This Former Aztec Stronghold Turned Stunning Colonial Town is a Must Visit in Puebla

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.

To say Atlixco is full of charm would be a huge understatement, however, given its location near both Cholula and the city of Puebla, travelers often overlook it.

Santa María de la Natividad barroque Church dominates Atlixco’s historic center. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But to discount this town would be a big mistake, as it has so much to offer when it comes to history, cuisine, and natural beauty. 

Situated at the foot of the Popocatépetl volcano, Atlixco sits at 1,830 meters (6000 ft.) above sea level. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

In Prehispanic times Altixco was known as Quauhquechollan, meaning “Place of the Quecholli Eagle. 

An aerial view of downtown Atlixco in the state of Puebla. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

During the Aztec period, the city grew in prominence and became an important hub for the military of the Triple Alliance, as well as a crucial center for trade. 

The ancient Cerro of San Miguel is one of Atlixco’s most dominant landmarks. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Like nearby Cholula, the Atlixco is also dominated by a large hill that was once dominated by an imposing Prehispanic ceremonial center which in the 17th century was replaced by a church. 

In the 17th century, the Cerro of San Miguel was heavily fortified to fend off attacks from the region’s indigenous inhabitants still hostile to the crown. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The hill, known today as the Cerro de San Miguel, and its surrounding area have in recent years been the site of a great deal of archaeological research which among its findings has proven the existence of a large Aztec Plaza, complete with a Mesoamerican ballcourt. 

The Cerro de San Miguel is now home to the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel but was once an Aztec ceremonial center. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Given its high elevation, the weather in Atlixco is comfortable, with daytime temperatures usually hovering around 75°F or 24°C. 

As it happens, Atlixco’s weather is also perfect for growing flowers, which has turned the community into one of the country’s most prolific nurseries for varieties including petunias, lily of the valley, and of course, the ever-popular cempasúchil and poinsettia.

Cempasúchil and Poinsettias are extremely in demand around Mexico from roughly October to December, making their successful cultivation key to the economy of Alixco. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Because Atlixco does not attract huge numbers of tourists, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy all that the State of Puebla has to offer, without the crowds.

Like the rest of the state of Puebla, Atlixco is well-known for its cuisine, and you do not have to go far to find a great meal on just about any budget. Photo: Carlos Rosado and er Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But one of the best things Atlixco has going is its laidback atmosphere, especially in the historic center where you will find groups of old men playing cards, families just taking in the beauty of the town, and plenty of benches to relax on.

Atlxico feels especially quaint in the early morning, despite its population of just over 140,000. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

That said, around 1 p.m., things can get a little hectic with the buzzing of motorcycles and cars making tight bends around the town’s narrow streets.

Despite its modern amenities, Atlixco in many ways feels like a bit of a time capsule, at a slower pace. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you go

Getting to Atlixco is fairly easy via public transportation from either Puebla City or Cholula, but taxis are not that expensive and much faster.

Nestled right next to Cholula, Atlixco makes for at the very least a great day trip. Source: Google Maps

For overnight stays, Atlixco has a wide range of hotels, with one of the most comfortable being the Hotel Boutique Alquería de Carrión — an independently owned Tesoros de México property. 

Atlixco’s Hotel Boutique Alquería de Carrión is located in the heart of the town and features comfortable rooms and a particularly great restaurant. Photo: Courtesy Tesoros de México
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