I booked a private tour to Cholula and Puebla through Insolitours for my girlfriend and myself. We were picked up around 8:30 AM in the lobby of our hotel by Miguel, our driver and guide. Miguel proved to be a wonderful guide, very knowledgeable and friendly, and more than willing to specialize the tour to meet our needs and interests. The drive to Cholula was long, nearly two hours, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. The vehicle the tour provided for the trip was comfortable and more than adequate for our needs. As Miguel drove, we took in the scenery and enjoyed conversation amongst ourselves. The volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl were of particular interest. Miguel shared with us the legends connected to the volcanoes as well as the truth behind those legends. One of the highlights of the trip for me was the conversations I had with Miguel. He holds degrees in anthropology and Mesoamerican history, and he was more than willing to share his knowledge. I really appreciated that we had a guide that knew what he was talking about.
Once we reached Cholula, we explored some of the archeological tunnels under the Great Pyramid of Cholula or Tlachihualtepetl, which translates to man made mountain, and took in the ruins of the Great Pyramid itself. Construction of the pyramid probably began around 300 BC, so the site is truly ancient. The pyramid is reportedly the largest in the world, but most of its mass is in its base. The base is so large and spread out that it is difficult to appreciate the true size of the pyramid. The top of the pyramid is still covered in vegetation so its height appears to be unimpressive, but in truth it is almost as tall as the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan and taller than the Temple of the Moon, it must have been spectacular in its day.
Before the conquest, Cholula was a thriving trade center and holy place. It was second only to Tenochtitlan in its size and importance, and it was said that there was a pyramid for everyday of the year. When Hernan Cortez came in 1519, Spanish troops slaughter the populus and looted and destroyed many of the holy sites. By his own admission, Cortez estimated that his troops killed 3,000 people in three hours, other estimates put the number as high as 30,000. Cortez then ordered churches to be built atop the holy sites, so that now it is said that Cholula has a church for everyday of the year. Even in Cortez’s time, the Great Pyramid was covered in vegetation to the point that it was unrecognizable. The Spanish did not realize that the imposing hill or mountain really was a pyramid, but they built a church atop the pyramid nonetheless. It was not until 1910 that construction workers discovered that a pyramid lie beneath the mountain. The church the Spanish built atop the pyramid is Nuestra Señora de los Remedios or Our Lady of Remedies, and it is a beautiful sight to see it perched atop the pyramid overlooking the town. Unfortunately it was damaged by the last earthquake and was still in the process of being repaired when we visited, so we were unable to enter the church itself. We were still able to get some beautiful pictures of church and the pyramid.
From the Great Pyramid we went into Cholula and then on to Puebla for lunch. We were taken to a nice restaurant where we were able to enjoy some of Puebla’s famous cuisine. After our delicious lunch we explored the historic part of Puebla. The brightly colored buildings and cobblestone streets are very picturesque. We viewed a couple of the very old churches in Puebla, which were beautiful, but I could not help but wonder what ancient treasures lie buried beneath them. We also spent about an hour browsing the open air markets before it was time to go back to our hotel. After an enjoyable drive, Miguel delivered us to our hotel a little before 5 PM.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and an perfect way to spend the day with my girlfriend. Ancient, historic sites in beautiful, picturesque settings coupled with great food, what more could one ask for.