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Why This Lesser Known Cultural Destination In Mexico Is Surging In Popularity

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With a growing number of American travelers letting culture drive their decisions when it comes to picking the next destination, it's hardly surprising that the hugely historical, warm, and inviting sunny spot that is Mexico has been on their radar lately.

The Latin American giant had a record-breaking 2023, hosting over 30 million guests.

While Cancun, Tulum, and the like account for a majority of those, we mustn't forget there are other unsung spots playing an equally important part in this ongoing tourism Renaissance.

Aerial Shot Of A Spanish Built Cathedral In Puebla, Mexico, Latin America

The Mexican Caribbean has pristine beaches and a year-round tropical vibe, but this lesser-known cultural destination boasts a better-preserved architectural heritage, an underrated food scene, more attractive prices, and perhaps it's worth mentioning, it is surging in popularity:

Puebla Keeps Growing In Popularity As A Cultural Hotspot

Puebla is a sprawling city in central Mexico a two-hour drive from the capital that has been making headlines lately thanks to its impressive recovery.

According to Datatur, the number of tourist arrivals has already increased 34.2% year-on-year.

A Mexican Local Riding A Bike Down A Colonial Era Street In Puebla, Mexico, Latin America

This is largely attributed to Puebla's relevance as one of Mexico's oldest and most important cities, as well as the cultural value it offers.

Having been founded nearly 500 years ago, coinciding with the Spanish colonization of the territory, it has an impressive number of historical landmarks.

The United States is a fairly young nation that, for the most part, lacks Mexico's Old World charm, it's not all that common among Americans to have had the opportunity to marvel at colonial architecture, visit archaeological zones, or simply walk cities that are several-centuries-old.

Colonial Center Of Puebla, Mexico, Latin America

In Puebla, the development boom of the 21st century has not erased what's a fascinating past, and for every towering skyscraper that goes up over 100 meters high, there are countless more traditional buildings keeping the memory alive.

One Of The Largest Historical Centers In Mexico

In fact, it has one of the largest Old Towns in Mexico, with over 5,000 historical listings, and among those majestic churches, Spanish-built monasteries, and charming colonial dwellings adorned with tiles. You could spend weeks on end in Puebla and never see it all.

Bright Colorful Buildings In Puebla, Mexico, Latin America

The Cathedral, with its Renaissance design and beautiful stucco interior, and the grandiose City Hall are definitely not to be missed, as they form part of a wider UNESCO World Heritage Site. Puebla's real strength lies, however, in its different facets.

Far from being another one of those open-air museums that will start feeling a bit too overwhelming on day two already, what with the History overload, there is a whole metropolis to be discovered beyond the Colonial Zone, where you can experience the lively social scene and feel like you're in the ‘New World'.

Aerial View Of Angelopolis, A Modern District Of The Historical City Of Puebla Seen At Nighttime, Central Mexico, Latin America

Puebla is the fourth largest conurbation in Mexico, and each neighborhood has its very own distinct character, from the modern business hub that is Angelopolis, traversed by high-rise-flanked, wide boulevards, to the laid-back, autonomous town Cholula.

Cholula is a popular day trip for tourists in Puebla, as it is a short 20-minute Uber ride away from the center and a world-class foodie hotspot, famous for its mole poblano, a turkey or chicken-based dish served in a thick, rich chile and chocolate sauce.

Trust us, it tastes even better and more exotic than it sounds.

Mole Poblano Served In Pobla, Mexico, Latin America

Tacos arabes are just as flavorful: a local variation of the popular street snack, it is influenced by Middle Eastern migrants who arrived at the turn of the last century and introduced shawarma to the Pueblana diet.

Puebla was once at the heart of the Aztec Empire, one of the greatest civilizations known to mankind, and if you're keen on savoring a local Mesoamerican delicacy, escamoles should be on the list. They may sound unappealing at first – it's basically ant larvae – but it tastes heavenly.

Sauteed in butter, they have been nicknamed the ‘Mexican caviar', and it's a unique seasonal dish you will only find in this part of Mexico, typically in spring.

Mexico Street Food

The Wider State Of Puebla Is Witnessing A Rise In Tourism

Puebla is a great starting point for exploring the wider, eponymously-titled state of Puebla, home to as many as 12 Pueblos Mágicos, a Mexican designation for standout destinations.

According to local authorities, the number of ‘magical town' visitors increased by 19.8% in 2023.

Alongside Jalisco and the State of Mexico, Puebla is the Mexican state with the most Pueblos Mágicos.

Santo Domingo Church In Puebla, Mexico, Latin America

Cholula is the most visited, as it is dominated by an overgrown, yet imposing ancient pyramid, the largest by volume known to exist, atop which sits a church built in the 1500s. Other noteworthy towns include Atlixco, with its walled center, and Cuetzalan, a colonial outpost nestled in the verdant Pueblana hills.

Atlixco and its colorful houses in particular is one of the top five trendiest destinations in Mexico for 2024, as seen in this new report.

Lucky for culture-hungry Americans, they can fly nonstop to trendy Puebla from Houston-Intercontinental with United Express. Touching down first into Cancun, Monterrey or Tijuana, and then catching a connecting flight to Puebla is also an option.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

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