Mexico’s capital has much to offer travellers, as the cultural and political hub of the country, though travellers shouldn’t expect beaches and ocean-side relaxing.
High-altitude Mexico City has great museums, fascinating ancient monuments, and much in the way of good eating and drinking to be explored.
Cosmopolitan and modern, visitors will definitely want to spend time familiarising themselves with all Mexico City has to offer before heading out to search beyond it.
However, there is so much to be explored within easy reach, that it would be rude not to take advantage of this.
Here are 15 of the best day trips to be taken from Mexico City.
Teotihuacan, City of the Gods, is an obvious first choice for a day trip from Mexico City.
The most well-known Meso-American site nearby to the capital, the Aztecs inhabited Teotihuacan from around the 13th century, though it’s a subject of debate who actually built it.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the world, and can be climbed for some pretty epic views of the pyramid complex and surrounding scenery.
Stroll along to the smaller Pyramid of the Moon and find a good spot to watch the sunset, which lends an even more magical air to this impressive site.
To satisfy those who enjoy cultural activities, a day trip to visit the archaeological area of Cholula might be a good option.
Stop off first at the monastery of San Miguel in Huejotzingo, a good place to learn about the cultural history of Mexico, with their diverse influences from Arabic to Spanish.
Cholula also plays host to the world’s largest pyramid – by volume, rather than by height – which is certainly something to be ticked off the bucket list.
The colonial town of Puebla offers something a bit different: a true picture of Mexico’s colonial past, with its pretty tiled streets and impressive cathedral.
Puebla also gives insight into some of Mexico’s traditional industry, as visitors have the option to explore onyx and talavera factories.
Around two hours’ drive from Mexico City, Puebla is one of the most popular places to visit nearby.
It is also known for being a buzzing university town, and even more interestingly has an English castle deposited in the centre of its lake, the Ex-Hacienda de Chautla.
4. Volcano Hiking in Izta-Popo National Park
For those who fancy a more active day trip activity, hiking in Izta-Popo National Park is a great option.
If you feel like a change from the ordinary, head out to conquer the thankfully dormant Iztaccíhuatl volcano.
This day trip offers something totally different from the hectic streets of Mexico City: fresh air, breathtaking natural scenery, and a satisfying physical challenge.
At 5230m, Iztaccíhuatl is a fairly hefty challenge for the uninitiated, so think carefully before deciding how high you want to go.
A summit attempt is possible when you begin from the 4000 metre point, so the challenge is yours for the taking.
The views are well worth it.
Taxco is a pretty colonial town, located southwest of Mexico City in the state of Guerrero, renowned for its silver production.
Nicknamed the ‘silver city’, Taxco has a uniquely Old World atmosphere, with its colonial architecture and cute cobbled streets.
During your visit to the town, you can spend time admiring the artisanal silver crafts, peeking into the metal workshops, and learning about the history of the craft.
Another highlight of a Taxco visit is its large church, Santa Prisca, imposingly situated on the east side of the main Plaza, towering above the town.
Another attractive colonial town, Cuernavaca is the capital of the Mexican state of Morelos.
It is set in the foothills of the picturesque Tepozteco Mountains, south of Mexico City, and sits at an elevation of around 5000 feet.
Known as the ‘city of eternal spring’, Cuernavaca has many important monuments of note, which merit a dedicated tour if you want to learn more.
Marvel at the 16th century Palace of Cortes, now a museum, and then spend some time wandering through the walled monastery housing Cuernavaca Cathedral.
7. Cacahuamilpa Caves
From the town of Cacahuamilpa it is possible to visit the Cacahuamilpa caves, which are part of the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park.
These caves form the second largest cave system in the world.
For more than ten kilometres underground and up to 230 feet high, the tunnels snake in every direction, and the ever-changing rock sometimes morphs into recognisable shapes.
Try spotting fountains, faces, and even a cathedral among the stone.
Outside of the caves themselves, the national park has other forms of entertainment, including rock climbing and wandering around its gardens, but the caves are certainly the biggest draw.
The famous Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico are brought to life in Mixquic, where the rituals are laid out for all to see.
Streets carpeted with sawdust, altars hung with colourful cempasuchil flowers, dancers swaying in traditional dress to ancient songs: Mixquic truly embodies Dia de Muertos.
Surprisingly, this festival is not a sombre occasion despite the name: participants rather celebrate the lives of their loved ones, dancing, making offerings of fruit and bread, and painting their faces in a style now recognised around the world.
Mixquic is truly a fascinating day trip.
9. Tula and Tepotzotlan
The architecture of Tula and Tepotzotlan is perhaps some of the most impressive in Mexico.
Tula is famed for its Atlantes statues: more than five metres high and carved of stone, they provide an impressive welcome to the area.
Sadly the Tula people were pushed out by invading colonisers.
Tepotzotlan has fantastic baroque work displayed on its Jesuit church, the chapel of San Francisco Javier.
This impressive construction is inlaid with gold leaf, making it a striking sight.
There are also examples of the nuns clothing on display inside the building.
10. San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a safe, cosmopolitan, town, filled with buildings from the 17th/18th centuries.
The seat of Mexico’s cultural festivals of music and art, San Miguel de Allende has several UNESCO world heritage claims.
As you wander around downtown, you’ll get a stunning views of the city and its spires, and will get to learn more about the history of the place.
Don’t miss the Museum of Ignacio Allende, the Parish of San Miguel de Arcángel, San Francisco’s Temple and, Paseo del Chorro, each of which has its own important place in the history of the town.
11. Magical towns of Hidalgo
The towns of Real del Monte and Huasca provide a deeply interesting day trip from Mexico City.
First, head north to Real del Monte, an old mining town, where you can explore its streets and perhaps sample some of the Hidalgo cuisine.
Try pulque, a type of local bread.
Then move on to the ‘Pueblo Magico’, Huasca de Ocampo, where you will find the incredible Santa Maria Regla Canyon, with impressively tall – over 30m – basalt columns adorning its walls, and four waterfalls combining to feed the dam.
Afterwards, check out the Hacienda San Miguel Regla, which once housed the town’s most famous philanthropist.
12. Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
For a more unusual day trip from Mexico City experience, the Monarch butterfly sanctuary tour is a fantastic, fascinating off-beat option.
Before you scoff, or insist that butterflies are boring, know this: each year the butterflies migrate from Canada all the way down to Mexico.
If the idea of thousands of butterflies fluttering their way down the continent doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will!
Take a tour around the sanctuary, learning about the life cycle of the butterflies, and then once you’re bored of educational diversions, head to the nearby Lake de Valle de Bravo, which provides opportunities for water sports.
A small state just east of Mexico City, Tlaxcala has many diverting options for the day tripper.
Its capital Tlaxcala City was heavily influenced by the Spanish colonisation, and as such provides a classic example of the picture-perfect colonial town: dusky orange buildings with white detailing around the sides.
Day trippers can take a look at the Franciscan monastery located up high at the edge of the town centre, no longer in use as a monastery but instead housing a museum.
There’s also the pretty San Jose parish church, the Tlaxcala museum of art, and the Capilla de los Indios to explore, as well as some fascinating archaeological ruins on the outer fringes of Tlaxcala state.
14. Santiago de Querétaro
One of the more chilled out day trips from Mexico is a visit to Santiago de Queretaro, capital of the state of Queretaro.
Known for being particularly safe and serene, Santiago de Queretaro has the usual offerings of architecture, museums and pretty streets to mosey around, but has an added bonus of being an up and coming area for wine – certainly one to watch.
The city’s historical centre was afforded UNESCO world heritage status in 1996, but another site worthy of note is its huge 18th century aqueduct, dominating the skyline around it.
Only around 50 minutes’ drive from Mexico City lies Toluca de Lerdo, the capital of the State of Mexico.
This is a great day trip option for culture vultures, as it is crammed full of fascinating and historic museums.
Covering topics as diverse as flora and fauna, arts, and Mexican Culture, Toluca de Lerdo provides a little educational boost for those who have grown tired of only embarking on relaxing pursuits.
One other highlight of the town is the Botanical Gardens, whose fantastic collection of stained glass windows provides an interesting companion to its abundant plants from around the world.