Why doesn’t anyone go to Tlaxcala? Living in Puebla, Tlaxcala has seemed to me like a great day trip, but for some reason it just doesn’t get much love from travellers. The WikiTravel page is a barren wasteland, and Lonely Planet’s section on the city could do with a little updating. This in itself was enough to perk my interest in this oft-overlooked corner of Mexico, and I could smell a diamond in the rough.
Tlaxcala city is the capital of a state of the same name. The state is absolutely tiny; it’s the smallest in Mexico, and accounts for a minuscule 0.2 percent of the country’s territory. It’s almost entirely surrounded by the much larger neighbouring state of Puebla, and the capital is pretty much an equal distance from Mexico City and Puebla city. Given this convenient location, you’d expect Tlaxcala to be a logical side trip for anyone heading vaguely east or south from Mexico City.
The main reason Tlaxcala sees relatively few visitors is likely because it just doesn’t have any big name attractions. The most well known site I could find was the Basilica de Ocotlan, church and privilege site 15 minutes by foot from Tlaxcala’s zocalo.
Loney Planet described the basilica as among the most impressive in Mexico – a claim that I can’t help feeling is a slight exaggeration. It’s certainly a nice church, but (pardon the pun) barely holds a candle to Puebla’s stunning cathedral. They’re just not in the same league.
There were a few other nice attractions recommended by the guidebook, including the local folk art museum, and the restaurant Tirol, which apparently serves up platters of local insects. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the museum I was shooed off by a worker who said there was no power. Hungry for some bugs, I headed over to Tirol, only to find the doors bolted shut at lunchtime on a Saturday.
Perhaps this run of bad luck has tainted my view of Tlaxcala, though I can admit it certainly has its charms. The old colonial centre is quite nice, and the leafy zocalo really is a great place to relax on a Saturday afternoon. It feels like a smaller, less crowded Puebla, which is certainly a compliment.
If there was one thing that made the trip worth it, it had to be the surprisingly impressive Palacio de Gobierno de Tlaxcala, on the northern side of the zocalo. It’s only mentioned in passing by Lonely Planet, but is well worth checking out for its intricate murals.
The murals depict key events in the history of Tlaxcala and Mexico, and are just bursting with detail.
So in conclusion, Tlaxcala isn’t central Mexico’s most exciting destination, but it has some promise. If you’re a little luckier than me, you’ll probably find it a worthwhile detour between Mexico City and Puebla. Personally though, I’d only suggest heading out there if you have quite a bit of time up your sleeve, and need to kill a day.
First published at dissentsansfrontieres.com.