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13 Best Day Trips From Mexico City

Having lived in Mexico for over five years, I’ve been able to explore many destinations throughout the country. While there are countless beautiful beaches, the capital city itself is one of the most magical, boasting a long list of things to see and do, as well as offering quite a few intriguing day trips. From ancient ruins, including temples and pyramids, to charming colonial towns and spectacular parks, even if you only have a week in Mexico City, you’ll want to embark on at least one of them, whether you take a tour or head out on your own.

Teotihuacán Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán near Mexico City
Credit: Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán near Mexico City by K.C. Dermody

Teotihuacán

Along with the famous Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Teotihuacán is the most important of all of Mexico’s ruins. The vast UNESCO-listed archaeological site was once a flourishing pre-Columbian city with some 250,000 residents at its peak. The Avenue of the Dead that runs through the middle links the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun. The most popular day trip from Mexico City by far, just an hour from downtown, dates back to around the 1st century AD and started to decline around 650 AD before eventually being abandoned, perhaps for a combination of social and environmental issues, but no one knows for sure.

The best way to explore Teotihuacán is by booking a day tour that will include your transportation, admission, and a knowledgeable guide such as Paulina through Airbnb Experiences. Her private tours bring the site to life in a way that wouldn’t be possible if you explore on your own, with expert insight into the local culture and Mexico City too.

Puebla Puebla, Mexico
Credit: Puebla, Mexico by © Diego Grandi | Dreamstime.com

Puebla

The center of Puebla is a UNESCO-listed site with spectacular Spanish colonial buildings and a colorful blend of cultures, while many shops sell intricately designed Talavera pottery. This lesser-known Mexican travel destination can easily be reached from Mexico City, just 80 miles southeast, plus nearby you’ll find the world’s largest pyramid at Cholula, a not-to-be-missed attraction. Also known as Tlachihualtepetl, it was an important religious and mythical center in pre-Hispanic times. Four sites can be explored: an early 17th-century church with sweeping views of Puebla and the surrounding volcanoes, the ruins and the tunnels beneath the pyramid, and a small museum.

El Chico National Park Penas Cargadas Hidalgo in El Chico National Park, Mexico
Credit: Penas Cargadas Hidalgo in El Chico National Park, Mexico by © Wirestock | Dreamstime.com

El Chico National Park

Just a two-hour drive northeast of Mexico City, El Chico National Park is a heavily forested, mountainous park in the Pachuca Mountain Range. Popular for hiking, rock climbing, and biking, the highest peak soars over 10,100 feet, and there are many mountain springs that join the Milagro River, where rapids and waterfalls can be seen. You’ll want to take in the stunning panoramic views from the cliffs of Peña del Cuervoin in particular, which include a jaw-dropping view of the picturesque town of Mineral del Chico from above.

Taxco Taxco, Mexico
Credit: Taxco, Mexico by © Ibrester | Dreamstime.com

Taxco

About 70 miles southwest of Mexico City is the colonial silver mining town of Taxco, one of Mexico’s most charming towns. It’s renowned for its silver jewelry production and its Spanish colonial architecture, with the main square, Plaza Borda, hosting its landmark 18th-century Santa Prisca church with a rose-colored facade and stone towers. It’s a great place to do some jewelry shopping, and you can learn all about the town’s long history and connection to silver in the Silverware Museum too. The Casa Borda, cultural center displays works by local artists well worth checking out, and there’s a cable car that provides a bird’s-eye view over the city too.

Cuernavaca Salto de San Anton Waterfall, Cuernavaca Mexico
Credit: Salto de San Anton Waterfall, Cuernavaca Mexico by © Jesus Eloy Ramos Lara | Dreamstime.com

Cuernavaca

Often referred to as the “land of eternal spring,” Cuernavaca is just over a 90-minute drive south of Mexico City and is renowned for its natural beauty as well as its rejuvenating spas and spiritual sites. The capital city of Morelos, it’s a cultural treasure with palaces, elaborate haciendas, and walled villas that now house spas and museums. Two of the museum highlights include Museo Juan Soriano, which features contemporary works of art, and Museo Robert Brady, which is the former home of American artist and collector Robert Brady, featuring paintings, carvings, textiles, antiques, and folk art from across the globe. In the traditional markets, you’ll see onyx, tiger’s eye, quartz, and crystals among the many wares, with the stones considered an energy source found in the Tepozteco Mountains that cradle the town to the east and north.

Ixtapan de la Sal Ixtapan de la Sal

Ixtapan de la Sal

Ixtapan de la Sal has long been a popular destination for Mexico City residents, many of whom come to enjoy its naturally warm, healing thermal springs. Located just a little over two hours southwest of Mexico City, it’s been an important source of salt since pre-Hispanic times while the spring flowing from the volcanic landscape, along with La Laguna Verde’s unique carbonated water and two rivers, provide the water for the public baths indigenous people used. It was a sacred place for chiefs during the Aztec Empire, who often took advantage of the soothing, medicinal properties of the water. Today, visitors will find multiple facilities for enjoying thermal baths, including Balneario Municipal (Municipal Bathhouse), which is the closest to the town center.

Cacaxtla Archaeological Site - San Miguel del Milagro Cacaxtla Pyramid, Mexico
Credit: Cacaxtla Pyramid, Mexico by © Jesus Eloy Ramos Lara | Dreamstime.com

Cacaxtla Archaeological Site - San Miguel del Milagro

Cacaxtla is one of the most important ancient cities in central Mexico, at its peak between 650 and 900 AD. It includes a sprawling palace with impeccably preserved pre-Hispanic murals done in Mayan style that vividly depict battles and pyramids from various stages of the Olmeca-Xicalanca culture. Colonial buildings in the compact capital are painted in colorful, warm hues set in a lush valley with twin volcanoes serving as the backdrop.

Las Estacas Natural Park Rafting at Las Estacas Natural Park
Credit: Rafting at Las Estacas Natural Park by © Arturoosorno | Dreamstime.com

Las Estacas Natural Park

Las Estacas is one of the best day trips for nature lovers, providing an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city while offering a wide range of activities for families and travelers of all types. Located just over two hours from Mexico City, the main attraction is Las Estacas Natural Park, which offers crystal-clear springs with pools, and opportunities to snorkel, dive, kayak, zipline, float, or even play a game of paintball. There’s a fabulous spa for relaxation, along with tasty eateries to keep you fueled up for all the fun.

San Miguel de Allende San Miguel de Allende Mexico
Credit: San Miguel de Allende Mexico by © William Perry | Dreamstime.com

San Miguel de Allende

If you don’t mind rising early, San Miguel de Allende is a bit of a trek at around 3.5 hours from Mexico City, but it’s worth the journey as it’s one of the most interesting cities in Mexico. It’s become a popular spot for expats, yet it’s distinctly Mexican with cobbled streets and well-preserved colonial buildings. There are gardens to explore, like El Charco de Ingenio, and beautiful churches, like the Parish of San Miguel Arcangel. El Jardín is the main plaza, the heart of the city, and a popular place for people-watching, with many shops and eateries nearby. Visitors can also check out archaeological sites like Cañada de la Virgen, just 15 miles west. The 40-acre site includes seven pyramid structures spread across four complexes which were occupied by the Otomí and Toltec Indians from 540 to 1050 A.D.

Tepoztlán Tepoztlan, Mexico
Credit: Tepoztlan, Mexico by © Ola Synowiec | Dreamstime.com

Tepoztlán

A little over an hour south of Mexico City and one of the most peaceful places on the planet, Tepoztlán offers picturesque scenery and the opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and explore an archaeological site, El Tepozteco Temple, which sits atop Tepozteco Mountain. It was built to honor Ometochtli-Tepoztēcatl, an Aztec god associated with fertility, drunkenness, and the alcoholic beverage pulque. But one of the top things to do is to visit the markets in Plaza de Armas, which are filled with tasty street foods, various local produce, and a wide range of handcrafted items. The area is also known for its alternative medicine practices, including Aztec steam baths.

Monarch Butterflies Sanctuary - Temascaltepec Monarch Butterflies Sanctuary
Credit: Monarch Butterflies Sanctuary by © Darren Dwayne Frazier | Dreamstime.com

Monarch Butterflies Sanctuary - Temascaltepec

One of the most popular day trips between mid-November and late March is to the Monarch Butterflies Sanctuary in Temascaltepec, about 72 miles southwest of Mexico City. You’ll see it at its best in January and February, with some 20 million monarch butterflies migrating to the area for the winter. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that really shouldn’t be missed, and if you don’t want to drive, you’ll find multiple tour options that will bring you right from your hotel in Mexico City. Some include activities like horseback riding through the forest too.

Santiago de Querétaro Houses and monolith in Peña de Bernal, Queretaro, Mexico
Credit: Houses and monolith in Peña de Bernal, Queretaro, Mexico by © Jesus Eloy Ramos Lara | Dreamstime.com

Santiago de Querétaro

Santiago de Querétaro is a colonial town built in the Baroque style, located about a 2.5-hour drive northwest of Mexico City. Safe and laidback, its historical center is incredibly photogenic with many colorful buildings as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just wandering the streets is enjoyable, but there are several museums to visit as well, including Museo de Arte de Querétaro and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, musts for art enthusiasts. There’s also a pyramid on the outskirts of town that’s well worth a visit. Built by the mysterious Chupícuaro civilization dating back to 300 BC, it’s one of the lesser-known pyramids, and if you visit during the week, you might enjoy it all to yourself.

Malinalco House of the Eagles, Malinalco, Mexico
Credit: House of the Eagles, Malinalco, Mexico by © Jonathan Hugo Jiménez Gómez | Dreamstime.com

Malinalco

Just 64 miles southwest of Mexico City, Malinalco is best known for its archaeological site that sits atop a mountain. When the Aztecs conquered the area in the 15th century, they established an area for their Eagle and Jaguar warriors, the military’s elite, building a complex at the top of Cerro de los Idolos, which translates to the Hill of Idols. Visitors can climb the 358 stairs for a magnificent view and to see the House of Eagles known as Cuauhcalli. Carved into the mountainside, this is where religious ceremonies, “ordaining” the eagle and jaguar warriors, are believed to have taken place. If you visit on a Wednesday, you can check out a fantastic market, too, with vendors arriving from neighboring villages to sell various traditional crafts and foods.

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