Most people associate Mexico with the popular tourist destinations such as Cancun
and Puerto Vallarta
. But the reality is that Mexico is a large country with mountains and deserts as well as those gorgeous sandy beaches. Many charming towns and villages are tucked away in the hills and valleys not far from major urban areas.
The town of Atlixco is located 20 km south of Puebla
at the foot of the magnificent stratovolcano Popocatepetl
You can drive to Atlixco via a new toll road (called a cuota in Spanish). Or you can use the older toll free road or libre. The older road is very scenic but also has speed bumps every kilometer or so. At least it seems that way. Speed bumps on a major highway are an annoyance requiring constant braking and accelerating. Both roads traverse some softly rolling hill country, always with Popocatapetl, the aforementioned magnificent volcano looming over you.
The cuota dumps you onto the main road into town. About 4 blocks before the zocalo or town square turn right on one of the side roads and find a free parking spot. Parking around the zocalo is very limited.
The climate in Atlixco varies little from day to day. It is set a bit lower than Puebla
by about 1000 feet. That seems to give Atlixco a wonderfully gentle climate. It is one of those peaceful towns where everyody seems to know everybody. Passersby greet you with a warm 'buenos dias'. The pace is slower and more tranquil than that of Puebla or the bustling Distrito Federal.
What to do in Atlixco:
As you walk down the side streets from where you parked your car to the zocalo
, take a peek inside the occasional open gate or door. The fronts of many buildings are dull and drab compared to the delights of a courtyard or small shop which hide behind those unprepossessing fronts.
The zocalo is relatively small. The ubiquitous Italian Coffee Company occupies the center and offers a delightful place to sit and watch the parade of locals wander by. The zocalo is ringed with benches covered in decorative tiles inviting you to sit, linger and watch as well. The usual streetvendors offer a range of goodies to sample or ignore as you choose. On the east side of the zocalo is the Church of Santa Maria de la Navidad. The interior is well worth inspecting. No flash photos please as is the custom in most churches anywhere.
Dining in Atlixco:
There are a couple of little bistros around the edges of the zocalo. Toppolinos offers Italian fare - their gelatos (ice cream) and malteados (milk shakes) are yummy. Sit at one of the tiny tables under the high ceiling of the old building. The ancient beams have seen many things over the years. The courteous staff will bring you a menu, take your order and serve your treats in a matter of minutes. The prices remind you of what things cost back home thirty years ago.
Atlixco is the kind of place you spend an hour in. Soak up the beauty of this rustic old community. Leave feeling refreshed and peaceful. Unless you own a home nearby, there is not much else to do.