Step outside of Mexico City for the day to experience ancient ruins, stunning mountain views, lake adventures, artisan markets, and spa retreats.
Exploring the area just outside the largest metropolis in North America offers a surprisingly varied and unique choice of day trips. From ancient pre-Colombian pyramids where the past comes to life to mountainous natural splendor and postcard-perfect colonial villages bustling with artisan markets, the area around Mexico City is ripe with amazing road trip adventures. Check out these top picks for easy one-day jaunts from Mexico’s capital, and turn your next trip to the area into a memory that lasts a lifetime.
A UNESCO World Heritage site that lies just 30 miles outside of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is a fascinating 2,000-year-old city complex that was once home to more than 100,000 people. Climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun (the third largest pyramid in the world), and stroll along the Avenue of the Dead. Also make sure to check out the Temple of the Feathered Serpent – the site of relief renderings of Quetzalcoatl, the main god of the Aztecs, and the earlier mysterious civilizations that built Teotihuacan.
Dubbed the “City of Eternal Spring” by locals, this historic town is a favorite weekend destination for visitors from the capital being just 52 miles away. But visit during the week and you might have Cuernavaca all to yourself. Home to the grandiose palace of Hernan Cortes (often referred to as Hernando Cortes in English-speaking countries), the conquistador who discovered and conquered the Aztec capital buried beneath modern Mexico City, Cuernavaca offers great cultural sightseeing as well as an abundance of garden-like parks and plazas.
For a different perspective of the town’s history, El Castillito houses the Photographic Museum of Cuernavaca. If you visit Cuernavaca on the weekend, be prepared for a lot of festivities throughout the city that last late into the night, including open-air concerts and theatrical productions.
Valle de Bravo
Sitting on the shore of Lake Avandaro and surrounded by pine-covered ridgelines, Valle de Bravo is a quaint village that feels completely lost in time, despite its location just two hours south of the largest city on the continent. Waterskiing, kayaking, and sailing are all popular on the lake, while the surrounding natural landscape offers abundant opportunities for hiking and even hang-gliding and paragliding. In winter, the area is home to thousands of bright orange and black Monarch butterflies, making that season a particularly spectacular time to visit.
As pretty as a princess perched on top of a hill, Taxco is one of the most famous colonial cities in Mexico and a must-see for architecture buffs. Just two to three hours west of Mexico City, Taxco centers on an impressive Baroque church and labyrinth-like ancient streets and walkways that wind up and down the mountainside the town is built on. Besides its physical appeal, Taxco is also famous for the high-level silverwork created in the town, and a large artisan market that displays the work of hundreds of talented locals on a daily basis.
A popular place to relax and recharge since the glory days of the Aztec Empire, Tepoztlan is a charming spa town in the mountains just 30 minutes outside of Cuernavaca. Besides the many alternative therapies available in spa facilities, including the traditional Temazcal sweat lodge, the town is also close to a small pyramid that sits on a mountaintop just an hour’s hike outside of town. Because of Tepoztlan’s high level of appeal with the alternative health crowd, the town also sports a high number of vegetarian and health food restaurants.
The area around Mexico City is the heartland of Mexico and is home to many more fascinating destinations in addition to these popular sites. Share your own favorite Mexico travel experiences on our Facebook page.