Mexico City is one of the country’s most vibrant cities.
It has it all. History, check. Museums, check. Culture, check. Hipster coffee shops, check. Amazing tacos, check. World class tequila, check.
The capital is home to around 9 million people in the city alone. A constantly underestimated tourist spot, travelers have long preferred to visit Mexico’s sun soaked coastlines in Cancun and Tulum rather than revel in the culture and authenticity of Mexico City.
But finally, Mexico City is starting to gain some momentum amongst travelers to the country. Not only can it hold its own with its eclectic mix of old and new, but it also makes the perfect base for day tripping around the vicinity.
When the dust and the hustle and bustle of the city become too much, there’s so much to explore that’s sure to give you a bit of head space.
From ancient ruins, to colonial cities and impressive landscapes all within easy reach, you absolutely must venture a little further out of the city to enjoy all this place has to offer.
Teotihuacán, The sun and moon pyramids
I guess everyone has heard of Chichen Itza?
The famous archaeological site located in Yucatan. Named one of the new 7 wonders of the world, it’s fascinating. It truly is. But following my visit to Teotihuacan, it was these pyramids I instantly fell in love with.
Under a 1-hour drive from Mexico City, Teotihuacan is Mexico’s largest (and most impressive) archaeological site.
It is said that way back in the 1st century AD, up to 150,000 people lived here. This magical site is set on a large plain of land, littered with ancient ruins and huge stone pyramids.
The sun pyramid stands at about 200 feet high, making it the third highest pyramid in the world. Across the ancient city stands the moon pyramid at about 151 feet high. You can still climb these pyramids, sit at the top and take yourself on a journey back in time as you look over the fascinating ruins. It’s only a matter of time before they stop people climbing them in the name of preservation.
You could easily spend a whole day at Teotihuacan exploring tombs and climbing pyramids.
It can get very hot and dry here, so don’t forget your hat, water and sun cream.
A 2-hour drive will take you to the beautiful city of Puebla. Built by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Puebla is now one of Mexico’s oldest cities.
Littered with some of Mexico’s finest cathedrals, colonial streets and Spanish architecture, the ancient city of Puebla was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1987.
Puebla offers the perfect place to experience a lazier, laid back Mexican way of life.
A 2.5 hour drive out of Mexico City will take you into the outskirts of Puebla. The ancient city of Cholula dates way back to 500 b.c.
The main attraction of Cholula is the incredible story of the 55-meter-high, unrecognizable giant pyramid. You’d be forgiven for assuming this great pyramid was just a very large hill. Neglected over centuries, grass and shrubs grew on the outside of the pyramid. The Spanish built a church on top of it, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. It’s unknown whether the Spanish knew the great pyramid was in fact a temple, or simply a grassy hill.
Today it is spectacular. A stunning yellow church, overlooking the city below, and on a clear day, with a breath-taking backdrop featuring Popo, the volcano.
Izta-Popo National Park, Volcano Popo
A fairly easy 1-hour drive from Mexico City will give you the opportunity to experience one of my favorite sites in the whole of Mexico.
Popocatépetl, also known simply as Popo. Popo is Mexico’s second highest peak and one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes. Depending on atmospheric conditions Popo can be seen regularly from Mexico City, Cholula and Puebla. But there’s no better way to enjoy this stunning volcano in all its glory than getting up close and personal at the Itza-Popo National Park.
It costs 35 pesos per person to enter the Itza-Popo national park and once you’re in, there’s a variety of hikes you can do around the volcano. From a gentle walk, to an 8-hour hike, whichever you choose, the views are sure to take your breath way.
Plan to arrive early in the morning to make the most of the views before the clouds roll in.
Also, be sure to enjoy some pumpkin flower tacos from the families cooking breakfasts up for hungry hikers. You won’t be disappointed.
Xochimilco, Mexico City’s canals
Often referred to as ‘the Venice of Mexico’, Xochimilco is officially still within the city. Formally an independent city in its own rights, today Xochimilco is a popular place for locals to get away from the city.
Every weekend, Xochimilco turns into a fiesta. Colorful (non-motorized) boats filled with music, beer, tequila, tacos and mariachi spill out into Xochimilco’s many canals for a day filled with fun and frolics Mexico style.
You can hire boats on the day and prices vary a lot so be sure to arrive early and prepare to shop around. Boats are hired on a per hour basis and you should bring your own beer.
Musicians, mariachi, flowers and tacos will serenade your boat for an extra charge.
Be prepared for some extra weird experiences, like the island of the dolls!
It’s funny, when I told people I was going to Mexico City, I got very mixed reactions. The main one, concerned friends and family telling me to be careful, and ‘isn’t it just a big, dangerous city?’
Mexico City is one of the most vibrant, eclectic and fun cities I have ever visited.
I love it when a place completely exceeds all expectations.