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The Mexican state of Puebla may not get as much attention as its more popular neighbors to the north (Hidalgo) and south (Oaxaca)—but this central Mexican state has plenty to offer vacationers looking for some of the country’s most picturesque scenery; cultural attractions, and charming villages and towns with heritage and personality to spare.

And while the eponymous capital city of Puebla is itself a bastion of architectural marvels and colonial-era landmarks, it’s the towns and villages that surround Pueblo that make this Mexican state such a truly wonderful place to visit. Below are some of the standout spots that surround Pueblo—perfect for an unforgettable road trip itinerary or simply a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Mexico City.

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Cuetzalan: Exploring Mexico’s Indigenous Culture

A small village complete with cobblestoned streets and a proud Indigenous heritage, the northern Pueblo town of Cuetzalan is a journey into the cultural heart of central Mexico. Here, market day is a truly authentic and immersive experience, complete with exciting local food and traditionally garbed villagers who frequent the Sunday spot to stock up on everything from wild mushrooms to Yolixpa, an herbed, alcoholic drink with medicinal properties. Set to the backdrop of the Sierra Norte de Puebla, the “Pueblo Mágico” of Cuetzalan is a must-visit on any Puebla itinerary.

  • Where It’s At: About 100 miles from Puebla
  • What To See: Bosque de Niebla (Fog Forest and Waterfalls); El Duende Grotto and Los Corales Grotto; San Francisco de Asís Temple; Festival of San Francisco de Asís (October)
  • What To Eat: The Cuetzalan Flea Market (Sundays); SOLE Restaurant; La Terraza Restaurante; La Peña—Taller Gastronómico
  • Where To Stay: Hotel La Casa Piedra; Villa de los Vientos; Cabaños Los Cedros; Hotel Mesón Yohualichan

Zacatlán: Undeniable Charm & Enchanting Natural Beauty

Another must-see village tucked away amid the Sierra Norte de Puebla, Zacatlán has the added attraction of being near the edge of the Barranca de Los Jilgueros—a large ravine that causes the area to become often covered in a thick fog that transforms everything it touches. Also known as “Zacatlán de las Manzanas,” the scenic town is famed for its striped apple production (a holdover from colonial times), and its charming squares and streets are undeniably lovely—but it’s the nearby natural attractions that truly set this magical place apart.

  • Where It’s At: Approximately 80 miles from Puebla
  • What To See: Cascadas Tulimán and San Pedro (waterfalls); Valle de Piedras Encimadas; Apple Fair (mid-August during the festival of the Virgen de la Asunción); Barranca de los Jilgueros (Carduelis Cliff)
  • What To Eat: Zacatlán Restaurant; Agave; Tierra 44; Altavista Restaurante
  • Where To Stay: Cabañas Zacatlán; La Tierra Grande; Cabañas El Refugio; Hospedaje Ensueno

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Atlixco: Volcano Views In The City Of Flowers

Dubbed “The City of Flowers,” the colorful town of Atlixco is known for producing an abundance of flowers and ornamental plants—an integral part of the village’s identity since the 16th century. But it’s not just the flora that’s vibrantly hued in Atlixco; it’s the vivid, striking colors of its buildings and surroundings that are like stepping into a field of wildflowers. Walking through Atlixco is a true feast for the senses, especially in the town square, where visitors can stroll the abundance of ice cream stalls serving up all manner of eclectic, signature flavors.

  • Where It’s At: About 15 miles from Puebla
  • What To See: Cerro de San Miguel Viewpoints (scenic views of Atlixco and the nearby Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes); Temple of San Francisco; Fiesta Grande and Fiesta Chica (September); Punto Marconi.
  • What To Eat: VICA Cocina de un Valle; Las Polomas Atlixco; Topolino Gelateria e Caffé; Restaurante Las Calandrias
  • Where To Stay: Hacienda Santo Cristo; Hotel Casa de la Audiencia; Casa Samadhi; Casa Flora Atlixco

Cholula: Historic Heritage And Picturesque Beauty

Situated on the outskirts of the capital city of Puebla is arguably one of Mexico’s most beautiful towns, the historical and cultural bastion of Cholula. A city of churches said to have one for every day of the year, Cholula also has the distinction of being home to the largest pyramid ever built: Tlachihualtepetl, or the Great Pyramid of Cholupa. With an impressive history dating back over 2,000 years, there’s plenty to see in this picturesque Puebla suburb—including views of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes which can be seen looming in the distance.

  • Where It’s At: Less than 10 miles from Puebla
  • What To See: The Sanctuary of Nuestra Seõra de Los Remedios and viewpoint; Church of Santa María Tonantzintla; Festival of the Virgen de Los Remedios (September); Container City; San Gabriel Friary.
  • What To Eat: Ciudad Sagrada; Restaurante Corazon de San Pedro; Recaudo; La Norberta
  • Where To Stay: La Quinta Luna Hotel; Santo Refugio Heritage Hotel; Casa Eva Boutique & Spa; Hotel Antigua Cholula

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Chignahuapan: Baubles And A Basilica

In northern Puebla lies the scenic Chignaguapan, a small scenic town whose name translates to “Place Where Water Abounds”—and with good reason. Home to a number of hot springs and thermal waters, this relaxing Pueblan getaway is a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike who want to bask in Chignaguapan’s famed pools. But that’s not all—the lovely village also has the distinction of being the largest producer of Christmas spheres in Mexico, and is home to a number of festivals, workshops and markets throughout the holiday season; yet another reason it has the distinction of being one of the country’s “Pueblo Mágicos.”

  • Where It’s At: About 70 miles from Puebla
  • What To See: La Casa del Ajolote; Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol; La Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción (the largest Virgin Mary figure in Latin America); Chignaguapan Hot Springs
  • What To Eat: La Magdalena Restaurante; Restaurante El Veneno; La Tabernita; Mesón del Caminante
  • Where To Stay: Hotel Cristal; Hotel Aguas Termales; Hotel Los Portales; Osalle Inn Hotel

The Mexican state of Pueblo has plenty to offer intrepid travelers looking for a getaway that’s somewhat off the beaten track. A departure from its more well-known neighbors and far less touristy, Pueblo still hits all the sweet spots for any visitor to Mexico, especially in its small towns and villages where history, culture, and architecture take a backseat only to the region’s scenic natural beauty. Volcanoes and hot springs meet temples, churches, and festivals galore in this vibrant central Mexican state full of Pueblo Magicós (Magical Towns) that will enchant any traveler.