After exploring the delights of Mexico City, don’t let the temptations of the urban metropolis keep you from the ‘pueblos mágicos’ nearby.
Not yet planned your Mexico City vacation? Why not book yourself a spot on Culture Trip’s epic five-day adventure in the city. Led by a Local Insider, you’ll be ringside at the lucha libre, snoop around Frida Kahlo’s house and discover lesser-known pockets of the capital.
Nevado de Toluca, State of Mexico
Just 80km (50mi) west of Mexico City is the extinct volcano Nevado de Tolucaan. Go on a hike through the national park in which it sits, and take a closer look at the two crater lakes. If you’re not up for the hike, it is possible to reach the crater rim by road. Nevado de Toluca is the fourth-highest peak in Mexico with an area of 671sqkm (259sqmi).
Real del Monte, Hidalgo
One of the most beautiful pueblos magicos (magical towns) is Real del Monte, about two and a half hours from Mexico City. It’s known for having the best pastries in the region, but there are also exhibitions, recitals, concerts and other cultural activities hosted in colonial buildings. Nearby is El Chico National Park, a magnificent spot to connect with nature.
About two hours from Mexico City is Cholula, one of the most important colonial towns in Mexico. The main attraction here is the town itself with blue, pink and yellow architecture, and lots of lovely churches. In fact, there are more than 40 of these beautiful religious buildings – impressive considering the size of the city.
One of the most famous archaeological landmarks in Mexico, and a Unesco World Heritage Site, is the ancient city of Teotihuacán, about a 45-minute bus journey from the city center. The pyramids and ruins at this Mesoamerican site in the State of Mexico are magnificent. Climb the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon – don’t worry, it’s allowed – to appreciate the ancient settlement from an elevated perspective.
About an hour’s drive from the center of Mexico City is Cuernavaca, nicknamed the land of eternal spring. Full of royal residences, churches and a few museums, the capital of Morelos is known for having an abundance of Spanish-language schools. Check out La Casa del Olindo, which housed emperor Maximilian in 1866 during his time living in Mexico. You can also visit the nearby Las Estacas, home to the Bahidorá Festival, or Jardines de México, a splendid theme park full of flowers.
The small town of Tecozautla in Hidalgo, about three hours from Mexico City, is home to some impressive thermal baths tempting enough to entice anyone from the Mexican capital. This town is also known for its subtle orange-blossom aroma. You may be surprised by its temperate climate, ideal for the bathing culture. But no matter what season you visit, you will always find delicious local cuisine and cute colonial houses.
About four hours from the capital is the city of Taxco, just over the border in Guerrero state. Taxco is widely known for its silver mining industry – some of the best silver products still originate from here. Keep an eye out for marked-up economical silver, which isn’t worth purchasing. A pueblo mágico, Taxco also has an intriguing cityscape, narrow, winding streets traverse the city and offer vistas over the red-tiled roofs below. Santa Prisca church is arguably the most iconic building in Taxco.
Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico
Valle de Bravo, about two hours from Mexico City, is a small but green town in Lake Avándaro. It has wooded mountains and an amazing lake popular among watersports enthusiasts. But the main attraction is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a habitat for millions of migratory butterflies.
About two and a half hours from Mexico City, in the state of Morelos, is Tlayacapan, where you’ll find all the things that Mexico is famous for: fantastic food, rich culture and lots of artisanal products. This village is the perfect place to try a temazcal, a steam ritual said to purify the spirit. Or you can visit the Ex-Convento San Juan Bautista and the museum within, before exploring the quaint town center.
A well-known destination for day trips from Mexico City is Tequisquiapan, about two hours away and a place to enjoy Mexican wines. It also has beautiful balnearios (mineral spas) and well-preserved Spanish-colonial buildings. The Santa María de la Asunción church will take your breath away with its pink neoclassical look. If that’s not enough, Tequisquiapan is a great place to shop for handmade crafts.
Santiago de Querétaro, Querétaro
About two and a half hours outside Mexico City is the state capital of Querétaro, Santiago de Querétaro, known more commonly as Querétaro. It is widely considered one of the safest cities in Mexico and has gorgeous colonial architecture, an enormous aqueduct from the 1700s, and vibrant buildings. With a wide selection of museums, churches and former convents to explore, it’s the perfect day trip. And if architecture isn’t your thing, Querétaro also has a burgeoning vineyard culture and cultivates excellent wines.
Tepotzotlán, State of Mexico
About a half-hour drive from the city center is Tepotzotlán, which has some incredibly cool sights, such as the 18th-century Xalpa Aqueduct. The historic center also has fantastic offerings. The Jesuit church, in particular, is a striking example of New World Churrigueresque architecture. In this pueblo mágico, you’ll also find an arts and crafts market, the Museo Nacional del Virreinato, and street musicians.
Day trips can be fascinating but exhausting, so choose the perfect base with one of the best family-friendly hotels in Mexico City.
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