7 Facts About the World’s Biggest Monument: the Cholula Pyramid

The Culture of Puebla, Mexico
The Culture of Puebla, Mexico

Up until a few decades ago, there was a consensus among archeologists that the Khufu Pyramid at Egypt was the biggest man-made monument to ever exist. And guess what? They were wrong. It wasn’t until 1931 the Cholula Pyramid was fully explored and its gigantic proportions came to light.

How did this huge Pyramid managed to remain hidden for so long? Because it managed to blend in with its environment. Today, only a small portion of the Pyramid can be appreciated since the upper parts are now covered with mounds of ground, vegetation and yes, even a church!

7 Facts about the Cholula Pyramid

Fact #1: Its dimensions are 450 by 450 meters (1,480 by 1,480 feet) at its base and has a height of 66 meters (217 feet). Its base it’s bigger than the ones found at the Pyramids of Mexico and even Egypt.

Fact #2: The name Cholula means artificial hill. Shocking, uh? Its construction started all the way back to the 3rd Century AD.

Fact #3: Its volume is 4.45 million cubic metres. The one at the Khufu Pyramid of Egypt? 2.25.

Fact #4: At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Pyramid was already overgrown by vegetation and remained undiscovered until the 19th century!

Fact #5: There are 365 churches at the town of Cholula including the one located at the top of the Pyramid. Yes, one for every day of the year!

Fact #6: A debate is brewing between supporters of archeology and supporters of colonial era architecture since the church on top has to be demolished in order to fully excavate the Pyramid.

Fact #7: On a sunny day, you can get a glimpse of the beautiful Popocatepetl, Mexico’s most famous volcano, right behind the Pyramid/Church. There’s a theory that the builders of the Cholula Pyramid wanted it to be as big as the volcano itself!

A brief overview of the Cholula Pyramid

I visited Cholula for the first time when I was 16 years old and wanted to visit the UDLA University to explore my career options, I didn’t apply but it gave me the chance to see this amazing site. Now, 8 years later, I visited it again as a part of my Mexican Archeology Tour and also to pay a visit to a dear friend of mine who’s currently studying there.

I was truly shocked to see how much the Pyramid complex has changed since the last time I was there. There have been new findings and further excavations and now, an underground tunnel that runs underneath the Pyramid is the entrance to the archeological site. It takes about 15 minutes to get to other side of the tunnel so I wouldn’t really recommend it to claustrophobic persons!

Another new addition is the fact that Aztec Dancers from Mexico City and the Papantla Flying Men from Veracruz perform every Sunday in the small plaza located outside of the Pyramid. Yes, none of those attractions have anything to do with the people who built the Cholula Pyramid (think about how bizarre it would be to have Scottish bagpipers performing at Stonehenge and you’ll see what I mean) but hey, as long as the kids are happy, right?

You can also enjoy the souvenir market where the Papantla Flying men sell bows, hats and other related items. You can also buy delicious artisanal ice cream and not-so-delicious spicy crickets. Yes, that’s not just a fancy name. They are real fried crickets covered in spicy powder. Would you dare to try them?

How to reach Cholula from Mexico City

Cholula, a small magical town of Mexico, it’s located in the state of Puebla, 20 minutes away from Puebla city and about 2 hours from Mexico city. The cheapest way of reaching Cholula is to take a bus from Mexico City to Puebla (12 USD) and then take a local bus between Puebla City and Cholula (.5 USD).

From Cholula’s main square, the Pyramid is easily reached on foot. If you have the time, enjoy the magic of this charming Mexican town and explore some of its 365 churches. Entrance fee to the Pyramid is about 4 USD and it’s totally free for everyone on Sundays.

Have you ever heard of this huge Pyramid? Would you like to visit it? What’s your take on the colonial vs pre-hispanic debate? Should the Pyramid should be fully unveiled? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!

Last but not least, don’t forget to use our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders for making hotel reservations.

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The Culture of Puebla, Mexico
The Culture of Puebla, Mexico

14 Comments

    • It is! Mainly because of its huge base, there are many skyscrapers way taller than this Pyramid but they have such a small base that they’re not big enough when all things are considered!

  • Its a mystical place, I must say. We were so fascinated reading about it that next day of our landing in Mexico, we visited it. Beautiful place, it is and my favorite was walking inside the tunnel. You get a feel as if one goes few centuries back in time.

  • Oh wow, I was just here and in Puebla in November 2014. I have been to Mexico City many times and wanted to take a day trip somewhere, so a friend who lives in df suggested this and went along with me. I went atop the pyramid and into the church. And yes there are many churches in the area, but our guide says the 365 # is really a myth and there are actually about 180. Still a lot though! And it was a clear day and the volcano you mention was actually puffing out a smoke cloud! Also nice to learn the history of Puebla as it relates to Cinco de Mayo, when the Mexicans defeated the French at Puebla in 1862, thus slowing their advance on Mexico City.

  • I attended la UDLA in 1995 and we rented a house in Cholula for Mexican history and culture classes. Every time we walked into Cholula, we passed this magnificent site. I’m sure it has changed immensely since I last saw it and dream of returning to see it again.

  • Demolish the church and restore the pyramid.

    Similar situation on Jersey, Channel Islands, UK. A church has been built on top of one of the best preserved passage graves in Europe (3500BC), the mound is called La Hougue Bie, in the village of Grouville.

    I have always found Mexico and South America fascinating, and thought I knew a little about the archaeology, but only realized what Choula was yesterday! Bravo Raphael.

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