GETTING THERE: United and US Airways fly nonstop from the D.C. area to Mexico City from about $400 round trip, with restrictions. Continental and Aeromexico offer connecting service from Washington to Puebla from about $450 round trip.
From Mexico City, you can take a bus to Cuetzalan from the city's eastern bus terminal, known as the TAPO. Grupo Texcoco (011-52-55-5542-8689) runs bus service on its Primera Plus line, with six daily departures, for the five- to six-hour trip. A first-class ticket costs $16.
To and from Puebla, Via bus service has frequent departures for the 31/2- to four-hour trip. Tickets cost about $9.
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Taselotzin (Yoloxochitl Street, 011-52-233-33- 1-04-80, www.laneta.apc.org/maseualsiua/hotel1.htm) offers double rooms for $31 a night and beds in dormitories for $8.The hotel also has a small restaurant with an outdoor balcony that offers great views. It's about a 10-minute uphill walk from the central plaza.
The popular Hotel Posada Cuetzalan (Zaragoza 12, 011-52-233-33-10154, www.posadacuetzalan.com.mx) is two blocks from the main plaza and has large courtyards, shows on the weekends and a pool. A double room is $42.
Hotel La Casa de Piedra (Carlos Garcia 12, 011-52-233-331-0030, www.lacasadepiedra.com) is just a block off the central plaza. It has a large courtyard, rustic yet comfortable rooms, and a restaurant and bar. Doubles start at $45.
WHERE TO EAT: All of the hotels mentioned above have restaurants. Most restaurants have similar menus, with a mix of local specialties such as tlayoyos (a fat tortilla served with salsa, cheese and avocado) or mushrooms in chipotle sauce, as well as traditional Mexican fare (quesadillas, enchiladas, etc).
Los Jarritos (7 Ave. Lopez Mateos) is owned by the same people who run the Casa de Piedra. It describes itself as a "bohemian corner with the authentic traditional atmosphere and food of Cuetzalan." It has music on weekends and shows on Saturdays. The Jarritos Special includes local dishes -- such as dried beef, mushrooms and tlayoyos -- and costs about $5.
Yoloxochitl Restaurant (1 de Abril), above and around the corner from the town hall, has a pleasant atmosphere and good food. A chicken dish with regional pipian sauce and rice and beans costs $3.30.
El Portal, next to the town hall, has standard fare with several tables out on a balcony that overlooks the central plaza. Meals from $3.
THINGS TO DO: The Cuetzalan tourism office -- in the town hall next to the cathedral in the central plaza -- provides maps and can arrange a guide. In general, most people speak limited English, so knowing some basic Spanish will be helpful, but you'll still be able to get around without it.
When you come into town by bus, boys often offer to take you to see the sites; if they've been certified by the tourism office, they'll have a small laminated card with their name and picture. (I highly recommend Leobardo Lino Mendez, who charged me $5, as a guide. He can be found by asking at the Hotel Rivello, just up the hill from the central plaza.) There's also a tourism booth off the main road as you come into town.
To get to the Cascada El Salto waterfall, about three miles away, ask for directions to the town of San Andres Tzicuilan. From there it's another five minutes to the entrance of the waterfalls from a parking lot. Trucks leave from behind the cathedral.
La Aventura cave is off the main road leading into town, about three miles away. Vans that leave from the central plaza will take you there for about 30 cents, while a guided tour is an additional $2 per person. Nido del Murciealago (Bat's Nest) has more extreme caves and takes about an hour to walk to. A guide costs about $15.
Trucks leave frequently for the Yohualichan ruins from about four blocks west of Cuetzalan's main plaza. They charge about 60 cents for the 15-minute trip.
INFORMATION: For info on Cuetzalan, call the town hall (011-52-233-33-100-15) and ask to talk to tourism (the person may not speak English, though). Casa de Piedra's Web site (see above) has very good info, from local attractions to history. For general info on Mexico: Mexico Tourism Board, 800-446-3942, www.visitmexico.com.
-- Bart Beeson