Exploring the charming hillside towns and cities of Central Mexico is the best way to get to know a very different side to the country.
Within three hours drive north of the capital Mexico City, in the central highlands, are the colonial era cities of San Miguel de Allende and Queretaro. San Miguel boasts a historic centre, whose beautiful 17th and 18th century baroque and neoclassical architecture and leafy plazas are linked by narrow cobbled streets, lending a feeling of timelessness to one of the prettiest cities in the country. Queretaro is a larger and busier city, a little rough around the edges but with another well-preserved and charming colonial heart, full of equally elegant mansions and churches. Some 50 miles west of San Miguel is Guanajuato, another colonial gem which can be visited as part of a day trip.
To the south of Mexico City, within easy reach by road, are four more cities renowned for their well-preserved colonial core. To the south east of the capital are Puebla and Cholula. Puebla is one of the most important and oldest cities in Mexico, today famed for its colourful and laid-back centre, packed with interesting museums and churches and its excellent culinary scene (particularly its deserts). Puebla’s cathedral is one of the star attractions, with two of the tallest church towers in the country. Nearby, Cholula boasts a huge collection of beautiful churches, the remains of the world’s largest man-made pyramid and a stunning backdrop provided by the Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes.
Also two hours south of the capital are Cuernavaca and Taxco. The former is a city of beautiful parks, plazas and churches, charming haciendas and a warm climate throughout the year, making it the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. Even better, it can be easily combined with the historic mining town of Taxco, famed for its production of silver jewellery and beautiful colonial facades.
Away from the centre, Mexico’s rich colonial history remains equally prominent. Heading towards the east of the country you will find historic Oaxaca and San Cristóbal de las Casas and the old walled city of Campeche, with its nearby ruins. On the Yucatán is the city of Mérida, steeped in colonial heritage and the perfect base from which to explore the many archaeological sites of the region.
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