Spring Break in Atlixco, the City of Flowers
Americans aren’t the only people who go on spring break in Mexico. The week between Palm Sunday and Easter — also known as semana santa — is one of the nation’s busiest travel periods. In 2010, half of the 9 million people expected to travel during the holiday period were Mexican citizens, El Economista newspaper reported. My other half, Pablo, and I knew exactly what that meant: crowded beaches, booked hotels, and clogged traffic arteries. So, in an attempt to avoid hordes of tourists and road rage, we headed inland instead of toward the coast, to nearby Atlixco.
Atlixco is a relatively tranquil town about 20 miles southwest of Puebla. It has a reputation for exceedingly good weather. In fact, the city’s official tourist brochure boasts that the Atlixco has “the best climate in the world.” The moderate temperatures enable the production of two other things Atlixco is known for: gardening supplies (some people call it the City of Flowers) and cecina (beef that’s been salted, marinated, and sun-dried). The landscaping at La Aldea Hotel & Spa, where we stayed for three nights, was indeed gorgeous — and everything was in bloom.
We ventured into town on Good Friday, hopeful that everything would be open, and it was. We even found the free city parking lot, located just behind the ex-convent of El Carmen, where we stumbled upon the modest Museum of Atlixco Valley Cultures. Its curators collect and identify artifacts that people have found in the area. In March 2010, they added an exhibit of marine fossils dating back some 420 million years. I’ve heard that central Mexico is one of two places on the planet that scientists suspect life on Earth originated. These ancient fossils — white coral, giant snails, sea sponges, fish heads, and more — seem to support this.
Next, we headed for the zócalo, stopping to check out the vendor stalls along the pedestrian-only alleyway of Constitution and a dazzling display of Easter-themed murals covering the ground with colored sawdust at Plaza de Armas. The tourist information booth offered us a free guided walking tour (in Spanish), so we headed up the hill to the ex-convent of San Francisco, arriving just in time for a throng to gather for a re-enactment of the crucifixion, a popular annual pastime among Catholics here.
We wandered around a bit more with our guide, admiring art at a couple of other churches, then decided it was just too hot to continue our stroll in the sun. So we headed to the indoor market for a cool drink and some shade. We sampled some yummy queso fresco and cecina, but felt it would be perceived as disrespectful if we ordered a huge plate of beef on Good Friday (a mistake we made two years ago at a restaurant in Oaxaca). Refreshed, we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the rest of the afternoon by the pool.
On Saturday, we took advantage of the hotel’s spa, enjoying chakra-balancing massages and spending some time in the jacuzzi before eating breakfast so late that it was really lunch. Aside from being annoyed by a drunken, half-naked couple that decided to make a complete spectacle of themselves (because, really, what spring break would be complete without spring breakers? I’m just thankful that they weren’t Americans), we enjoyed a quiet, relaxing day. We wrapped up our mini vacation that evening with a bottle of wine, music, and Yahtzee on our room’s balcony. Bliss.
To get to Atlixco from the Puebla capital, take Vía Atlixcayotl (head south of the Periférico) until it turns into a toll highway (438D). You can also take Linea Oro buses from the CAPU station.