When you’re visiting the area, you should consider doing a couple of day trips from Mexico City.
In the media, CDMX – Ciudad de México, is often portrayed as a vast metropolis of over 20 million people surrounded by slums.
But the city is more than that. FAR more.
It’s simply an amazing place with a modern, rich history, world class cuisine, highly-educated residents, and so much more.
And the people here are amazingly friendly.
It’s true though that Mexico City is crowded. If being a tourist in a sea of people gets a bit overwhelming, there are some really great Mexico City day trips that can help you catch a bit of a break.
If you are longing for a different scene, you can and should take a break and get outside the city.
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Day trips from Mexico City to Teotihuacan
If you could pick just one Mexico City day trip, it would have to be a visit to the Teotihuacan pyramids. Teotihuacan is an ancient Aztec town where you can find the third largest ancient pyramids in the world.
The gems of this Mexico UNESCO World Heritage Site are the Pyramid of the Moon, Pyramid of the Sun, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. The ancient Avenue of the Dead links all three of them. You can easily spend the whole day here exploring.
How to get to Teotihuacan – There are many tours to Teotihuacan you can join from Mexico City’s main square – Zocalo. You might also opt for public transportation.
Just head to the Autobuses del Norte station along the Metro 5 Line.
Here, at gate 8, you can purchase your one-hour journey to get to Teotihuacan station.
Recommended tour: Here’s a treat – the chance not only to visit Teotihuacan, but to spend the day at Teotihuacan with an actual archaeologist!
Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park day trip
Very few travelers think of volcanoes when they visit Mexico City, but one of the country’s most amazing national parks is less than two hours from the capital. Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park is a high-altitude area.
It’s home to two volcanoes prevalent in Mexican legend – Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl.
On this day trip from Mexico City, visitors can partake in anything from short strolls near the visitor center, beautiful vistas of the peaks, or even make the strenuous climb that leads to unobscured views of Popo’s frequent eruptions.
The fastest way to get there is by rental car. It will take about 1.5-2 hours each way, depending on Mexico City traffic. Public buses will get you close to Amecameca.
There, you can grab a taxi for the final push to La Joya trailhead.
If you prefer to make it easy, many group tours leave from Mexico City to take you on short hikes. Nomada Mexico is your best bet for an extensive adventure.
Be bold: Do a two-day trek and actually climb to the summit of Iztaccihuatl!
Nevado de Toluca National Park day trip
The town of Toluca and its nearby National Park are popular Mexico City day trip destinations.
Toluca is the capital of the State of Mexico, and it’s located about a 1.5 hour drive from Mexico City. The town itself is an interesting destination for a day trip. But the gem of the area is the nearby National Park. And boy, those hiking routes are worth your effort.
The crater lakes are famous, and will get you the perfect Mexico Instagram pictures.
Nevado de Toluca is a popular winter destinations in Mexico (Nevado means snow in Spanish). Snow starts to accumulate even in late October. So make sure to dress accordingly to keep yourself warm!
At 4,680 meters above sea level, the high altitude can affect your hiking plan. You might experience a minor headache, or even trouble taking a full breath. But you will adjust it quickly enough.
It is possible to take a public bus from Mexico City to Toluca and beyond to the basecamp of Nevado National Park. The easiest way though is to rent a car or hire a driver for a day. The drive to Toluca can be a bit hectic, especially on weekends or holidays.
Expect to pass through some toll roads on the way!
Recommended tour: Explore one of the highest volcanoes in México at Nevado de Toluca and see the views of the lagoons inside the crater.
San Andrés Mixquic day trip
Ironically, the lazy town of Mixquic comes alive during the Day of the Dead. The town of approximately 16,000 people is joined by tens of thousands more visitors during this annual celebration.
While the Day of the Dead in Mexico City is fun, it’s more geared towards the touristy side of the holiday than providing an authentic experience.
In Mixquic, you get the real thing. Bright orange marigold petals mark paths to homes all over, while you can hear music playing on a stage in the town square.
Hundreds of vendors sell authentic Mexican food on every street as families decorate graves to honor their ancestors.
Preparations for this event take months, as it is the most important celebration in Mixquic.
Your best bet to get here is with Uber. The ride will take you about 1.5 hours and cost about $20-25 USD. If you come for the Day of the Dead celebration, it’s important to keep in mind how many people will be in town. There are tens of thousands – maybe even more.
So while it’s fairly easy to get to Mixquic from Mexico City, it’s much more challenging to get home. This is especially true if you require a wireless network to order an Uber.
Here are a few things to know about Mixquic before you go.
Unless you’re taking a tour (like the one below), we strongly advise booking a place to stay near Mixquic well in advance and stay here. Even if you do connect with your Uber app, it’s likely you’ll get dropped by several drivers.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a driver who just happens to be going back to the city.
Suggested tour: Avoid the hassle of figuring out what to do on your own. This Mixquic Day of the Dead tour is affordable, you don’t have to worry about transportation, and it’s likely to sell out. Get it before it’s gone!
Day trip to the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco
Mexico City was built on an ancient volcanic lake. Xochimilco is one of the last remnants of the vast water transportation system built by the Aztecs.
With its colorfully painted flat-bottom boats (trajineras), and traditional floating gardens (chinampas), Xochimilco is a photographer’s paradise.
Go here on Sunday, when local families gather to enjoy quality time together. The rate to rent a private boat is 500 pesos per hour.
A much better option is a collectivo, a shared boat that only charges 30 pesos for 1.5 hours!
You’ll find the Xochimilco collectivos at Pier Salitre, north of the Embarcadero Belem. The collectivo will take you through the busy canal of Xochimilco, and drop you off at the Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas.
(Useful tip: People will tell you that collectivos don’t exist – but they do. These folks are just trying to sell you the far more expensive option!)
Take a tour: See Xochimilco’s campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and take a tour by trajinera.
Santiago de Querétaro day trip
A visit to the city of Querétaro can be a very full day trip from Mexico City. It’s about 2.5-hours if driving by car. Yet taking a bus is a convenient option too. Regular Primera Plus buses run between Mexico City’s North terminal and Queretaro every 15-20 minutes and take 2:55 each way.
Querétaro is an intriguing colonial city that is rich in Mexican history. The city’s origins sprung about in the 1700s when the Spaniards lived peacefully with the indigenous people. Much of the architecture from this time still remains today. As such, the historic city center is one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
While strolling the many pedestrian streets that cross through Centro, there are over one thousand historic monuments scattered about. They’re what Querétaro has become known for.
Simply walking around these beautiful alleyways and soaking up the architecture makes this one of the great day trips from Mexico City. Yet there are dozens of museums, cathedrals, plazas, and gardens to check out, too!
The 18th century Templo de Santa Rosa de Viterbo is one of the most elaborate churches we’ve seen in Mexico. Meanwhile the Mucal Calendar Museum is an unexpectedly interesting museum to check out.
Other interesting attractions to see within the city are the Roman-style aqueduct and even an ancient Mesoamerican pyramid. In addition to that, Querétaro also boasts a National Park. It’s called Cerro de las Campanas. This is where some significant events took place relating to Mexico’s independence. As such, Mexico’s Independence Day is a particular festive affair here and it’s a great time to visit!
Whenever you go, just make sure to allow plenty of time that day, as there’s much to do in Queretaro!
Cheese and wine: Indulge in the fine local wines and cheeses on this full-day tour of Queretaro. Visit area cheese producers, a winery, and a vineyard.
Puebla City day trip
About 2 and a half hours away is one of the best day trips from Mexico City – the beautiful colonial city of Puebla. This city with a population of a little over 6 million was founded in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan or “where the serpents change their skin.”
Since its founding, Puebla has been central to Mexico’s culture, cuisine, and history. It was in this vibrant community that the Mexican Army fought the much larger French forces and emerged victorious at the Battle of Puebla. The Cinco de Mayo festivities that we celebrate today commemorate this victory.
It is also in Puebla where the famous mole Poblano originates. This chili-based dish is a favorite in Pueblo as well as all of Mexico and beyond.
Learn to make mole: Experience shopping at the market as you stroll through some of Puebla’s oldest neighborhoods. Learn what it is like to make the authentic Mole Poblano in this 4-hour experience.
In a country that prides itself on them, Puebla stands apart with its surprising collection of world-class museums. They represent every period from pre-Colombian to colonial to contemporary art. The ex-convent of Santa Rosa houses a fine collection of folk art. The Museo Amparo covers the entire history of Puebla. Both are a must-see while in Puebla.
For a perfect day in Puebla, be sure to visit the cathedral and at least a few of the more than 70 churches to admire the colonial architecture. Stroll through the streets and see the colorful Talavera tiles the city is famous for. Visit the shops selling local handicrafts and take home ceramics.
Head to the leafy central plaza for a long lunch of the local cuisine. Follow it up with a couple of tequila shots, chased down by sangria and chill.
Take a day trip to Cholula
Not far from Puebla City, Cholula is a great day trip destination from Mexico City that you should consider.
Americans associate Cholula with the famous brand of Cholula Hot Sauce. But the town itself has a lot more than just spicy food. The main draw of Cholula is the Great Pyramid ruins, with the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios sanctuary built on top of it by the Spaniards.
There are several other important churches and chapels in the city. The best time to visit Cholula is in the beginning of September. That’s when they celebrate the patron saint of the Virgin of the Remedies with a celebratory festival.
Cholula is a college town. A large portion of the town associates with the Universidad de las Américas. You can visit Cholula’s main square, where you will find lively bars and nightclubs that mostly cater students and visitors.
To get to Cholula from Mexico City, ride the public bus to Puebla. Then, make your way to Cholula with its Super Rápidos bus system. Another option is to hitch on the colectivos or the collective mini vans with some specific destinations.
Cholula by double-decker: Enjoy a complete visit to Cholula Magical Town visiting the largest pyramid in the world, inside and out. Take great pictures on board a double-decker tram
Visit San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is one of the prettiest town in Mexico. Its main old town includes the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, the Sanctuary of Jesus of Atotonilco, and a few other sites surrounding the area. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
San Miguel’s charm lays in its cobbled streets, well-preserved 16th and 17th century architectural details and colorful artisan handcrafts. History buffs will also enjoy San Miguel de Allende’s historical heritage that dates to the precolonial Aztec era. The archeological zone of the ancient pyramid of Cañada de la Virgen is the highlight.
Although it is quite possible to visit San Miguel de Allende as a day trip from Mexico City, I would highly recommend an overnight stay in this beautiful town.
That way, you will have enough time to leisurely explore and even do additional trips surrounding the town center.
Do a food tour: See the beautiful streets on a food and city walking tour of San Miguel. Six food-tasting locations carefully chosen to highlight the best regional flavors.
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.