Central Mexico is the most historic region in Mexico. It was here that conquistador Hernán Cortés, leading only a few hundred men, was able to conquer and dominate an empire several million strong. Today, the region boasts the most impressive Aztec ruins as well as beautiful colonial cities and the country’s best museums. The region is comprised of the states of Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Queretaro and Tlaxcala.
Guanajuato, capital city of the state of the same name, is a beautiful jewel of a colonial city. In 1988, the colonial historical center was named a world heritage site. The city has been host to the International Cervantes Festival since 1952. It is known as an excellent place to celebrate Christmas: local student bands take to the streets, singing and serenading. If you’re a shopper, visit the Mercado Hidalgo, where you will find local artisans selling pottery, ceramics, stonework, silver and elaborate candy figures. The most famous attraction, however, is almost certainly the Guanajuato Mummy Museum, which must be seen to be believed.
In the state of Hidalgo, you can visit the archaeological site of Tula. It was a Toltec site later taken over by the Mixtec. Over 1,200 years old, the site is supposedly the birthplace of Quetzalcoátl, one of the most important pre-Columbian deities. It is famous for its standing stone warrior figures. A must for fans of ruins and ancient cities, the site is located a mere 88 kilometers from the capital of the state of Hidalgo, Pachuca.
The most popular attraction in the state of Morelos is certainly the city of Cuernavaca. Only 90 kilometers away from Mexico City, âthe city of eternal springâ seems a world apart. It boasts a perpetually beautiful climate, and the city is a maze of beautiful colonial architecture, gardens and parks. Hernán Cortés, the Spaniard who conquered the Aztecs and who ruled Mexico for the first few years after conquest, built his home in Cuernavaca. Today, his home is a Museum of Mexican History and Culture.
Cuernavaca is known as a great place to learn Spanish. There are a number of Spanish schools, for all levels of language and budget. There are excellent restaurants and the city is also known for its lively nightlife. There are several attractions outside of Cuernavaca as well. 38 kilometers away is Xochicalco, a ruin complex and world heritage site.
The city of Puebla de los Angeles, commonly referred to as Puebla, is a proud, artistic, deeply religious city with a long history. Founded in 1531, the colonial historical center is a world heritage site. A maze of churches, convents, colonial doorways and facades, the best way to see the historical center is simply to wander around on foot. For shoppers, there is a market where vendors sell locally made pottery. You can also check out the antiques in the Los Sapos district.
12 kilometers west of Puebla is the ruined city of Cholula, which boasts the largest pyramid in Mesoamerica: it is 450 meters square at the base and rises 65 meters high. The state of Querétaro is full of natural attractions such as waterfalls, mountains and grottoes. It is a popular place for camping and going to spas. There are many picturesque artisan villages in the area. The city of Querétaro, founded in 1531, is one of the oldest in Mexico. The historical city center is a colonial jewel, and has been named a world heritage site. Only 200 kilometers from Mexico City, it is a good place to get away for a few days. The art museum in Querétaro is in a former convent of San Agustín and worth a visit. Fifty kilometers away from the city is the Peña de Bernal, a large volcanic rock mass that is world famous as an outstanding place for rock climbing.
Tlaxcala is a small state, known for ecotourism and adventure travel. The city of Tlaxcala is a pleasant one with narrow streets that still conserve the sixteenth century street plan. The city is one of the oldest in Mexico, founded in 1524 by a group of 12 Franciscan friars. From there, they began the spiritual conquest of Mexico. The Tlaxcala regional museum is housed in the old San Francisco monastery, is well worth a visit. They have a good collection of pre-Hispanic pottery, ceramics, and other relics.
Outside of town are the sites of Cacaxtla, which has some magnificent murals, and Xochitécatl, which is set on a high hill and boasts the circular Pyramid of the Spiral, which some believe to have been an observatory, and the Pyramid of the Flowers, the fourth largest in Mexico.