This article explores Tlaxcala, one of the lesser-known capital cities (and states) in Mexico.
Correct me if I am wrong. You have never heard about Tlaxcala (congratulations if you had!).
Tlaxcala (pronounced tlas – ca – la) is the name of the smallest state in Mexico. The capital of the state bears the same name (actually, the state takes the name of the capital). Even though you have probably never heard about it, the city has been around since 1522 (others date the founding in 1527 when the first bishop was appointed).
Tlaxcala means “place of the corn or maize tortillas”. The Aztec glyph describing the area contains two green hills and two hands holding a corn tortilla. The name also refers to a pre-Hispanic city and culture.
The Tlaxcalans allied with the Spaniards in an effort to destroy the Aztec empire. As a reward, Spaniards left the territory almost intact for 300 years of the colonial period.
You may ask what brought me to Tlaxcala. I think it was a combination of factors. I first heard of the city and state when I read about the ruins of Cacaxtla. This pre-Hispanic city is the major attraction in the state because it contains the oldest murals in Mesoamerica. I definitely had to visit those so I decided to stop by the capital for at least one day.
Additionally, I don’t think you get a complete picture of a country if you only visited the big and well-known cities. You get a better understanding of how society works in places far from mass tourism. For this reason alone, I felt Tlaxcala was calling me.
I am not going to lie. It is not easy to find good information about Tlaxcala. Maybe you find something decent about the city but it is almost impossible to find good info about the rest of the state. Therefore, in a visit to the area, you have to go with the flow and use the locals as your guides.
The city center is compact and filled with colonial-era buildings painted in colors such as burnt orange, salmon pink, and mustard yellow. Compared to other capitals in Mexico, it feels “sleepy.” From what I have read, the place attracts hundreds of visitors from the Federal District during the weekends. We visited on a Monday and the touristic kiosks were closed. There was no place to get a map.
So we had to use our natural compass to navigate thru the streets. Don’t get me wrong. Our walk was filled with delightful encounters. We absorbed all the façade colors, ate delicious food, found a book fair, admired the city from high ground, and visited the ruins (of course). I even had to make a kilometric line in the bank (to exchange money). Reminded me of when I lived in Puerto Rico.
For now, I want to leave you with some practical information. Who knows, you may feel attracted to the city too.
How to Get There
From Mexico City
From the International Airport take a taxi or the MetroBus to TAPO’s bus terminal. A company called ATAH has direct, high quality coaches to various destinations in the state. A ride to the capital of the state takes 2 hours. Buses depart every hour (or more frequently).
Take a small bus to the capital from CAPU’s bus terminal. Transit time is about 45 minutes.
How to Get Out
From Tlaxcala’s bus terminal, small buses depart frequently to Puebla and other cities in the state.
The bus terminal is located close to the city’s center but you would probably not want to walk. Take a taxi or bus to the center (around 30 pesos in a taxi). I recommend you stay in the center.
How to Move Around
I recommend you print or download a map of the city before arriving. Here are other options to get a map:
– Ask your hotel for one
– Visit the information kiosk in the center (this will probably work only during the weekends)
– In the center, there are signs with maps pointing to the places of interest. Take a photo of one and use it as your guide
If you need a taxi, they are parked in the main plaza. Negotiate the rate before going in.
Where to Eat
There are many restaurants around Plaza Constitucion (in the Portales). The municipal market is close to town.
Los Portales caught our attention because of the cheerful decoration (bullheads, bright colors, etc.)
My husband ordered the Huevos Ahogados (Drowned Eggs). The dish consisted of medium-boiled eggs covered in a tomato and rajas (chile strips) sauce.
I ordered the Sabanita Transpatio (don’t know how to translate this). It consisted of a cut of meat covered with nopales (cactus) and melted cheese. Everything was drenched in a pasilla chile sauce and served with a side of refried beans.
The best thing is that our mains came with fruit, unlimited coffee, juice, and sweet bread. It was a very good deal.
The food at Los Portales was so good that we ate there twice.
We also visited Café Revolucion (located in the main plaza area too).
We ordered the Swiss Enchiladas (filled with chicken and covered with tomato sauce, cream, and swiss cheese),
And papas con chorizo.
Some recommended restaurants include Las Cazuelas and Las Caballerizas
Do not forget to try the famous Mueganos de Huamantla. I bought one from a craft vendor. This sweet is famous in the area. It comes from Huamantla, a town in the state of Tlaxcala (it has been declared Magic Town of Mexico).
Think about a dense cake flavored with anise. Between cake layers, there is a syrup made with water, cinnamon, and piloncillo (unrefined sugar).
Where to Find Touristic Information
Hands down, the best information about the city is found on the page of a magazine called Mexico Desconocido. The information is only in Spanish. Use a translator if you need.
See the following notes:
The New York Times has an article about the haciendas in the state. Find it here.
Tlaxcala in Photos
Here I am presenting several photos of Tlaxcala. The main sights of the city are highlighted here. Let me say all these sights are located in the compact historic center. You can walk around admiring the architecture, visiting the museums, and devouring dishes till your belly feels like it is going to explode.
Let me know what you like more about this interesting city.
I didn’t have time to visit the museums, see the murals in the Government Palace, or admire the Ocotlan Basilica. That is why an entire weekend is recommended to indulge in what the city has to offer.
Have you visited Tlaxcala? Let me know in the comments section below.