It would take several lifetimes to do all there is to do in Mexico City, but after you've seen the highlights, you may decide you would like to explore what there is in the surrounding region — and there are a lot of options there too! Whether you want to hike in nature, learn about Mexico's ancient civilizations, or wander colonial towns, you'll find a day trip that's just right for you.
Toluca: Hike up a Volcano
Toluca is one of Mexico's cities with the highest elevation. It is home to a botanical garden with stunning stained glass murals, but the main attraction is the nearby, dormant, stratovolcano. You can hike up the Nevado de Toluca volcano (also known by its indigenous name Xinantécatl) to see spectacular views as you approach the top. Once you're at the peak you'll be able to see a crater with two tranquil lakes. At a height of 15,390 feet, this isn't for the faint of heart, but those in good condition will enjoy the challenge.
Getting There: Toluca is 64 miles west of Mexico City. You can take a bus to Toluca from the Observatorio bus station (Terminal Central Poniente) in Mexico City. From the Toluca bus station, take a taxi to the entrance to the park. Another option is to take an organized tour: Ecotura offers this hike as a day trip from Mexico City.
Travel Tip: Be sure to spend a few days in Mexico City before you do this hike to give yourself time to get used to being at a higher altitude. You'll need to get an early start, as the hike will take the better part of a day. Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots and lots of layers, because it can be quite cold at that altitude, even during the warmer months.
Taxco: Shop for Silver
If you're looking to purchase some silver, whether jewelry, utensils or decorative objects, Taxco is the place to go. It's a two hour drive from Mexico City, so it makes for a long day, but Mexico's silver capital is a charming town with narrow, winding streets, white buildings with red-tiled roofs and a few impressive colonial churches like Santa Prisca.
Getting There: Taxco is 100 miles south of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero. Take a bus from Tasqueña bus station (Terminal Central del Sur) to Taxco. It will take about two and a half hours.
Travel Tip: There are many options for buying silver around town, take your time and shop around. Make sure pieces have a stamp that says .925, which means that it is Sterling Silver (92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper), giving it durability. Rarely you'll find a .950 stamp which means it's 95 percent silver. The majority of silver shops items by weight; the rate varies depending on the merchant and quality of the work.
If you're visiting Mexico City between November and March, you can make a visit to the butterfly reserves in their wintering grounds. Witnessing the miracle of the monarch migration and being surrounded by millions of fluttering winged creatures is an experience you won't soon forget.
Getting There The closest butterfly reserve to Mexico City is the Santuario de La Mariposa Monarca Piedra Herrada in Mexico State. It's about 75 miles, or a two hour drive, from the city, whereas other reserves are farther away.
Travel Tip: If possible, plan to go during the week when there are fewer people. When you hike into the reserve, wear layers, and bring water with you. It can be dusty, so you might like to take a face mask or wear a bandana over your mouth and nose. Stay on the path and be careful not to step on any monarchs who may be sunning themselves on the ground.
This is probably the largest and most visited site in Mexico, along with Chichen Itza. The city of Teotihuacan was at its peak in the Classic period, between 200 and 800 AD. It's a very large site and you'll want to spend at least a few hours wandering around. If you have the fitness level and aren't afraid of heights, climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon to enjoy the views from the top.
Getting There: Teotihuacan is 30 miles northeast of Mexico City. Take the bus from Mexico City's Terminal Norte to the archaeological site.
Travel Tip: There are a few museums on the site, as well as water, snacks, and souvenirs for sale. Be sure to take sunscreen and a hat, and comfortable walking shoes.
Tula, Hidalgo: Learn about the Toltecs
Tula was the capital of Toltec civilization and flourished after the fall of Teotihuacan and before the rise of the Aztecs. This is a medium sized site, much smaller than Teotihuacan. The most noteworthy thing about Tula is the giant "Atlantes." These tall stone figures made of basalt represented guardians or warriors. The largest ones are about 15 feet tall!
Getting There: Tula is located north of Mexico city in Hidalgo state. Take a bus from Terminal Norte in Mexico City to Tula de Allende (the name of the town), and from there take a taxi to the archaeological site.
Travel Tip: Your admission fee to the site includes entry to the museum is well which has ceramics, jewelry, metalwork and stone figures from various ancient civilizations throughout Mexico.
Valle de Bravo: Adventures on Water, Land and Air
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy a day trip to Valle de Bravo, a small picturesque colonial town surrounded by pine forest and with a lovely, large lake, Lago Avandaro at its center. Visitors can enjoy a variety of watersports, such as sailing and water skiing on the lake. Adventures on land include hiking to see waterfalls, mountain biking, and climbing, and those who want to get a bird's eye view can try paragliding to enjoy a heart-racing experience with spectacular views of the town, lake, and forest.
Getting There: Valle de Bravo is located in Mexico State, about 90 miles west of the Mexico City center. Get a bus from the Terminal Poniente bus station to Valle de Bravo.
Travel Tip: Wander around the colonial center, and consider the different activities on offer: you'll find adventure and tour companies throughout the town offering activities for you to choose from. For paragliding or hang gliding, contact Fly Mexico.