A music and dance performance we stumbled upon when passing through the Casa de la Cultura in Puebla, Mexico
In the more than 10 years I have been traveling internationally I have never been met with as many fears from family and friends as I was when I mentioned my plans to go to Mexico. If you have traveled to Mexico, you may have heard – and perhaps had – concerns about safety. So is there any truth to the trepidation? Is it safe to travel to Mexico?
The short answer is: yes and yes.
Some fear is healthy and common sense – I wouldn’t strut around carrying wads of cash and wearing expensive jewelry in crime-ridden areas in any country – but not all fear is warranted. And much of it is fabricated, or at the very least, exaggerated. While it is true there are parts of Mexico that are dangerous, there are also plenty of safe places to visit. In fact, some locations may be even safer than your own neighborhood. One of those places is Puebla.
So how do you know if you should put Puebla on your travel wish list? Here are a few hints:
You will probably enjoy Puebla if you appreciate unique experiences in a historic city. Heard of Cinco de Mayo? Well, it happened here. The battle – and unexpected victory – against the French took place in Puebla on May 5, 1862. Although the French were not forced out for five more years, this temporary victory represented Mexican resilience and resistance to foreign domination. And it is still celebrated today with parades, speeches, and reenactments.
Whether you visit Puebla on the fifth of May or on any other day, you’ll find a rich history and wealth of experiences, all within the city center:
- Take a walking tour around Puebla’s Centro Histórico – a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Pay a visit to the Catedral and see the sacred structure that is pictured on the 500 pesos bill.
- Stroll through the Barrio del Artista and observe artists at work. Scour the markets at Mercado El Parian – a handicrafts market – or Plazuela de los Sapos – an outdoor antiques and flea market – for the perfect Puebla souvenir.
- Share the space of scholars past and enjoy the sunshine streaming through the windows of Biblioteca Palafoxiana, Latin America’s first public library.
Biblioteca Palafoxiana in Puebla, Mexico. Photo © Sunny Fitzgerald
You will probably enjoy Puebla if you like to taste your way through your travels. If you let your taste buds lead you, you should eventually find yourself in Puebla, the birthplace of mole poblano, one of Mexico’s most famous culinary creations. This chili-based, chocolate-infused sauce’s origins are often debated, but the depth of its distinctive flavor is irrefutable. And mole poblano is not all Puebla has to offer. You can sample some frijoles charros (cowboy beans), nopal (cactus), chiles en nogada (poblano chile stuffed with meat, fruit and nuts, topped with a walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds), and even a whole street of sweets.
You will probably enjoy Puebla if you want to wander on, around, and through a pyramid. The state of Puebla is home to the largest pyramid in Mexico. You’ll find this ancient treasure in the Magical Town of Cholula, just 10 minutes from Puebla city. Arrive early enough to allow time to explore, but be sure to stay late enough to catch the sunset view of the volcanoes, from your perch atop the pyramid.
Sunset volcano view from Cholula Pyramid. Photo © Sunny Fitzgerald
…and off the beaten path. If you are seeking solitude, head for the hills. Or rather, the ruins of a Mesoamerican city at 7,000 feet. The Cantona Archaeological site is located about an hour and a half from the city of Puebla, but feels worlds away. As visitor numbers are still quite low, there is a good chance you may be fortunate enough to spend your day – as we did – with just the wind, sun, and spirits of ancient city dwellers for company.
Cantona Archeological Site in Puebla, Mexico. Photo © Sunny Fitzgerald
You will probably enjoy Puebla. But if you need a second opinion… In 2012, The New York Times ranked Puebla #13 on its recommendations of Places to Go. That same year, Lonely Planet readers voted Puebla as one of the Best Places to Travel. Puebla has earned the distinction of being named “Favorite Colonial City” by About.com’s Readers Choice Awards and “Mexico’s Next ‘It’ Destinations” by Fox News Latino. And it is now on my personal list of “Favorite Places I Can’t Wait to Return To.” I have just come home from Puebla, and I am already plotting my next trip to Mexico. How about you?