.
In case, the-powers-that-be do decide to resume the train, here is the schedule:
From Monday to Friday, the train left Puebla at 7:00 am, 8:30 am, and 4:50 pm and on Saturday and Sunday, it left at 7:00 am, 7:45 am, 8:30 am, 9:15 am, 10 am, 3:15 pm, 4 pm, 4:45 pm, and 5:30 pm.
It took 40 minutes to get to Cholula.
The train left Cholula on Mondays to Fridays at 7:45 a.m., 12:20 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. It departed Cholula on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 7:45 am, 8:30 am, 9:15 am, 10 am, 3:15 pm, 4 pm, 4:45 pm, 5:30 pm and 6:15 pm
An alternative is to take an Uber to Cholula. It’s fast and relatively inexpensive given the fact that Cholula is far from the center. Expect to pay between MXN$100 and $200 (US$6 – $12).
18. Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl
- OPEN: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
- COST: MXN$75 (US$4)
- LOCATION: Google Maps
My biggest regret when visiting Puebla was not making it to 2 archaeological ruins: Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl. I was running out of time on my visa and there was a lack of information on how to get to the ruins. If you have made it to them, let me know what you think in the comment section below.
The capital of the Olmeca-Xicalanca people, Cacaxtla is famous for its vibrantly colorful murals. Few murals from ancient Meso-America have survived, so having a chance to see some in person is quite special.
Divided into two by a staircase, one Cacaxtla mural is 80 feet (26 meters) long and depicts 2 scenes of battle between 2 different ethnic groups, one of which is probably the Maya.
Other murals depict human figures from different cultures (Mixtecs, Maya, Teotihuacan).
Cacaxtla was at the height of its power from 650 to 950 AD and may have been responsible for the defeat of Cholula.
Xochitecatl is another set of ruins near Cacaxtla. The site has a very old history dating back to 800 BCE. From 350 BCE to 100 AD, it controlled a large area of western Tlaxcala state. The city was emptied upon the eruption of Mount Popocatapetl.
When Cacaxtla rose to power in the seventeenth century, Xochitecatl was inhabited again and used as a ceremonial center.
The site contains two plazas surrounded by three significant buildings: the Pyramid of Flowers, the Serpent Building, and the Platform of the Volcanoes.
Getting to Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl – From my research, this is what I found out. Atlas Obscura says to “go to the Centro de Autobuses Puebla (CAPU) bus terminal and take an Estrella Roja bus to Tlaxcala.” Then take a taxi to the archaeological sites, which should take 30 minutes.
Lonely Planet says to get a Flecha Azul bus from CAPU terminal to the town of Nativitas and then take a Zona Arqueologica” colectivo to the site.
According to Lonely Planet, the two sites are 2 kilometers from each other.
Another option is to go on a tour to Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl.
19. Cantona Archaeological Site
- LOCATION: Google Maps
It’s crazy that the Cantona Archaeological Site isn’t mentioned more in travel guides and isn’t visited more by tourists. I didn’t know about it until I visited the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, where there is a whole section devoted to artifacts from Cantona. The photos of the site look fantastic—great views of the volcanoes.
Cantona was the largest pre-Hispanic city in Mexico. According to Lonely Planet, it was prospering between 600 and 1,000 CE with a population of 80,000 people.
The site has some interesting features:
- 24 ball courts
- no mortar was used to build the structures, so the stones were held in place by their weight – that’s how the Incas built their structures.
- the buildings are connected by raised roads
- center for obsidian mining – this was the material used to make weapons in Mesoamerica
How to get to Cantona Archaeological Site: The only information I found was from a blogger who got to Cantona by taxi from downtown Puebla in 2012. He paid US$35 round-trip. I’m sure it’s a lot more nowadays. Other than that, there’s no public transportation to the site.
You can also do a fun-sounding combined hot air balloon ride and Cantona visit with Get Your Guide.
Another of the many reasons why I love Puebla is that it is surrounded by volcanoes (Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, and La Malinche), one of which is still active (Popocatepetl) and two of which you can climb. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to visit any of them, but I guess that gives me more reasons to return to Puebla.
Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl Volcanoes
You can still climb Iztaccihuatl but not Popocatepetl. According to Lonely Planet, Iztaccihuatl should only be attempted by experienced climbers and given its difficulty, guides are highly recommended. You can also book guides through Get Your Guide.
La Malinche Volcano
Named after the interpreter and lover of Hernan Cortes, La Malinche, an inactive volcano, is a popular hiking destination located in the La Malinche National Park. At 4,461 meters (14,636 feet), it’s a difficult climb that’ll take at least 5 hours. You can also stay overnight at 3,333 meters, where you’ll find both rustic and luxury cabins run by Mexican Social Security Institute.
Recommended Puebla Itinerary
This was my itinerary for Puebla:
Puebla – Day 1
- I arrived in Cholula from Oaxaca at about 1:00 pm.
- Zocalo and Cathedral of Puebla
- Bus Tour
- Explore the streets around the Historic Center
- Morning – Cholula
- Afternoon – Museo Amparo
- Explore the different neighborhoods and streets of Puebla – Alley of Frogs, Artist’s Quarter, and so on
- Museo del Alfenique
- Morning: Free Walking Tour
- Afternoon: Leave for Mexico City
How to get to Puebla
Puebla is fairly easy to get to from Mexico Cito or Oaxaca City.
The problem, however, is the Puebla bus station.
It’s called CAPU (Google Maps) and it’s huge! And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily take a wrong turn and miss your bus.
So, I’m going to help you navigate it, so you don’t do like I did and get lost.
From Mexico City to Puebla and vice versa
It’s a quick 2-hour bus ride from Mexico City to Puebla CAPU Station. You can get a bus from Norte Mexico Station or TAPO Station in Mexico City. Both ADO and AU buses go to and from Puebla multiple times of day. Check the ADO Website for schedules and times and to buy a ticket.
Tickets range in price from MXN$175 to $320 (US$9 – $16).
An alternative is the e-bus that leaves from several places in Mexico City like the WTC Holiday Inn Express and the The Angel CDMX and drops you off at Paseo Destino Shopping Mall (Google Maps) in Puebla. You can of course do the route in reverse.
The problem with the e-bus website is that it’s slow and it doesn’t seem to accept foreign credit card or foreign addresses. I was never able to complete a successful transaction using their website.
From Oaxaca to Puebla
Tickets range in price from MXN$444 to $623 (US$22 – $31).
Check out my travel guide for Oaxaca here.
Bus Station in Puebla
Arriving in Puebla
When you arrive at Puebla CAPU, look for the taxi stand. It’ll be on the same level as where your bus arrives. Don’t do like I did and follow the local passengers up the escalator.
The taxi ticket booth inside the terminal sells pre-fixed taxi fares. Tell the attendant where you’re going. and pay a fee according to what zone your destination is in. The attendant gives you a ticket that you take to the taxi stand outside. The taxi stand attendant will arrange a driver for you. You don’t have to worry about being cheated or kidnapped or any other bad scenarios you’ve dreamt up. It’s terrific!
It cost me MXN$81 from the CAPU Bus Station to the historic central district.
The departure area of CAPU Station can be overwhelming. When you first enter the bus terminal, you’ll be in a huge hall with ticket windows, restaurants, and shops. If you’ve already bought your bus ticket online like I usually do, skip the ticket window.
At the back of the hall are two hallways. One goes off to the left and the other to the right. Each hallway services specific bus companies. For example, the hallway on the left has buses for AU, while the hallway on the right covers ADO buses. There are more bus companies but those are the two I remember. Above the entrance to the halls will be signs saying which bus companies it contains.
Where to stay in Puebla
Without a doubt, the best area to stay in is the historic center. For solo travelers, it’s safe and there are tons of places to eat nearby. I could leave my hotel in the evening and walk to a restaurant or shop or the historic center.
Puebla has something that I’ve never seen in other cities in Mexico. All hotels have a large letter H hanging outside of them, so when you’re walking down the street, you can easily spot a hotel.
Expect to pay at least MXN$80 for a taxi from the CAPU Bus Station to the Central Historic District.
Here is a list of hotels at various price points that I have compiled. All are located in the safe historic center and they either have a lot of character and/or are very affordable.
Budget to Mid-range
COST: US$17 for private room
Hotel Santiago has got to have the most perfect location on this list of places to stay in Pueblo. Located around the corner from the main square, it’s more on the budget rather than the mid-range end of the spectrum. The rooms are clean and the management treats its guests like royalty.
The only downside is the internet. The worst in Mexico. Perhaps it matters which floor you’re on. I was rarely able to pull up a web page. Management said I could switch rooms if the internet was still not working well for me.
Posada Vee Yu
This hostel is centrally located with both dorms and well-priced private rooms. There’s free WiFi, a coworking space, and free coffee.
Casa Pepe Puebla
Located a block from Alley of the Frogs and in a seventeenth-century mansion, Casa Pepe Puebla is a brand new hostel. It has stylish and clean dorms and private rooms. Each dorm room has its own attached bathroom. Breakfast included!
Hotel Isabel is another very nicely located hotel, just a couple of blocks from the main square. It’s well-priced and the rooms look very comfortable. I was contemplating staying here but this hotel’s price of US$35 couldn’t beat the Hotel Santiago’s price of US$17.
Breakfast is included and that is definitely a plus!
Mid-range to Upper-priced
Another superb hotel in the city center, Hotel Andate is a themed hotel with free breakfast and a roof-top terrace. Each room is stylishly and colorfully decorated based on a different composer.
Hotel Boutique Casona de la China Poblana
The boutique hotel Casona de la China Poblana is located in a seventeenth-century mansion in the heart of the historic center. Rooms are stylishly and traditionally decorated. Internet might not be the most stable.
Is Puebla Safe for solo travelers?
A friend of mine said the city was dangerous, so I initially had second thoughts about visiting Puebla. On the bus from Oaxaca to Puebla, the scary stories the U.S. media likes to tell came flooding back to me. Those were the same ones that my previous 5 months in Mexico had debunked.
However, during my 4 days in Puebla, I never felt unsafe. Except for the time I walked the 30 minutes to the train station and back, I mainly stuck to the central historic district. There generally isn’t much reason to go beyond it.
In the evenings, I walked around the Zocalo and went to and from restaurants and tourist sights. Not once did I feel I was in danger.
A lot of people leave Puebla off their Mexico itinerary. It’s a shame because there are of lot of things to see and do in Puebla especially if you love architecture, history, art, and food. So, I hope this article has inspired you to visit.
If you were already planning on traveling to Puebla, then I hope this guide has given you some ideas on what to do in Puebla.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions in the Comment Section below.
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PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting World Nomads. This is what I’ve used for short-term travel. When I quit my job to travel around the world, I switched to Safety Wings. They’re very affordable (less than US$100 a month depending on age) especially for those of us who are over 40 years old. They now cover COVID19.
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LOOKING FOR MORE TRAVEL INFO ON MEXICO?
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- Read this post on travel info on what fun things to do in Campeche. Lots of detailed info on how to get to each place by public transportation.
- Find out how to visit the best ruins and waterfalls in Palenque. Loads on info on getting around on your own and taking tours.
- Here’s a step-by-step guide on visiting my favorite waterfall in Mexico: Roberto Barrios Cascades.
- Visit my article on Cenote Dzitnup and Cenote Oxman on detailed step-by-step instructions on visiting these two amazing cenotes by bicycle