Photo of a trumpet player seemingly sucking smoke from a volcano

Churches on Pyramids and Shipping Containers

Photo of a trumpet player seemingly sucking smoke from a volcano
Volcanic Trumpet

During the time we spent in Puebla I was desperate for a decent day trip out of the city. Fortunately the neighbouring city of Cholula has a quite spectacular church sitting atop an ancient earth pyramid. Oh, and is if that isn’t impressive enough, there is a view of the ever-so-slightly active Popocatepetl from the top.

I got there early in the morning, as that is when the views are best. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and so I didn’t get that clear a view of the volcano. As it turned out, going straight to the top probably wasn’t the best way of touring the site. Unless you are eager to get to the top for the view of the volcano, I’d strongly consider doing the site in the following order.

  1. Zocalo – main square
    Cholula claims to have the largest Zocalo in Mexico (and in Latin America) and it is certainly a decent size. It’s worth starting here to have a coffee and snack under the (longest in Latin America, honest) arches that line the far side of the square. You can also pay a visit to the Casa De La Cultura. This has recently opened, as of October 2015, and I was given a free guided tour round the exhibition which included the photo of the trumpet player at the top of the post. The Ex Convento de San Gabriel, along the east side of the main Plaza is an enormous complex of three religious buildings. From the Zocalo, walk along Morelos to get to the site.

Entrance to underground labyrinth at Cholula
Entrance to underground labyrinth at Cholula

2. Underground labyrinth

Instead of taking the path that goes up to the church by the corner or Morelos and Calle 6 Norte, keep walking along the pedestrianised road that continues Morelos until you see the ticket office on your right.

Archaeologists have started exploring the maze of tunnels that exist under the pyramid, and a route has been created for tourists to walk through. You buy your ticket at the office and walk into the pyramid by the side entrance. Your ticket also gives you entrance to the archaeological park, so hang on to it.

The main path through the pyramid is a pretty even surface, and it is well lit. Obviously, you’re in an enclosed space so if you get claustrophobic think twice before trying it. There are a few side tunnels that you can take a look at. None of them go so far that you are ever likely to get lost.

On the way to the church - Cholula
On the way to the church – Cholula

3. Climb the Pyramid to the Church
Turn right when you leave the labyrinth and walk a short way along the path until you see the view pictured to your right. Climb the steps to the top of the pyramid. Don’t be too surprised if you are overtaken by joggers on the way up. Crazy fools.

4. Go down to the Archeological Zone
After taking a good walk around the church and its surroundings – you can view Popocatepetl from the grounds at the front entrance to the church – then walk down the back. You’ll see the archeological site towards the left as you come down from the church.

When you come to the first set of stallholders, take the path that curls away to the left. As you go down you’ll see the view below left and then, as you reach the bottom of the hill, you’ll see the Pueblo Magico logo on the wall on the left opposite the entrance to the archaeological site.

Cholulu church on top of ancient earth pyramid
Cholula church

For this you’ll need a ticket, which you can only buy at the entrance to the labyrinth.

If you do what I did and go straight to the top of the pyramid and walk down here, you’ll have to walk half a mile back to the ticket office to be allowed in. If you’ve read this far, you’ll be having none of that nonsense, oh no.


5. Go for a meal in Container City
Once you leave the archaeological site, turn right and walk along the line of stalls selling trinkets and whatnots. Depending on your energy levels you might have had enough walking for a while. There are plenty of coffee bars and restaurants at the end of Morelos, but it is worth having just a breather and a drink rather than having lunch or dinner here.

Walk round and go past the ticket office by the entrance to the labyrinth and keep walking along the wide pedestrian pathway. After about a quarter of a mile you’ll come to the road at some traffic lights. Go right and then take the first left. Container City is on the right about two and a half blocks down. There are about thirty shipping containers that have been mainly converted into restaurants and clothes shops. It’s a funky little area of town and well worth making the extra effort to walk to.

Photo of Container City complex in Cholula
Container City, Cholula

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