exploring Puebla, Mexico

There are 32 states in Mexico, and I’m fortunate to have visited many of them. On a recent trip, we visited the southern state of Oaxaca, and then made our way to the state of Puebla (formally known as Estate Libre y Soberano de Puebla) to learn more about the two things that have made Puebla famous: the molé poblano (a somewhat spicy sauce featuring the savoury side of peppers and cacao) and Talavera ceramics (which have become the region’s number one souvenir.)

puebla-mexico
This three-city 9-day Mexican tour was arranged for us by Go-Ahead Tours and gave us plenty of time to do our own thing.
It is a two-hour bus journey northwest from Oaxaca City to Puebla City. We passed many candlestick cacti growing along the mountain sides of the desert. And we passed this massive 500-year-old organos cactus, reminiscent of a pipe organ waiting to be played.

I love getting off the beaten path in Mexico and seeing the natural topography, as too many Canadian and Americans tend to gravitate to the beach vacation destinations–many never leaving the luxury of the resorts or seeking out a more authentic version of Mexican culture and cuisine. This tour, as part of the GoAhead Tours program, was very informative and insightful thanks to our knowledgeable guide Alejandro, who was born in the Mexico City area.  

Enroute to Puebla, we stopped for lunch in Tehuacan, a small city of 40,000 residents best known for its production of mineral water, onyx, and chickens. It would have been nice to spend more time here, but we had to be in Puebla in time for a special group dinner that had been arranged for us featuring a cheese soup, salad featuring sesame seeds, goat cheese, mushrooms and balsamic vinegar on lettuce, molé poblano as the main course, and a flan for dessert. Wow!

mole-poblano
The molé poblano shown above on the left, is a thick sauce made from ancho chilies, guajillo chilies, papilla chilies, assorted herbs, onion, garlic, tomato, and a generous portion of chopped Mexican chocolate. The surprising additional ingredients are raisins, nuts such as almonds or pistachios, and sesame seeds. It’s most often served with chicken or turkey, and often with guacamolé as shown in the photo.
talavera-ceramics
The Talavera ceramic dishes of Puebla, Mexico, are a souvenir I wish I could have brought home with me. We learned how they were made at Talavera La Colonial in Pueblo Centro.

Puebla, Mexico, is a city of arts, culture, and cuisine.

We enjoyed a 70-minute Turibus hop on and off double decker bus tour through the city of Puebla and were amazed at the architecture. There were many colourful buildings in the old colonial style. And there were buildings of a Moorish flavour. We loved every minute of this tour as it gave us a great overview of the city. We also enjoyed a two-hour walking tour through Pueblo Centro (also known as the Zócalo) where most of the highlights of the city are located.

artisan-village-puebla
The entrance to the artisan village of Puebla, Mexico. I could have easily spent an entire day there.
A perfect image of a residential balcony we passed on our tour of Puebla, Mexico. Although it has a metropolitan area of 3.25 million people and is Mexico’s fourth largest city, Puebla has a very approachable small-city appeal.
I was enamoured with the intriguing architectural styling of Puebla, Mexico.

No trip to Colonial Mexico would be complete without a tour of some churches, as their architecture and design are truly breathtaking. And as the population of Mexico is 75% Catholic, churches are an integral part of the culture of the country. The highlights were the Rosary Chapel and the 16th-century Puebla Cathedral (Catedral de Puebla) shown below from the inside and the outside.

We stayed at the NH Puebla Hotel in the Centro Historico Region, where we found a nice ambiance, friendly service, and great Mexican-influenced food. The breakfast buffet was included in our stay. I’d stayed at the NH Hotel in Pisa, Italy, on another chocolate adventure with a friend and we thoroughly enjoyed it, too. NH is a chain of properties with 380 locations around the world and excellent ratings.

I’ll leave you with this stunning image of Popocatépetl, the second highest peak in Mexico at 17,802 feet, an active stratovolcano located in the states of Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico, and clearly visible from Puebla. It was truly mesmerizing.

Have you been to Puebla, Mexico? Have you stayed at an NH Hotel? Have you been on a Go Ahead Tour? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. And please remember to share with your friends if you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more Mexican adventures in the next post. 🙂

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

50 Responses

  1. Bola says:

    Seeing the natural topography is a great idea and I can’t imagine gravitating towards the beach only to miss this stunning city! The Talavera ceramic dishes of Puebla are simply beautiful.

  2. I enjoyed visiting Puebla with you. I hope to get there in person some day. And that mole and guacamole with crusted something–is that a fish–has me salivating!

  3. Lori says:

    We love visiting Mexico and loved reading this. It would be a new area for us. And that molé poblano sounds amazing. Great article, thank you.

  4. Patti Morrow says:

    I only spent half a day in Puebla and loved it! The arts, culture, and cuisine were all fabulous. I’d love to go back and spent more time there — especially stay near the main square where I spent most of my time.

  5. Juliann says:

    Absolutely stunning!! I love the cacti and the pottery. You’re so right about people gravitating to the beaches rather than exploring the heart of Mexico. I have yet to really explore Mexico. I’ve been a little too nervous to do so on my own, but Go Ahead sounds like they offer some great tours. I’m going to look into that!

    • Hi Juliann and thanks for your comment. Mexico is an amazing country and I’ve enjoyed every one of my trips there over the past 30 years. There are places to be avoided as there are in most destinations. But for the most part, it is safe. But yes, a first trip with Go Ahead Tours would be a great idea. They scout out all the top places to see and experiences to have and ensure safety is of top concern.

  6. Nancy says:

    Hi Doreen. Excellent article on this Mexican city. It reminds a lot of Merida, Mexico, which is in the Yucatan region. Merida is also not on the coast, and has a chocolate museum, which of course made me think of you!

  7. What lovely photos! They made me feel like I was there with you. Almost. I like to get off the beaten path, too, Doreen, so appreciate your descriptions of these unique places.

    • Thx so much, RoseMary. LOVED this trip! I fear my travel lust will go unanswered now for awhile, as I will not travel again until the COVID19 situation is under control. Even our Prime Minister is in self-imposed isolation right now.

  8. I’ve always loved mole. Now I know where it comes from! Thanks Doreen.

  9. I’ve never made it to Puebla but you’ve made a compelling case for a visit!

  10. Janice says:

    Hi Doreen – now here’s an area of Mexico I would love to visit, just for the food! I just got back from Cozumel, and it was jammed with tourists and hard-sell locals. This sound more like my kind of destination

    • Hi Janice and thx for your comment. Yes, unfortunately, pretty much all of Mexico’s beach destinations are inundated with timeshare salespeople, so I’m spending my time & money discovering off the beaten path destinations. By the way, I tried posting on your site & it called me a ‘suspected bot!’

  11. Pinned. I do want to follow in your Mexico footprints! You have captured just the things-especially cultural and culinary–that we love when we travel. Now I can aim for visiting more MX states.
    Kristin Henning recently posted…Bhopal and the Crafts of Central IndiaMy Profile

  12. Linda Strange says:

    Wonderful, Doreen! I can feel the hot sunshine in your photos.
    I think I’m most struck by the intricate work that is evident in many of these places. The billions of hand-decorated tiles – before each and every one was grouted in place, is just boggling. Except for a sea voyage, I’ve never traveled in mainland Europe or Asia so it’s pretty new to me. I remember your comments and photos from Spain on one of your Choclatour trips. Your descriptions are always evocative ! Sounds like GoAhead Tours did a great job. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by to comment, Linda. Yes, the Mexicans are really amazing at the intricacies of their designs. And I love the Spanish influences in the designs. All part of the Colonial history of MX. That combined with the Hispanic and contemporary designs makes Mexico an art and architecture lover’s dream destination.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…exploring Puebla, MexicoMy Profile

  13. You brought back mouth-watering memories. I LOVE mole and also have some dishes with that same pattern. Memories of our time back in Mexico. Great post, Doreen!

  14. noel says:

    I’m going to visit CDX so will have to do a detour here and see the zocalo, looks very sweet indeed

  15. Looks like a wonderful trip Doreen! When we travel, we like to fly to a destination and then either rent a car or rely solely on public transportation. When we don’t have access to a vehicle, we look for companies that offer excursions. Go-Ahead Tours sounds like a wonderful company. I’ll keep them in mind in the future. You were able to capture some amazing photos! My favorite is inside the Puebla Cathedral,
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…Do You Sell Online? Want To?My Profile

    • Thx so much for your comment, Sherryl. Yes, I could see self-driving from Oaxaca to Puebla and then to Mexico City, where you could rely on public transport. We did use Uber in Puebla and MX City and it was cheap, safe & efficient.

  16. You seem to be having quite a time exploring Puebla, Mexico. The architecture in that city is amazing. What a sweet way to get a taste for the local flavors. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  17. It certainly sounds as though Go Ahead Tours really crafted a perfect itinerary for Puebla. I love Chiles en Nogada, one of the other popular Mexican dishes of Puebla and it’s so hard to find outside of Mexico – it’s not always easy to find poblano chiles. The molé poblano dish you’ve shared looks equally delicious!
    michele peterson recently posted…Must-Try Vegan Food in Aruba: 20 Top Dishes and RestaurantsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Michele. I know you are intimately familiar with this part of Mexico. It’s funny you should mention poblano chilies, as I’d never heard of them before today, when I saw them being used on the California Cooking Show. None of the recipes I found for mole poblano called for poblano peppers. Are they spicy?

  18. Your photos are stunning Doreen, and they really make the post come alive. I have not been to Mexico but my stepmother lives there for 6 months of the year. She is likely quite familiar with many of these places, the cuisine, and the highlights you point out here. I am not sure whether she has travelled to Puebla, or the other places you mention but I’ll be sure to pass on your posts so she can plan a trip!

    • Thanks so much for your words of support, Christine. I’ve been to Mexico many times, but must say that visiting Oaxaca and Puebla was amazing. And returning to Mexico City to literally see another layer of the city I never knew existed was especially memorable. Stay tuned for that in a future post.

  19. Thanks so much, Margaret. Yes, I’d forgotten about that lovely woman who stopped to google our hotel on her phone to help us find it. Everyone we met/spoke to was so nice. I hope we’ll get to do trip #3 together.

  20. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    Doreen, what a great travelogue you’ve put together! I was so happy to be part of this trip and I just experienced a rush of memories from our time in Puebla. What a lovely city and the people were very friendly and helpful from the attentive waiters and serving people to the lovely lady who sensing that we were a bit lost, stopped to help us reorient by showing us the google map on her phone. Puebla has a charming small town feel and oozes history and culture. This has to be the best trip to Mexico I’ve taken by far! So glad to share it with you and our Canadian compadres!

  21. Wendy Peck says:

    Now that sounds like my kind of place. My sketching hand was itchy just reading this. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Wendy, you would just love Puebla. The artists’ village is incredible and we found a neat art mall near our hotel as well. And the food is really flavourful and creatively prepared. We loved walking about the central square. So much to see!

  22. Beverly says:

    You have provided your readers with another informative article. I love the blue and white china indicative of the area in Mexico it represents. I can see why tourists would take some dishes home with them. I am looking forward to your next feature.

  23. JANET MAY - HEWSON says:

    Sounds like a fantastic tour. The mosaics are stunning. I love the style.

    Happy International Women’s Day!!!!!

    • Thanks, Janet! Happy International Women’s Day to you, too! 🙂 Yes, I think you would love Puebla as I know how much you enjoyed Morocco and the there is quite a Moorish representation throughout this part of Mexico.

  24. Betty says:

    I always thought Mexico food was all spice and hot chile peppers. Thank You for telling me that chocolate is also one of their favourite food additions. The yummy part of Mexican foods.

    • Hi Betty and thanks for your comment. You can indeed find spicy food in Mexico. But there’s definitely lots of Mexican dishes that are not spicy. And Mole Poblano was invented to tone down the spiciness of the dish by adding the chocolate to it. The result is a really tasty dish! 🙂

  25. Was there chocolate on the hotel’s breakfast buffet?

    • Hi Tammy Jo and Happy International Women’s Day! Indeed, there is always something chocolate in Mexico! The NH Hotel had chocolate chip croissants and chocolate donuts in their breakfast buffet. Stay tuned. I will satisfy your chocolate craving for Mexican chocolate in next week’s post. 🙂

  26. Sheryl Poirier says:

    It was fascinating to tour these old cities and sample bits of local cultures. Mexico has a wider variety of cultures, languages and cuisines than I had dreamed! Some of us went to neighbouring Cholula to visit (among other sites) a partially uncovering ancient pyramid. From one side it’s an odd hill topped by a church. From the other you can see parts of the pyramid. It was exciting to walk through tunnels left by archeological explorations! It was not recommended for anyone with claustrophobia! It’s unfortunate the entire pyramid cannot be restored because it fell into disuse and was hidden by time. Too much of it has been damaged.

    • Hi Sheryl and thanks so much for sharing some of your Puebla and area recollections with us. I was sorry to have missed the excursion to Cholula, but thrilled to have enjoyed the open air bus tour and lunch with Margaret that afternoon. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. So many great memories of this immersion into Mexican culture with the three of you. 🙂

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