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In July, UNESCO added 19 new places to its collection of World Heritage sites, and Mexico gained yet another spot on that list. While most tourists probably haven’t yet heard of the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley — Mexico’s new addition — there will surely be more interest in the destination as word spreads.
A Focus on NatureThe site, located in the central Mexican states of Puebla and Oaxaca, is recognized as having North America’s richest biodiversity. The centerpiece is the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve, a 1.2-million-acre area that’s home to the world’s densest forest of columnar cacti, according to UNESCO. Xeric bushes, deciduous and pine forests, as well as 85 species of reptiles and 338 species of birds, are among the reasons why nature lovers are bound to find lots to interest them in this region.
Located within the biosphere is the Helio Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden, where visitors can learn about the medicinal uses of local flora, which includes more than 80 species of cacti. Nearby, they can whet their whistle at the Penafiel and Garci-Crespo natural springs, which has a museum that recounts the history of the curative waters that have drawn visitors since the 15th century. The Museum of Mineralogy, meanwhile, highlights the geological wealth of the region, and pre-Hispanic archeological ruins provide a glimpse of the architectural and agricultural knowledge of early Mesoamerican inhabitants.
Tour Options The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley will likely be included on more tour itineraries in the coming months; for now, one of the few international operators that currently features the destination is Tia Stephanie Tours. The company offers an eight-day Best of Puebla Tour that combines a guided visit to the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve with the chance to meet Mixtec palm weavers and explore the town of Los Reyes, which is a popular center for pottery making. Also included are visits to the city of Puebla; the pre-Hispanic site at Cholula; and Cuetzalan, a town known for its market and crafts.
Another option is provided by Oaxaca-based Tierraventura, which offers a one-day tour to the valley. This itinerary includes a stop at the biosphere reserve, as well as at a town called San Juan Raya, where petrified dinosaur footprints and fossilized seashells are among the reasons to visit. The company also offers a two-day tour of the reserve that includes visits to Canyon del Sabino — home to the endangered green macaw — and the ruins of an ancient Zapotec settlement that still has a visible ball court, temple and pyramid.
Where to Stay and Where to EatFor travelers interested in visiting the valley, the town of Tehuacan — which is the second-largest ity in the state of Puebla — is a logical hub for accommodations. Noteworthy options include Gran Hotel Mexico, a historic property that dates to 1898; Hotel Zenith, with its contemporary lodging style; Aldea del Bazar, which features a spa and temazcal; and Casa Cantarranas, located next to the Penafiel natural springs.
Visitors can also find plenty of interesting and authentic dining options in the area, including Casa Vieja, a restaurant set on an 18th-century estate. La Greca specializes in Oaxacan cuisine, while Arrecifes is recommended for families since it has a playground.
A bit farther from the valley — and about two hours from Tehuacan — is the city of Puebla, which offers plenty of options for hotels, transportation and dining. Top accommodation choices here include the luxurious Rosewood Puebla, which opened in 2017. Another popular choice is the historic Quinta Real Puebla, which is set in a former 16th-century convent. Finally, if clients are looking for something more modern, La Purificadora is a stylish boutique property that belongs to Grupo Habita.
UNESCO World Heritage sites are rarely disappointing for tourists. And Mexico’s latest addition to that list is sure to please your outdoorsy clients.
The DetailsMexico Tourism Boardwww.visitmexico.com
Tia Stephanie Tourswww.tiastephanietours.com