First things first, in case you are wondering…yes, this is where the hot sauce company gets its name. I don’t know if there is actually any link between Cholula the Mexican city and Cholula hot sauce, but nevertheless, it is at least the inspiration.
Now, on to what you’re actually here for! Cholula is one of my favorite places in all of Mexico, and it’s a place that I can speak very personally about – it’s where I got my master’s degree, after all! This amazing place, which is really a collection of a couple of different towns, is brimming with fun things to do.
With a proportionally huge community of foreigners because of the universities nearby, Cholula is an unusual place compared to the rest of Mexico. The city itself is very old and maintains its rich history and Mexican charm, but the vast array of foreign restaurants and internationally inspired locales creates a very unique cultural blend.
Cholula is a lot more than just a beautiful place filled with foreigners and food, though, and this post will dive into exactly what to expect on your trip to Cholula. From the best things to do in Cholula, its best restaurants, and things you just can’t miss, this post will cover it all. It’s going to be a long one, but that’s what the table of contents is for, right?
Best Things to Do in Cholula
As I mentioned earlier, Cholula is packed with cool things to do. From sites that are extremely important to Mexican history to international restaurants and trendy cafes, Cholula is one of the best places to visit in Mexico in my opinion. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will outline some of the best things to do in Cholula.
1. Explore the Great Pyramid of Cholula
This is easily the best thing to do in Cholula, and it is what people usually travel here to do. The Great Pyramid of Cholula, known in Spanish as the Zona Arqueològica de Cholula, is actually the biggest discovered pyramid in the world in terms of volume. It won’t appear as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, because it is mostly underground, but it is still very impressive.
A visit to the Great Pyramid of Cholula archaeological site is filled with cool things to do. The Regional Museum of Cholula (Museo Regional de Cholula in Spanish) is a small museum located inside, the pyramid itself is epic, and on top of it all sits one of the most iconic photos in all of Mexico – the Sanctuario de la Virgen de Los Remedios. This Spanish church built on top of the pyramid is gorgeous and can be seen from miles away, and right behind it off in the distance are Mexico’s two most iconic volcanoes. This backdrop is easily one of the most epic views in all of Mexico.
By far, the best thing to do in Cholula is a guided tour of the archeological site. It doesn’t take much time, but hearing about the history of the site from a local guide adds a lot to a visit to Cholula, and a good tour guide will point you in the direction of a good place for lunch or dinner afterward.
Around the Pyramid on weekends there are always vendors buzzing around, selling food, drinks, and all kinds of goods. I highly recommend grabbing a chelada and relaxing in the area surrounding the base of the pyramid. Not sure what a chelada is? Check out my post on the most common Mexican drinks to find out!
2. Go Out in Container City
Container City is a really unique part of Cholula, and if you are looking to go out at night, this is the place for you. Made of a bunch of shipping containers, this confined area is filled with trendy bars and restaurants of all kinds for you to party the night away. Just a stone’s throw away from the pyramid, Container City is very accessible and can really be a lot of fun.
I recommend getting there early and being prepared to haggle your way in. Sometimes the bouncers like to be picky about who can and can’t go in, and a nice smile might be the key to getting him to let you pass. Regardless, once you’re in it is an absolute blast.
I’ll touch on this in more detail later, but going out at night in Cholula is very safe, and I myself never had any issues. Just be responsible and take normal precautions that you would take in any city, and you won’t be in any more danger than you would be in New York or Los Angeles. Also, drinking in the streets is technically illegal, so keep that in mind, too.
3. Visit the Parroquia de San Pedro
This beautiful church in San Pedro Cholula is a great place to stop and appreciate the gorgeous architecture in many of Mexico’s main churches. As it was built in colonial times almost 400 years ago, this building has certainly withstood the stand of time and has survived countless power shifts and struggles, including the war for Mexican Independence in the 1800s.
The Parroquia de San Pedro is one of the most photographed spots in all of Cholula, and it is commonly recognized for having the tallest tower in Cholula and for its colorful pennants flowing down from its steeple. If you are interested, I loved going to mass here to experience the locals’ devotion to their faith.
One fun fact you will likely hear on any free walking tour is that Cholula is known for having 365 Catholic churches, or one for every day of the year. Just about every main plaza in the city has a church, and the architectural style of each one varies widely.
4. Take a Day Trip into Puebla de Zaragoza
I’m struggling to write such a short section on the city of Puebla because it is my favorite city in all of Mexico. I mean, Cholula is a magical town, but Puebla City is the capital city of Puebla state and the city center is simply marvelous. Living there for a year was a magical experience, and I can’t even begin to describe how worth a visit it is. If you decide to go, be sure to read my Puebla travel guide first.
As the fifth biggest city in Mexico with about 1.5 million residents and one of the most strikingly colorful colonial cities in the country, Puebla is a place that you really can’t miss.
Some top attractions in downtown Puebla include the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the Estrella de Puebla, the historic center, and the forts. The Biblioteca Palafoxiana is the oldest library in the Americas, the Estrella de Puebla is one of the largest Ferris wheels in all of Latin America, and the historic center is loaded with stunning churches, like San Francisco Acatepec.
The streets of Puebla are filled with bright colors and striking architecture, and there is no better example than the popular Callejon de Los Sapos.
If colorful colonial architecture isn’t your thing, maybe food is. The state of Puebla is recognized as a major cultural center because it is one of the top 3 foodie destinations in all of Mexico. Its local cuisine is arguably the most famous throughout the entire country. A visit to the area is not complete without trying Mole Poblano, Tacos Arabes and Chiles en Nogada!
To get between Cholula and Puebla, I recommend taking an Uber. If you are looking for a more touristy experience, hop on the tourist train that links Cholula to Puebla for a quick trip into the city! The train station in Cholula is right by the foot of the pyramid and the ride is no more than 30 minutes.
5. Drink a Coffee While Admiring the Volcanoes
One of my personal favorite things about living in both Puebla and Cholula was the stunning view of the volcanoes. Many people don’t realize that Mexico is a very mountainous country, and the backdrop of Cholula has two snow-capped volcanoes! While one is dormant, the other active volcano often spits out smoke and it is a really cool thing to do.
Mexico isn’t just beaches, people. The vast majority of the country is extremely mountainous – Puebla, Cholula, and Mexico City are all at a higher altitude than Denver, Colorado, which is known as the “Mile-High City!”
I mentioned earlier that the view of the Catholic church on top of the pyramid with the volcanoes in the background is one of the most epic views in all of Mexico, but what I will tell you now is that sipping a coffee in the park at the bottom of the pyramid and just looking up at the church and the volcanoes is absolutely serene.
I did this many times when I just wanted to relax, and it is a great way to take a deep breath and stop for a quick break while exploring. Nueve Lluvias Cafeteria is right there, and while it may not have the greatest coffee in town, it definitely has the best view.
What Is the Pyramid in Cholula?
I’ve talked a lot in this post about how cool the Great Pyramid of Cholula is, but what exactly is it?
The pyramid in Cholula, known in the local Nahuatl language as Tlachihualtepetl (“Made-by-hand Mountain”), is an old temple created by the local indigenous people to honor the god Quetzalcoatl, and it is still recognized as the largest pyramid in the entire world by total volume in cubic meters.
The temple was built in a few phases over a span of over 1,000 years, starting around 300 B.C. and ending around 900 A.D. This was one of the most sacred sites in all of ancient Mexico, and it is very worth visiting. Underneath this Zona Arqueológica de Cholula is an elaborate and extensive network of caves and tunnels, and the complexity of it all is really impressive.
On top of the Great Pyramid of Cholula is the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, which is a stunning, gold-laden chapel with incredible views of the surrounding area and the volcanoes. While it may seem tragically ironic that the Spanish conquest resulted in a church right on top of the most sacred site in the area, it is widely believed that they didn’t actually know the pyramid was there.
By the time Hernán Cortés invaded the area in the sixteenth century, the temple was obsolete and completely covered in dirt and vegetation. Supposedly, they just thought it was a small hill!
Where to Eat in Cholula
I mentioned earlier that Cholula has a surprisingly great selection of restaurants with food from all over the world. Naturally, I had to give you my recommendations! Here are a few of the best places to eat in Cholula, with a little bit of food from all over.
$$$ | Mexican
Ciudad Sagrada is a very traditional Mexican restaurant located in San Pedro Cholula. It is widely known as the best place to eat in all of Cholula, and if you ask a taxi driver for a dining recommendation this is probably where they will tell you to go. The food is really delicious and traditional, and the prices are fantastic for the quality that you receive. If you are visiting on a weekend, make a reservation just in case.
Quattro Pizza Bar
$$ | Italian
If you are looking for a nice, affordable dinner out with a great view and fantastic drinks, look no further than Quattro Pizza Bar. Located just a couple of blocks from the pyramid and the zocalo, Quattro Pizza Bar has a great rooftop space with fairly priced food and drinks. You can’t really go wrong here!
$$$ | International
Divara is like Quattro Pizza Bar except on a much finer level. We really enjoyed eating out here, and they have really tasty Italian food and pizza. Their rooftop is also very nice, but their interior is gorgeous as well. They often run drink specials that are very affordable, and you really can’t go wrong here if you are looking for a nice meal out. This is also a great place to grab some good food and drinks before going out!
$ | Mexican & American
Putting this here might make every Mexican person I ever met disown me. But guys, escùchenme, por favor! Cerceceria Chapultepec is like a dollar store, but for food. Every item on the menu costs somewhere around a dollar, and this includes drinks! It is ridiculously loud inside and you really can’t have any sort of conversation.
However, I think the food is extremely underrated for being essentially fast food, and getting beers and burgers for $1 each is too much of a great thing to not include on this list. A big part of Cholula is its party scene, and there is no better place to pregame. You heard it here, first.
The Best Cafe in Cholula
This is one I can speak to on a very personal level. Firstly, I was a barista for a long time. I know my coffee inside and out. Secondly, I’m a blogger! I spend days on end sitting in cafes! Honestly, I should start a blog just about the best cafes in each place I visit.
Anyway, I spent enough time – let’s call it several hundred hours – working in cafes in Cholula, to figure out where the best one is. So, drum roll, please…
Barbarista is as good as it gets. It is one of the best small, local cafes I have ever been to, to be honest. There are a few really great cafes in Cholula, like Cafe Bartola, Genesis, and Dominica 19, but none come close to Barbarista in my opinion. This place has great food (get the croissant), a great ambiance (fantastic for getting work done or having a good conversation), and most importantly, really great coffee.
Something I loved is that on top of serving great coffee drinks, they also served great coffee alcoholic drinks. No better way to cap off a long day of work than with a cold brew cocktail and some live music, am I right? If you want the best coffee in Cholula, don’t think twice.
Which Cholula Is Best: San Andres Cholula vs. San Pedro Cholula
If you start looking up some of the best things to do in Cholula, odds are you will realize that there is more than just one town of Cholula … kind of. It all is the city of Cholula, but they are considered to be separate municipalities that share a name and are directly adjacent to one another. The small town of San Pedro Cholula is on the west side of the pyramid (basically) and San Andrés Cholula is on the east side of the pyramid. The formal name for it all is Cholula de Rivadavia, but almost nobody actually says that.
People often wonder which one is the best, and really there isn’t a right answer to that. Both have a very unique vibe, but both offer everything that you can get in the other, if that makes sense. Generally, San Pedro Cholula is seen as a more family-oriented place while San Andres Cholula is more of a college town, but there are plenty of bars in San Pedro Cholula and plenty of family-oriented activities in San Andres Cholula.
The main square in San Pedro Cholula is a very nice place to visit, but San Andres Cholula has all the best views of the pyramid. You will probably spend plenty of time in both. I am partial to San Andres Cholula, but I guess I was a college student, so maybe I’m biased. #yosoyudlap
How to Get to Cholula
Cholula is extremely accessible, due to its proximity to Mexico City. In fact, it cracked my list of the best day trips from Mexico City, and makes for the perfect little road trip from the nation’s capital. To get to Cholula from an international origin, your best bet is to fly into Mexico City International Airport (MEX). Just about two hours away, Mexico City International Airport is the biggest and busiest airport in the country, and you are bound to have plenty of great flight options to consider.
As I mentioned in my guide to finding cheap flights, Mexico City is considered a hub airport and for that reason has endless choices of flights to choose from and tons of direct flight routes all over the world. Once you land and cross through immigration, there are two options that I recommend to get to Cholula.
How to Get Around Cholula
BY FOOT | BIKE | UBER
Cholula is not a very big place, and as such does not really have much public transportation. There are colectivos that run throughout the city, but they aren’t the nicest and I’ve heard some concerns about their safety.
Renting a bike might be your best bet. If you don’t want to bike and the idea of walking a mile or two to get where you’re going sounds too intense, just call an Uber. Ubers in Cholula are dirt cheap – maybe $2 to get across town – and perfectly safe. We Ubered just about everywhere we went when we lived in Puebla and Cholula, because it is just so easy, cheap, and helps to contribute a bit to the local economy in the process.
If you are skeptical about using Uber in Mexico, don’t be. It is probably even safer than driving yourself and definitely safer than a taxi. If you’re still doubting me, though, check out my post about Uber safety in foreign countries.
Is Cholula, Mexico Safe?
Everyone asks this question whenever they travel somewhere in Mexico. Personally, I think the danger of Mexico is so overblown. I wrote a post on the “Most Dangerous Places in Mexico,” and half of it was just debunking the myths about violence and danger in Mexico. There are definitely places in Mexico you should never go to, but you could say the same about every country in the world! Well, maybe not Canada.
Like anywhere you go, you should keep your wits about you and take general precautions, but Cholula is a very safe place and is a favorite among foreigners for that reason. My whole time living there I personally never experienced any reason to feel unsafe, and I walked the streets at all hours of the day and night.
Just don’t be irresponsible, and the odds of anything bad happening to you are very minimal. With that being said, don’t wear flashy jewelry, and don’t carry a lot of cash. That is just not a good idea anywhere!
How Is Cholula Weather?
People think of Mexico as if it is made up solely of barren deserts and immaculate beaches. Mexico does have both of those things, but that makes up maybe 30% of the country. The rest of Mexico is jungles and mountains!
Cholula is located way up in the mountains in Central Mexico – over 5000 feet above sea level – and has really great weather all year round. The summers don’t get unbearably hot, maxing out somewhere in the 80s, and the winters don’t get freezing, dropping only into the 40s or 50s.
A typical day in Cholula is sunny and 65, and you can wear jeans and a short sleeve shirt probably 90% of the year. It can get chilly at night, though, so bring a jacket if you’re heading out in the evening. The only exception to the “sunny” part is the rainy season, which usually brings heavy rain for about an hour or two during the afternoon and then total sunshine for the rest of the day.
This is technically from May to October, but it depends on the year. The best time to visit Cholula is in the spring, summer, or fall, but the winter months are still fairly warm to most foreign visitors.
Thanks for reading my Cholula travel guide. Hopefully you have gathered enough information to know that the answer to the question “is Cholula worth visiting” is yes! If you decide to go, let us know! For any questions or thoughts, drop a comment below!