Cholula has a secret and she's been guarding it for centuries. An ominous rectangular hill tucked beneath the shadow of dormant La Malinche volcano, it was not until 1881 that the Great Pyramid of Cholula (Pirámide Tepanapa) was discovered by Swedish archaeologist Andolph Bandelier. Spurred by a fascination with ancient burials and Meso-American history, he would go on to uncover the largest pyramid complex by volume and perimeter, anywhere in the world. The huge monstrosity of the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, was dwarfed in all but height by the find, which naturally would become the touristic Olmec gem of Puebla state.
Legend long foretold of a lost city at Cholula, built by the hand of a giant named Xelhua and home to three civilizations for over twelve centuries. Excavations of Cholula Pyramid by Eduardo Matos Moctezuma in 1966, ascertained the number of former ethnic groups to inhabit the site was probably closer to six, leading later archaeologists to confirm it was the largest Meso-American city in Mexico after the great city of Teotihuacá at its zenith - with in excess of 100,000 inhabitants. The great Toltec and Olmec empires of the 6th and 12th Centuries may be no more, yet Cholula continues to be a premier focal point for early Meso-American and colonial history. Littered with 15th Century temples and Augustinian convents, it is said that Cholula has a church for every day of the year! Constructed in 1529, San Gabriel Monastery steals the crown as the largest Franciscan complex in Mexico. Nuestra Señora de los Remedios , atop the Great Pyramid remains the most visited. Built by the Spanish (under orders of Cortes) during the Sixteenth Century, the church remains a key site of pilgrimage to the “Virgin of the Remedies” vision and is noted for the reliefs of the martyrs: Archangel Michael,, Salvador of Horta and Diego de Alcalá.
Center for tourism and exploration of the ancients, Puebla state's divided suburbia Cholula couldn't be more different from the bustle of the big city. Located within the central West of Puebla state, Cholula sits within a luscious organic valley in central Mexico, ringed by the Popocatepetl and Itzaccíhuatl volcano ranges. Less than 15 km from the state capital Puebla, the urban-scape of Cholula is often referred to as a mere suburb of the colonial seat. Cholula remains (as it has done since the mid 19th Century) divided into two municipal areas known as San Pedro Cholula and San Andrés Cholula – the latter being home to a considerably higher number of Nahuatl natives. Much of the city's pre-Hispanic buildings of archaeological interest (such as the Cholula Pyramid) lie within San Andrés, often referred to as Cholula's “Historic Town.”
Encompassed by a myriad of beautiful green hills and deep river valleys, Cholula has become a premier destination in Mexico for eco-friendly tourism. San Pedro Cholula has the greatest proliferation of guide operators, established to promote the magic and mysticism of journeying into its hillside realms – many of which are thickset by dense rain-forest. Biking is notoriously popular, with well-worn routes carrying easy rides up to Zapotecas Hill, located at the far North of the city. The Hill of Zapotecas is regarded with superstition among locals, since fable recounts tales of many a farmer allegedly having made financial pacts with the devil upon its summit, in exchange for the soul of a loved one. Even now, the disappearances of locals are regarded to be the work of the devil, taking his victims in return for assisting those with extreme financial difficulty.
Undeniably diverse in its proliferation of historic relics, Cholula is often overlooked as a city for culture, arts and gastronomy. Its appeal is decidedly bohemian, with a generous helping of intimate cafes and bar terraces that spill onto the main zocalo. Talavera Gallery, located South of the main plaza houses the city's finest array of indigenous pottery and tapestry-work, with the “Battle of The City of Cholula” oil work of Miguel Gonzalez, among its finest exhibits. Over 30 unique museums and art galleries unite the distinctly divided municipalities of Cholula, as one city worthy of a place on the Pueblos Magicos Program!
Attractions & Things to Do in Cholula
Pirámide Tepanapa – explore the veins of tunnels beneath the historical mound, once the second largest capital of Mexico during Olmec rule. A semi-ruinous pyramid built beneath the hill of Tepanapa (overlooking La Malinche volcano) it is larger than the Great Pyramid of Ghiza in both square meters and depth. Its excavated tunnels wind deep into the heart of Tepanapa, for a length of 8 km – said to be the longest of any man-made chamber system in the world! Stop off at the Cholula Archaeological Museum located adjacent to the main plaza and uncover over 30,000 exhibits excavated from the site. Open: Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 5: 30 pm.
Museo de Sitio de Cholula – tracing the history of Cholula from early Meso-American settlement, to the impact of the Mexican Revolution in the 19th Century, the City Museum is a fact-filled journey through the key ages of the city. The cutaway model of Pirámide Tepanapa, constructed by archaeologists during the well documented 1950's excavation is considered one of the most educational exhibits on display. Open: Monday – Friday, 8: 30 am – 5 pm.