Enjoy A Warm-Weathered, Crowd-Free Winter Vacation At This Cheap City In Mexico

Wintertime isn't always all it's cracked up to be. Whether it's the biting cold, the shorter days, or the constant need to layer up, these colder months of the year usually leave people dreaming of warmer, sunnier escapes that'll get them out of the winter funk and into a breezy pair of shorts and flip flops. And while most travelers might associate these tropical climates with far-off, Caribbean island destinations, there's plenty to discover just south of the border. In fact, if you're looking for a place with sunshine, great food, and vibrant culture that's not as expensive as more touristy destinations — look no further than Cholula.

Spice lovers will probably recognize Cholula as a bottle of hot sauce that adds a touch of heat to any meal. However, beyond the bottle, Cholula is the name of a quiet town in the state of Puebla that's about a 77-mile drive south of the hustle and bustle of Mexico City.

Brimming with culture and history, Cholula is one of Mexico's many "Pueblos Mágicos" — or Magical Towns — meaning that it's officially recognized by the country for having unique qualities that offer visitors a "magical" experience. So whether you're looking to explore the town's archeological park, hit up the tianguis (flea market) for some bargains and unique finds, or delight your tastebuds with some mole poblano, Cholula has you covered.

Budget-friendly spots in Cholula that you can't miss

Small but mighty, Cholula has plenty to offer visitors who are looking for somewhere that's a little cheaper and quieter than Mexico City, but still lively enough to keep you interested. One of the best things to see in Cholula is the town's Great Pyramid called Tlachihualtepetl, and the entrance fee is only about 42 pesos ($2.50 USD). Tucked away inside the town's famous archaeological site, the pyramid has the widest base in the Americas — measuring 1,480 by 1,480 feet — and it's also the largest pyramid in the world by volume of its building blocks. Despite its size, the Great Pyramid isn't easy to see from afar — especially since the Spanish built a church on top of it in 1594.

Conveniently for you, however, is that the church — Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios or Our Lady of Remedies Church — is also a definite must-see during your time in Cholula. It offers impressive views of the town, both during the day and at nighttime. Sure, the climb up might feel steep, but it's definitely worth it and it's free. If the weather permits, you might even catch a bonus glimpse of the Popocatépetl volcano — one of the most active in the country — huffing and puffing on the horizon.

Lastly, located an hour's drive from Cholula, Iztaccihuatl-Popocatépetl Zoquiapan National Park (Itza-Popo for short) covers 98,395 acres across three states. Admission is just a few U.S. dollars and the park is home to the region's two active volcanoes: Popocatépetl, which translates to Smoking Mountain, and Iztaccíhuatl, or the White Woman. Those looking for a more structured experience can hire a guide on travel sites; prices vary.

Must-try foods in Cholula

Let's be honest — no trip is ever complete without sampling some of the local cuisine. Beyond the street tacos and tamales, Cholula offers plenty of opportunities for budget-conscious foodies who are visiting Mexico to indulge the senses and sample a variety of local delicacies that they won't find anywhere else. In addition, the variety of restaurants means there's likely to be something in everyone's price range.

Coming in at the top of the must-try list is the classic mole poblano. Made with cocoa and chili peppers, along with at least 20 other ingredients, mole is a classic choice that's typically paired with turkey and rice. Then, you've got cemitas. These classic tortas — or sandwiches — are served in a traditional sesame seed bun and stuffed with breaded chicken, beef, or pork, alongside avocado, cheese, and the salsa of your choice. They're basically the perfect on-the-go snack for a day of exploring. Chalupas are another classic dish from the region. Made with a thin, deep-fried corn base and topped with the meat of your choice, cheese, and salsa, these quick snacks are a must-try.

Lastly, if you're visiting Cholula between August and September, you can't miss the chile en nogada. This classic dish is made by stuffing a poblano chili with a mixture of ground meat, various fruits and spices, and covered in a rich sauce made with walnuts and cream. Then, it's topped off with pomegranate seeds and parsley — perfection!