Although Cholula is often over-shadowed by the nearby city of Puebla — just six miles away — Cholula offers travelers a unique and distinct travel experience, and one that can compliment a tour of the nearby colonial cities of Puebla, Cuernavaca and Veracruz.
At its zenith, Cholula was the second largest city in the land after Tenochtitlan. It is thought to have been an important religious and cultural center at the time. The city fell to the Olmecs sometime around 600AD, and again to the Toltecs about three hundred years later. By the time Hernan Cortes arrived, during the early part of the 16th Century, the city was under Aztec influence.
Cholula is best known for its archaeology park, which is host to Mexico’s largest pyramid — Pyramide Tepanapa — which is also the world’s largest pyramid by volume: bigger, in that sense, than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. Another feature of Cholula is the number of churches situated here. According to legend, Hernan Cortes ordered 365 of them to be built, after the Cholulans conspired with the Aztecs in a failed attempt to ambush him. In actual fact, the town has some forty-five churches, a significant number in relation to its size and population.
There is something else which may attract visitors to Cholula: a close-up view of Mexico’s two most famous volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. The best views are usually offered in the morning, before the heat of the day creates mist and clouds which obscure the view. By staying overnight at one of Cholula’s hotels, you may enjoy the experience of watching the sun rise and illuminate the snow-capped peaks of these breath-takingly majestic mountains.
In addition to the archaeology park and churches, Cholula offers a number of cultural attractions, including museums and the Franciscan Library, situated in the grounds of the Ex Convento de San Gabriel; beautifully restored and stocking some 24,000 tomes of public works dating back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Charismatic local markets, handicraft stores, access to fine Talavera pottery and local artwork, as well as guided tours to the ‘must see’ villages of Tonantzintla and Acatepec are some of the other attractions on offer here.
To get the most from your visit to Cholula, including the archaelogy park, museums, and to take a guided tour of the local villages, you’ll need to stay a couple of nights. You could see it all staying one night if you arrived early in the morning on the first day, but a two-night schedule will feel less rushed.
For a complete introduction to this unique and historically important town, including its churches and volcanoes, read the Mexperience Guide to Cholula