Pico de Orizaba, Tlaxcala, Cacaxtla & Xochitecatl Ruins – East of Mexico City

We’re addicted to Mexico City and all it has to offer as we’ve previously documented in this blog–from Mexico City’s museums to the varied Mexico City neighborhoods to the tacos of Mexico City and so much more. But if you can tear yourself away from the city’s urban charms you soon find yourself in a very different (but equally engaging) world of soaring peaks (18,490 foot Pico de Orizaba), tiny towns (Tlaxcala) and unusual murals (Cacaxtla) and oddly round ancient pyramids (Xochitecatl).
Totally worth the two hour journey.


Pico de Orizaba

Between Mexico City and the coast lies the tallest mountain in Mexico, an 18,490 foot volcanic giant called Pico de Orizaba. You can climb Orizaba. Or you can just admire it from the small town of Coscomatepec which is, apparently, famous for bread baking and saddlery. We saw one saddle shop and found only mediocre bread, but maybe we were too busy admiring Pico de Orizaba from the roof of Hotel San Antonio where 210 pesos (about US$18) got us a super clean room right off the square with parking for our truck.

18,490 foot high Pico de Orizaba is the tallest mountain in Mexico.

The Catedral de La Inmaculada Concepción in nearby Córdoba, Mexico.



Tlaxcala seems far too laid back, traffic free and spic and span to be a state capital, but it is. Okay, so it’s the capital of Mexico’s smallest state which is also called Tlaxcala–or Estado Libre y Soberano de Tlaxcala if you want to get technical, but that official name almost has more letters than this state has citizens.

What Tlaxcala does have plenty of is tranquility and charm with two picture-perfect plazas and freshly painted everything (including the sidewalks thanks to talented artists).

One of two perfectly manicured plazas in Tlaxcala.

Filigreed metal crosses along one wall of the Parroquia de San Jose in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

Freshly-painted porticos and traffic-free streets in Tlaxcala.

The Churrigueresque-style Basilica de la Virgin de Ocotlan in Tlaxcala, Mexico is a major pilgrimage site an an architectural marvel.


Tlaxcala’s Basilica de la Virgin de Ocotlan is a major pilgrimage site because the Virgin of Guadalupe is believed to have appeared here in 1541. An image of her even dominates the main altar. Even if you don’t believe in miracles, the over-the-top architecture is sort of a miracle of its own sort.

An image of the Virgin of Guadalupe dominates the altar of the Basilica de la Virgin de Ocotlan in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

Karen checking out the creepy crawly work of a sidewalk artist in Tlaxcala, Mexico.


Cacaxtla Archaeological Site

We’ve visited more than our share of Mayan archaeological sitesso it was refreshing to visit what remains of cities built by other cultures. First we visted Cacaxtla. Built by the Olmec-Zicalanca people, the site’s highlights were it’s large collection of vibrant and strikingly-intact murals with bright colors and imagery.

The unusual collection of colorful murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site are protected under a giant roof that covers an area larger than a football field.

Some of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.

A dancer remains in one of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.

Some of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.

Some of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.


Xochitecatl Archaeological Site

At the Xochitecatl archaeological site we were surprised by the round shapes of the structures. 

The unusually round small pyramid at Xochitecatl archeological site with Popocatépetl (17,802 ft) and Iztaccíhuatl (17,159 ft) volcanoes shrouded in clouds in the distance.




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  1. The saint that is worshiped in Ocotlan is not the Virgin of Guadalupe but actually the Virgin of Ocotlán. greetings from Japan. Love every post.