Ah Puebla. We only passed through this charming little burg to break up the loooong trek from CDMX to Oaxaca on the advice of a friend who had spent some time living here. Once here we did fall victim to the charm of the place. I’m not going to lie, after the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, Puebla does feel very quiet and sea-side-esque. There are not as many outdoor food stands, instead they opt for little shopfront restaurants with a few tables and our favourite, the large indoor food market (Calle 20 Noviembre). There’s plenty to see and do, but saying that it’s so small you’ll get it all done in 3 days 2 nights (max).
Oaxaca (wah-ha-ka) on the other hand is a bustling city with plenty to see and do in the city proper, as well as the numerous day tours you can engage in, there’s the food markets, street food, clothes markets and so much more. Plan your tours in advance to make the most of your time, but remember to factor in a day to just get lost in the streets (this is always a must for us).
From Mexico City to Puebla
We opted for the old reliable ADO bus from TAPO ADO in Mexico City to CAPO in Puebla. There were a few companies that were slightly cheaper, but we came to rely heavily on ADO while in Mexico, they’re just a great company. It cost us about 250 MXN pp (€12) and the bus had reclining seats, plug sockets, it also screens dubbed movies, so it’s get ready to practice your Spanish, oh and a/c, which is always a nice change from sitting in someone’s lap holding a bag of cheese on a chicken bus. The journey itself took 2 to 2.5 hours.
If you book your ticket a few days in advance it works out cheaper, but the ADO website doesn’t take European debit or credit cards so you’ll need to get yourself to a retailer (Google Maps to the rescue). Also, the discounted rate only applies to the first ticket bought so if travelling in a pair/group, it may be better to buy them separately.
We were given the phone number for sale/resevations, if you hablas a little español you can give them a call and they can take your card over the phone. They’ll also take your card at the retailer, it’s only online or the app that doesn’t work (as of March 2017).
Again, pick up the phone, practice your Spanish andd bag yourself cheap tickets. Here is the CC number:
Accommodation in Puebla:
We stayed at hostal Santo Domingo for 2 nights which cost $660 mxn (32 Euro). The hostel had a really nice relaxed vibe and free breakfast. Two ungraceful favourites!! They have beds in dorms for cheaper (about 10 euro) but we opted for a private room with our own bathroom.
There are plenty of hostels throughout the city, you can book ahead or you can walk up and secure some cheap deals. Whatever you choose, if you select accomodation on one of the many, many, many, many, MANY shop streets (the people of Puebla love their tiendas) you may be subject to really loud, reptitive Reggaeton. So for the light sleepers, stay a little outside the city, invest in earplugs or opt in for that dodgy laneway hostel (Puebla is extremely safe!).
Things To Do in Puebla:
The world’s smallest volcano! Literally about the size of a one bed studio apartment in Rathmines, this cute little wonder is TOTALLY worth a quick visit. It will take you all of 10 mins to see it for the princely sum of $11 mxn (50 cent). It’s so small it’s actually located in a kids playground! You can walk to it from the centro in about 40 mins or jump an uber for about $40-50 mxn. Little wonder it’s so popular with the tourist….yeah I went there.
The zócalo or town square is where it’s at in Puebla, whether you’re browsing the hand made crafts of the sellers, having a coffee and watching the world go by, stepping inside the stunning catedral, or just looking for somewhere to grab a quick bite (this is where all the street food is located). There’s a beautiful little park as well.
There seems to be a lot of live music and places to have a drink in Puebla. We stopped in to the Bull McCabe to catch an awesome live band and have a few scoops. The drinks are not cheap as this is a local favourite for expats and visitors, but they won’t break the bank and the atmosphere and the music more than make up for it!!
The paseo bravo is a beautiful park/walkway with an absolutely stunning monument set into a fountain. It’s gorgeous during the day, but if you’re into photography go at night when it’s all lit up for some stunning shots. The park across from it is beautiful, it waas queit (again, very safe!) but during the day famillies gather for picnics, to eat at the foodstands (best tacos in Puebla) and just hang out. There is also a small floor-style fountain should you need to cool off. You might seem a little odd to the locals though.
For The Taste Buds:
A bread roll covered with sesame seeds, made with egg, it kind of looks like a cake or brioche usually contains sliced avocado, milanesa meat, white cheese, onions. This sandwich seems to be exclusively Poblano (from Puebla). Delicious, cheap and filling, it ticks all the boxes. Be sure to munch on one of these if stopping here.
This dish is pueblas claim to fame, invented here and served throughout Mexico it consists of chicken and rice with a sauce made from chilli and chocolate and about 18 other ingredients. Sounds weird, but daaaaaaamn is it good. There are loads of different types of mole but this is the original g, so if you’re gonna try one this is your man.
Although we didn’t get to visit the pristine town of Cholula, we did regret it. You shouldn’t have to too! Located about 30mins drive from Puebla, we hear it is worth staying a night just to enjoy the sights of the two active volcanoes Popocatépetl (“smoking mountain”) and Iztaccihuatl. Instead of rushing off, we’d recommend spending one day and night in Puebla city then pop down for a smoking sleepover in Cholula.
From Puebla to Oaxaca:
Again it was Ado to the rescue! Slightly longer and much more expensive on this leg, we paid about $400 mxn (€19). To be honest this is our own fault as we bought the tickets on the day of travel at the station (look at us not taking our own advice!) and we travelled on a Sunday which is also a little busier. And since we had pre-booked accommodation in Oaxaca, we had no option but to pay. We could have gotten them cheaper by booking in advance (silly hyprocrites).
Accommodation in Oaxaca:
We stayed at the very charming Hotel Nacional, located directly across from the many food and the you-can-buy-anything-here market, at $395 mxn a night (€18). The location of the hotel and the cool staff, Eva and Kevin, made this a worthy investment. It was less than 5minutes walk to the centre, and the guys offered to look after the bulk of our luggage for us when we went to San Jose del Pacifico for a few nights, as we were returning to the hotel after. They were really helpful, informative and although we did miss the little things such as cooking facilities, this hotel was a nice treat.
Things To Do in Oaxaca:
The Church and Museum Of Santo Domingo Guzman:
The church itself is absolutely stunning from the outside and centred in a beautiful square in a lovely part of town. There are maps around the centre square to direct you or of course, Google Maps! It takes about 10mins to walk from the centre. But the real treat awaits you inside. There’s an indigenous museum with Jewelry and tools all found at the Aztec ruins of Monte Alban, including a human skull covered in jade. There’s loads to see, you won’t be bored and you will spend hours in here, so go with enough time to get yourself lost! You can thank me later. The entry is a measly $70 mxn (€3.50) and an extra $45 (€2) if you want to film. You’ll get away with filming on your phone or a small camera, but there’s a security check at the door and any larger camera equipment will have to stay at the desk, but they have lockers and guards.
5 Stop Tour: Big Trees, Mezcal, Master Weavers, Waterfalls and More Ruins:
A lot of places in town offer this tour and the prices do vary wildly. The best place we found was Monte Alban Tours on Macedonia Alcalá. The tour cost us $200 (€10) each, plus the entry fees to Agua Azul $60 (€3) and Mitla $65 (€3.25), this is pretty standard for attractions in Central America, the entry fees go straight to the government and tour guides are not allowed to profit.
The tour started with a stop at Ahuehuete, the world’s widest tree in the picturesque village of Santa Maria Del Tule. It’s a brief stop with some beautiful photo ops and a good place to grab a quick cup of coffee if you slept in for the tour. There an extra charge of $10 mxn to get onto the grounds of the tree, but you won’t get any closer or better photos than you will from the street outside, your call.
Next stop was the shop of an Aztec master weaver to see how the fabrics are taken from raw material to loomable wool, and a guide to the process for making all the natural dyes. Very cool and interesting to see. They’ll try to sell you stuff after, but sure you can’t blame them for that, maybe throw them 5 or 10 pesos as a tip after the demo. Totally optional and the won’t make you feel bad if you don’t.
After this, we stopped at a working mezcal distillery. This is a fascinating process and the guides speak perfect English. They’ll answer any questions you have AND you get to try loads of different types of Mezcal, including one that has a scorpion in the bottom of the bottle!!
Stop 4 was the most anticipated for us, the petrified waterfalls of Hierve El Agua. Just. Wow. Natural hot springs atop a cliff of petrified waterfall with 360 degree views of the most beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see. If there is a heaven on earth this is it (although heaven would probably have a bar). The landscapes are so breathtaking there was even a couple having their wedding shots done there! WARNING: You will not want to leave this place.
The tour will only give you about 30 mins at the waterfalls, but unfortunately from our research it’s really difficult to get to by public transport and there’s nowhere to stay if you get stuck there for the night, so it’s best to take advantage and go with a tour or you could splash out and hure a private taxi or car for the day.
After this we were treated to a stop for lunch, we were brought to a lovely buffet style restaurant with a really varied menu. It was 150 MXN (7.30 eur) per person, which is a bit steep by Mexican standards, but trust me if you do this tour, treat yourself to lunch. You’ll be glad you did, I know I was. Here you can try all the mole you want. We also dug into Chapulines (Grasshoppers!). That’s the best thing about a buffet you can be a little more adventurous without breaking the bank.
The last stop on our journey was a guided tour of the ruins of Mitla. A fascinating earthquake defying Zapotec temple. Here you will see some beautifully preserved murals and carvings as well as hear some interesting theories on certain structures from your guide.
All in all the tour was a resounding success and TOTALLY worth the money. If you want you could bring 5-10 pesos per stop to tip various guides etc, but they won’t make you feel bad if you don’t. Bring a packed lunch and plenty of water, it’s a long auld day.
If you’re not all ruined out at this stage, head for Monte Alban. These beautiful ruins are where all the exhibits from Santo Domingo were found. Again you can go with a tour for about 100-150 MXN but it’s just as easy to get a bus from Hotel Rivera on Calle 20 Noviembre. It leaves every half hour on the hour from 8am. It’s only 65 pesos return and will give you more time for pretending you’re Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. The bus returns every hour and last bus is 5pm, when the ruins close.
If you’re stuck for any info while you’re here there’s a Tourist Information booth in the Zocalo (town square) in front of the catedral. They’re super friendly, but you’ll need a little Spanglish to make life a little easier.
If you happen to be in town on a Friday, you lucked out. Head down to El Llano (pronounced Yano) near Santo Domingo for the Friday street BBQ. All sorts of culinary delights await, all chargrilled to within an inch of their life. Mmmmmmmm barbecue.
So there you have it. A very brief look at the many things on offer in Puebla and Oaxaca City. Most people head from Oaxaca City to the Oaxaca Coast, and we haven’t heard a bad word about it. Majority said it beats the coast of Merida and Cancun which is less Mexico and more Geordie Shore meets any other show on MTV. Hey, that’s what we heard! Unfortunately, thanks to Murphy’s Law, we didn’t make it to the coast, and instead opted to head south for Chiapas; stopping at San Jose del Pacifico on the way.
There are plenty opportunities to beach it up through Central America, but it’s not everyday you get to sit in a indigenous town, on top of a mountain so high; it sits in the clouds. Literally. More on that, next week…
As always if you’re think of going or need any other/more info drop me a line, sure I’d be only delighted to help.