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.
The town of Zacatlan is one of those out of the way places most tourists have never heard of, much less visited. It is located in the state of Puebla about 150 km east of Mexico City. At an altitude of 6692 feet Zacatlan clings to the western side of the hill overlooking the Rio de Laxaxalpa. Be sure to stop at the scenic overlook on the road into Zacatlan and admire the dramatic vistas over the river to the east.
Zacatlan de las Manzanas:
The apple rules in Zacatlan. A popular Apple Fair around the first weekend of August celebrates the importance of the manzana
. Zacatlan is also the regional center where commerce is transacted. The city is now fairly easy to reach with a modern two lane highway taking you over the mountains from Tlaxco to Apixaco and then on to Chignahuapan and finally to Zacatlan. You can drive or take a bus from Puebla
. The journey is about 2 1/2 hours depending on whether you get stuck behind a large truck crawling up or down the steep hills!
What to see:
Get a map from your hotel and set out on foot. The streets are narrow and full of unexpected surprises. An artisan's shop here, over there a door opening onto a lovely atrium which turns out to be a restaurant. The sidewalks offer another glimpse at life here in Zacatlan as locals hurry to work or to the shops. The sidewalks are narrow, so be careful if you step off into the street. You will be competing with bicycles, trucks, cars and buses.
The city is laid out on a grid. It is historic with the typical zocalo
or town square, a cathedral and several churches. Observe the rules about taking pictures in churches and historic buildings: no flash please.
Where to stay:
Hotel accommodations range from the modest to substantial.You can even rent a cabin in the woods outside the city if that is what you prefer.
I stayed in a lovely small 30 room hotel where a double room with a Talavera pottery sink, beamed ceiling and a rustic, alpine feel cost me $50. I awoke to the sound of a church bell and some roosters crowing at 6 a.m. In the city center all was quiet apart from those disparate noises.
Hoteles.com.mx lists several hotels in the area.
Where to eat :
Food choices abound on just about every street block. You will find simple fare such as tacos al pastor
. You will see tables filled with families enjoying the wonderful food. Expect to pay 30-40 pesos for a plate of food and a drink. Several white cloth restaurants offer up more complicated dishes such as chilaquiles
. You will pay 50-60 pesos a dish, a bit more if you have a glass of local wine.
How to get there:
Getting to Mexico City from just about anywhere is fairly easy. International arrivals go through the newest, most modern Terminal 2
of Mexico City's airport
. Catching a bus to Puebla and then on to Zacatlan is easy and inexpensive: less than 200 pesos one way from the airport to Puebla. Don't be put off by traveling by bus
. Mexican buses are ultra-modern and luxurious. The ticketing process is electronic. Seats are assigned. You even get a choice of a drink and a cookie with your fare. How cool is that?