After exploring Mexico City and all of the delights it has to offer, don’t let the temptations of the urban metropolis keep you from the pueblos mágicos (“magical towns”) nearby. Here is Culture Trip’s guide to the 12 best day trips from Mexico’s capital.
Located 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Mexico City is Nevado de Tolucaan, an extinct volcano. Go on a hike through the national park in which the volcano 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’s rim by road, one that is said to be the highest in the country. Nevado de Toluca is Mexico’s fourth highest peak and has an area of 259 square miles (671 square kilometers).
When in Mexico you may hear about “magical towns” (or pueblos mágicos) that are all over the country, and one of the most beautiful is Real del Monte, about two and a half hours from Mexico City. This town is famous for having the best pastries (pastes) in the region, but you can also find exhibitions, recitals, concerts and other cultural activities hosted in colonial-style buildings. From here you can also visit El Chico National Park, a magnificent way to connect with nature.
About an hour and a half away from Mexico City is the state of Puebla, which offers the most outstanding views of Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes, and has award-winning restaurants like Moyuelo, El Mural de los Poblanos or Casa Barroca. Cholula is one of Mexico’s most important colonial towns, with blue, pink and yellow architecture, and is dominated by churches. In fact, there are over 40 of these beautiful religious buildings, which is impressive considering the size of this city.
One of Mexico City’s most famous archaeological landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the ancient city of Teotihuacán, about a 30- to 45-minute bus journey from the city center. Located in the State of Mexico, the pyramids and ruins that remain from this Mesoamerican settlement are truly magnificent. The Pyramid of the Sun and The Pyramid of the Moon can both be climbed, where you can appreciate the whole ancient settlement from an elevated perspective.
About an hour’s drive from the center of the city is Cuernavaca, the capital of the nearby state of Morelos. Full of royal residences, churches and a few museums, Cuernavaca is known for 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. Now known as the “land of eternal spring”, Cuernavaca has a number of sights that will delight any visitor.
The small town of Tecozautla in Hidalgo, about three hours from Mexico City, is home to some impressive thermal baths that are tempting enough to entice anyone away from the hotbed of culture that is the Mexican capital. This town is also known for its subtle aromas of orange blossoms. In fact, you may be surprised by its temperate climate, ideal for the variety of bath options to choose from (over 20). But no matter what season you visit Tecozautla, 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. Taxo is widely known for its silver mining industry – in fact, some of the best silver products still originate from and can be found in Taxco. Keep an eye out for marked-up economical silver, which isn’t worth purchasing. One of Mexico’s pueblos mágicos, Taxco also boasts 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 of Taxco’s buildings.
Valle de Bravo, about two hours from the Mexican capital, is a small but very green town in Lake Avándaro. Here, you will find wooded mountains and one amazing lake that is popular among water sports enthusiasts. But the main attraction is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a habitat for millions of migratory butterflies, where visitors can watch masses of the beautiful creatures flying around.
About two and a half hours from Mexico City, in the state of Morelos, is Tlayacapan, where you’ll find all of the things that Mexico is famous for: fantastic food, rich culture and lots of artisanal products. This village is the perfect place to try out the age-old temazcal ritual, a steam ritual that claims to purify the spirit. Or, you can visit the Ex Convento San Juan Bautista and the museum contained within it, as well as explore the quaint center.
A well-known destination for day trips from Mexico City is Tequisquiapan, about two hours from the capital. This is a colonial part of the Wine Route where you can sample and enjoy different Mexican wines. But Tequisquiapan also has beautiful balnearios, which are 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, you can also find a number of handmade crafts in Tequisquiapan.
About two and a half hours outside of Mexico City is Querétaro state’s capital, Santiago de Querétaro, known more commonly as Querétaro. It is widely considered one of the safest cities in Mexico and boasts 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. Plus, if architecture isn’t your thing, keep in mind that Querétaro also has a burgeoning vineyard culture and cultivates excellent wines.
About a half-hour drive from the city center is Tepotzotlán, which has some incredibly cool sights, like the Xalpa Aqueduct, which was built in the 18th century. The historic center also has some fantastic offerings. The Jesuit church in particular is one of the most striking examples of New World Churrigueresque architecture. In this pueblo mágico, you’ll also find an arts and crafts market, the stunning museum Museo Nacional del Virreinato, and street musicians.