Tepanapa in Cholula: The biggest pyramide in the world

During my trip to Puebla in the year 2012 I visited the Tepanapa in Cholula, the biggest pyramide in the world. I enjoyed the trip to much that I returned in 2018.

The area around the modern city Puebla has many sights to offer. One of the is the biggest Pyramide in the world in the city of Cholula. During my second visit to Mexico in the year 2012 (at that time I was an intern in the BMW plant Spartanburg), I did a bus trip from Mexiko-City to Puebla and Cholula and wrote a small text about it (very old article). Because I liked the trip a lot at that time I decided to return during my expat assignment in Mexico to Puebla. In the end of 2018 I finally went with two colleagues of my work to the city (one of them was born there).

This article is also available in English.

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How to get there

From San Luis Potosí

Unfortunately Puebla is very far from San Luis Potosí. Several times I wished there was a direct flight, but there is none. You have three options to reach the city: With the car (530 km, 6-7 h), with a bus (8-10 h) or by flying to Mexico City (1 h + 1 h waiting time) and taking a cab (2 h). The flight is the fastest, but also the most expensive option.

In 2018 we took the car (7,5 h with traffic jam...). To do that you need to take the Highway 57 from San Luis Potosí till you reach the industrial park of Querétaro , there you will take the 57D direction México to drive around the city. After 270 km you will turn onto M40D direction Puebla/Tula and then follow the Autopista Arco Norte for about 170 km. Then you need to change onto highway 190 and follow the road 20 km to Cholula.

If you prefer the airplan option you can find cheap flights here* and you should only take cabs from official stations (sitios), best option would be to ask for a cab before booking the flight. I am not sure if Uber works for such a big distance.


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Via airplane from other destinations

The airport Puebla (PBC) is located nord-west of the city, close to Cholula. You can reach it with direct flights from eight other airports (13.09.2020): Houston, Cancún, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, San José del Cabo, Tijuana and Tuxtla Gutierrez. There is no flight from Mexico-City because the distance would be almost too short (recommentation: bus trip, e.g. Touribus; car or rental car). Cheap flights you can find here*.

 

Accomodation

My first visit in the area was a day trip with a Touribus from Mexico-City. During my second visit we stayed in the Hotel Misión Puebla Angelopolis* . The 4* hotel was recommended by colleagues. The rooms were comfortable and cozy, the hotel is easy to reach and very central. The breakfast was included in the booking and from our room we had a good view on the Estralla de Puebla, one of the biggest ferris wheels in the world. Here* you can book the Hotel. But Puebla offers also other options. Currently recommended is the hotel Isabel directly in the center of the city (perfect location, parking available, breakfast can be booked additionally) - here* kommt ihr zum Hotel.



Booking.com

If Puebla is too crowded for you I suggest to stay in Cholula. It is much more relaxed, cheaper and you can reach Puebla easy by bus or cab. The Hotel El Cristo* is very central located and has an interesting architecture.

 

About Cholula

Cholula de Rivadavia is located 15 km west of Puebla on the foot of the active vulcano Popocatépetl. There were settlements in the area already around 300 before christ. In the first 600 years after christ the area developed to a religious center. Later Olmeca-Xicallanca conquered the city and built Cacaxtla, a famous archaeological site north of the city in the state of Tlaxcala. Between 900-1300 after christ Tolteken ruled ov erhte city. Long time Cholula was independent of the aztecs, till the arrival of the Spanish at the beginning of the 16th century. At that time the city had a population of 100.000 people and the big Tepanapa in Cholula lost already its significance and was overgrown by plants.

Hernán Cortés was invited to Cholula by the aztec ruler Moctezuma, but his arrival was very unfriendly. He discovered that the invitation was a trap and that the army of Moctezuma was on its way. Therefore Cortés conquered the city with the help of the Tlxcaltekas and killed more than 6.000 people in one day. After he won the city he built a church on the top of the Pyramide Tepanapa. Because the residents of Tlaxcala supported Hernán Cortés they are still unpopular in Mexico^^.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedius

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Pyramide Tepanapa in Cholula

If you arrive to Cholula the first time you will ask yourself where they hide the big pyramide. The only thing you can see two block southeast of the city center is a hill with a church on the top. But under the green grass of this mountain the biggest pyramide of the world is burried! Only small parts of it are still visible. The base plate covers an area of 450 x 450 m. With the current height of only 66 m it is much smaller than e.g. the Cheops pyramide. But archaeological discoveries showed that it was higher in the past.

The construction of the complex started already before christ. Till around 700 after christ the pyramid was extended every 52 years through construction another one above the existing one. The first pyramide had a size of 190 x 190 m and a height of 34 m. After the seventh and last build the site lost its significance and over the years grass grew over it.

In the 16th century the Spanish built a church Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedius on the top of the almost complelty overgrown pyramid. Between 1931-1956 Ignacio Marquina built a tunnel system below the site to study the different layers. It is more than 8 km long. 800 m of these tunnels are open to public.

Across from the ticket counter you can find a small museum (Museo de Sitio de Cholula), it provides an overview about the complex. For the visit of the archaeological site you should plan around 1.5 h, afterwards I recommend a walk up to the church on the top - the view is fantastic!

 

In short Tepanapa in Cholula

  • Address: Calle 14 Pte. S/N, 72760 San Andrés Cholula
  • Opening hours: Mo-Su 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Entrance fee: 80 Peso per person (includes entrance to the museum)
  • How long takes a visit?: 1,5 - 2 h
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Going-out

Many students live in Cholula, you can also find a big campus of the Universidad de las Américas there. The young people bring a fresh atmosphere and a good nightlife to the city. Here you can find many music festivals, bars and clubs, for example:

Container City

The container city in the east of the center consists of several seefreight cotnainer (similar to the east station in Munich). You can find many bars, clubs and shops for hipsters here. Casi Esquina 2 Norte

Mole in Puebla
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La Casa de Frida

The concept workd: There are already four La Casa de Frida Restaurants in the city. But the original you can find in the Avenida Miguel Hidalgo. The design reminds on the Frida Kahlo house in Mexiko-City. You will find many colors, pictures and typical mexican food. Address: Avenida Miguel Hidalgo 109

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Nearby

  • Puebla: One of the biggest cities in Mexico and for me also one of the most modern cities. If I would live in Mexico I would either live in Puebla or in Querétaro.
  • Mexico-City: Capital, one of the biggest cities in the world, many good museums and sights, traffic jam, crime, ... . Mexico-City is a must-see, but I would not want to live there. Till now I was already more than 15 times in the city, reports will follow.
  • Val’QuiricoAn italien village in Mexico. Nice stop on the way to Puebla.
  • Ex-Hacienda de Chautla: A water castle in Mexico! Between Mexico-City and Puebla you can find this beautiful park.
  • Tlaxcala: Worth seeing city north of Puebla and capital of the state Tlaxcala. I was here only for a short stop.
  • Popocatépetl: Big, active vulcano between Mexico-City and Puebla. Together with the earth quakes another big threat to the area. With guied you can try to climb the mountain (5426 m!).
  • On the way from San Luis Potosí to Puebla: The pyramids and warrior statues of Tula, Fire flies in Tlaxcala.
View from Cholula to the Popocatépetl

 

Conclusion Tepanapa in Cholula

Already during my first trip I noticed the good atmosphere in Cholula. Having good weather we climbed the top of the pyramide, sat next to the church in the sun and enjoyed the view with a good beer (Careful: Drinking in public is not allowed in Mexico!). Till now it is not known why the pyramide is so extremely covered by earth and stone. Some say that it way already like that when Cortés arrived, others say the he told his people to cover everything. But still you can sense the size of the pyramide. Cholula is definitely worth a visit - the flair is great.

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