Nestled in the central Mexican highlands and surrounded by Mexico’s most iconic volcanic chain lay the ancient city of Cholula.
Founded in the 5th century BCE as a small village, Cholula grew continuously over millennia to become one of the most important centers in all of classical Mesoamerica.
Despite several invasions by the Mixtec, Toltec, Tlaxcaltecans, and Spanish, Cholula has stood the test of time and continues to this day as an important economic, cultural, and religious center.
As a matter of fact, Cholula is one of Mexico’s most important pilgrimage sites and attracts hundreds of thousands of people during its yearly festival.
Of course, contemporary Cholula is much different than during antiquity, but still standing proud is the massive Tlachihualtepet pyramid — which in the Nahuatl language means artificial mountain.
There are of course many “great pyramids,” but this grand structure is not only the biggest pyramid in Mexico or the Americas but the largest in the entire world when measured by volume.
It is possible to get to the top of Tlachihualtepet pyramid along a winding path, all the way to the 16th-century church at its top.
The Tlachihualtepetl pyramid appears to have begun construction sometime in the 300’s BEC and was built over several following centuries until reaching its ultimate size in the 5th century.
At nearly 1,500 x 1,500 feet at its base, the pyramid of Tlachihualtepet covers a surface nearly twice that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. As for its height, the structure comes in at 220 feet — giving it a total volume of 175 million cubic feet.
The pyramid was badly damaged during several invasions, including the infamous “massacre of Cholula” during which the conquistador Hernan Cortés, aided by a Tlaxcalteca army, sacked and burned the great city.
The only mural to have survived the many invasions suffered by Cholula is known as “The Drunks.”
Near the base of the Tlachihualtepet are several structures that would have served a variety of civic and ceremonial purposes.
Further afield it is possible to observe a large plaza known as the patio of the altars. This large open area is flanked by structures on all sides but one, and is home to several structures and a handful of badly damaged sculptures.
The architecture of Cholula is fairly consistent with that of other great city-states in the Valley of Mexico, which is to say that it conforms to the Tablero-talud style.
If you go
Getting to Cholula is quite easy from Puebla, as the city is only five miles away. It is possible to take a taxi or even public transit directly from Puebla City’s downtown.
Getting to Cholula from Mexico City is also fairly easy, though the traffic tends to be quite arduous, making staying the night in Puebla a great option as opposed to a day trip.
Cholula’s archaeological site is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The entrance fee is 85 pesos for both domestic and international visitors.