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Fortunately, Mexico City is surrounded by beautiful towns, cities, and historical sites that extend in literally every direction, many of which are worthy of a dedicated trip! Some of these, like Teotihuacán, are likely part of your itinerary already, but there are also numerous Pueblos Magicos and charming colonials cities that don’t get quite the same hype, despite being totally worthy of it. These destinations offer the opportunity to experience Mexican culture at a much slower pace.
Since I didn’t have time to visit them all (or… any), I asked a few fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite day trips from Mexico City. Read on for their dreamiest recommendations.
Dreamy Day Trips From Mexico City
Taste Mole Poblano in Puebla
By Erika of Latin Atlas
When I think of Puebla, a city located 68 miles southeast of Mexico City, Cinco de Mayo, Mole Poblano, and Talavera pottery come to mind. No disrespect to Americans celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day on a day that celebrates the Battle of Puebla, when an outnumbered Mexican Army won a battle against French soldiers during the Franco-Mexican War. Any excuse for a marg and guac, amirite? If you want to be authentic and go for round two, celebrate Mexico’s independence on Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16.
Puebla’s claim to fame in Mexico and with foodies around the world is their version of mole, mole poblano, considered a national dish. Mole refers to a group of sauces made with chilies varying widely from region to region. Mole poblano is a labor-intensive, rich, dark-brown sauce made with many varieties of chilies, a bit of chocolate (to counter the heat of the chilies and contribute to the color but does not dominate) and depending on the family recipe passed down over generations, a few dozen other sour, sweet, and thickening-enhancing ingredients. If you’re around, Puebla celebrates a mole poblano festival in early June; though, the city has no shortage of parades and festivals throughout the year.
Puebla’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is quintessential colonial Mexico retaining much of its mid-16th century architecture. Strolling through Puebla, admiring its architecture, Talavera ceramics and tiles, the Zócalo (city square) with its green spaces, statues and monuments, while snapping photos and eating mole poblano is a day.
If time permits, dip into the Palafoxiana Library, the oldest public library in the Americas, or the Museum of Folk Art in the former Santa Rosa convent. According to legend, mole poblano was invented in its stunning kitchen, covered in Talavera tiles. Talavera pottery is governed by regulations that pertain to the towns of origin due to the quality of their natural clays, the six permitted colors made from natural pigments, the designs, the creation process, and the authenticity certification. Don’t forget to bring a bag on your day trip to Puebla to carry and protect your Talavera purchases!
Explore The World’s Largest Pyramid in Cholula, Puebla
Cholula’s a town located just 78 miles from Mexico City and 9 miles from Puebla. Like other Mexican colonial towns, it has a zócalo (main plaza) with cafés, restaurants and shopping (find Puebla’s talavera ceramics here). Though the main draw as a day trip from Mexico City is its history and towering landscape. The name Cholula, derived from a Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) word, meaning “the place of the retreat” is also the namesake for a popular hot sauce. If you live in the U.S. you know the one. Cholula’s vitality as the oldest inhabited city in America for some 2,500 years inspired the name.
The draw to the area is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, Tlachihualtepetl in Nahuatl meaning “made-by-hand mountain.” Built in the third century BC by the Aztecs, it grew by multiple layers throughout the centuries becoming the largest temple in the world by volume.
By the time the Spaniards built the sanctuary Nuestra Señora de los Remedios in the 16th century, the pyramid was grown over by Mother Nature. Whether the Spaniards knew what was under the hill is unknown. The church is stunning showcasing neoclassical architecture, tiled-covered domes and worthy views of the town and valley. Adding to this majestic landscape are two volcanoes: the Popocatepetl (active) and the Iztaccihuatl (dormant). The best time to visit the site is in the morning when there’s a chance to view the volcanoes. Block off plenty of time to explore the pyramid’s tunnels and the excavated areas.
Soak Up Mesoamerican History At Teotihuacán
Teotihuacán is undoubtedly one of the most popular day trips from Mexico City, and for good reason: not only is it picturesque, it also has a fascinating history. Archaeologists believe the site was founded about 100 years BCE, but it had been abandoned for hundreds of years by the time the Aztecs arrived. Once the largest city in mesoamerica with a population of around 150,000, Teotihuacán is now the most popular archaeological site in Mexico, hosting over 4 million visitors each year.
The Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon are the main draws, but the Temple of Quetzalcoatl is just as impressive in my opinion. On this smaller, but equally impressive pyramid, you can see intricate carvings of both Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, and Tlaloc, the god of rain. When you enter the archaeological site the famous Avenue of the Dead stretches out to your left — instead of venturing left toward the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, head off to your right toward The Ciudadela and check out the sculptures of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc for yourself! Afterwards, walk the Avenue of the Dead and scamper up the Pyramid of the Sun for the obligatory selfie (I did it too, no shame!). The pyramid is steep, sun soaked, and often crowded, take water and stay patient.
Buses run to Teotihuacán frequently from the Central del Norte, or you can do as I did on my most recent visit and take a tour! Viator tours offers a half day tour of Teotihuacán with an archaeologist who will explain the significance of what you are seeing. There aren’t many interpretive signs at the site, and the history really is interesting. This particular tour also includes a Tequila, Mezcal, and Pulque tasting, but honestly, I could have done without that part.
Shop For Mexican Silver In Taxco, Guerrero
By Lauren of Northern Lauren
In a sea of Puebla day trips and Teotihuacán tours, so many people forget about Taxco, Guerrero. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Puebla or Teotihuacán (they’re some of my favourite pyramids in Mexico), but you should also make room for a quick trip to Taxco too. Why? One word: silver! And now three more words: incredibly affordable silver.
Once a mining hub, Taxco is now a beautiful colonial town, in which practically all the buildings are whitewashed to within an inch of their lives and the narrow, cobbled streets are overrun by bright red VW Bugs. Sounds pretty great, right? Add to that the fact that Taxco is surprisingly accessible from Mexico City—there are tons of buses that run from the southern Tasqueña bus station on a daily basis, for something like just US$15 return, and the journey is only two hours long—and you’ve got the recipe for a speedy day trip that will have you refreshed on your return to the capital.
As for things to do in Taxco, the stunning central plaza and cathedral surely steal the show and you should try and grab lunch basically anywhere that has some kind of elevated balcony or rooftop to get the best views over the town. Alternatively, you can pay a visit to the knock-off Christ the Redeemer which gives even better views over Taxco and the surrounds. Other than that, stroll around and, ahh, buy silver!
There are plenty of places that will try and overcharge you or even just sell you a bit of tat masquerading as real silver; however, don’t incorrectly assume that all Taxco’s silver is false. This was a huge silver producing town and, as such, has some of the best in the country. You just have to know where to look. My recommendation? Real de Minas Platería.
(If you want to read more about Taxco, you can read my, prepare yourself, ~sterling~ post over at Northern Lauren!)
Wander Picturesque Tesquisquiapan and Bernal, Querétaro
By April of Just Leaving Footprints
Last summer I had the wonderful opportunity to live in Mexico City with my fiancé and his family from April until September. We went on so many day trips but one that really stands out was when we made the 2.5 hour drive to Tequisquiapan and Bernal. The towns are about 30 minutes away from each other and are both so beautiful. Plus, they are both ‘Pueblos Mágicos’ or ‘Magic Towns’. I can definitely say that it felt magical wandering through the colourful buildings that constantly seemed to overflow with bright, fragrant flowers. If you make this day trip be sure to visit the churches in each town and stop to smell the flowers too!
Bernal is home to the Peña de Bernal, a large monolith that can be seen from many spots in the hilly town. We didn’t climb it when I visited but I believe you can climb it if you want to. It’s actually the third biggest monolith in the world, which is pretty cool. The town of Bernal is a bit smaller than Tequisquiapan. There are tons of artisan shops in Bernal and all the buildings are painted in bright yellow, pink and other colourful hues.
Tequisquiapan is home to a large artisan market that I wanted to spend all of my money at. I ended up getting a denim romper and an embroidered dress as well. If I could give a nickname to Tequisquiapan it would be the Town of Flowers. There are bright pink flowers spilling over almost all the colourful, Spanish buildings. The architecture is brilliant and although we didn’t visit it, there is a water park to cool off at as well.
I did so many day trips while living in Mexico City last year and this one was one of my absolute favourites! So if you’re heading to Mexico City be sure to add these gems to your list.
What are YOUR favorite day trips from Mexico City?
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