Mexico City has the largest population of any city on the North American continent, is the capital of Mexico, and is the largest Spanish speaking city on earth. The city is one of the most important cultural centers in North and South America as the oldest capital city on both American continents. Mexico city is found in the Valley of Mexico and was built by the Aztecs in 1325 but destroyed in 1521 and rebuilt to match the new standards for Spanish urban centers.
Mexico City is a huge tourist destination with attractions including the floating gardens of Xochimilco which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ancient Aztec ruins, centuries-old cathedrals, Historic Center of Mexico City, the National Palace, and Chapultepec castle as well as several museums, art galleries, and hundreds of restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Mexico City is also the prime spot to take day trips from nearby historic landmarks and towns.
The Cacahuamilpa Caves is one of the largest systems of caves on earth and is “live,” meaning that groundwater is actively filtered through the system, and the formations inside the caverns are still growing. There are ninety large areas within the caves that natural rock walls divide, and twenty of them can be explored by visitors at Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park. These caves are found under a limestone mountain ridge called Cerro de la Corona.
One of the salons inside the caves is called “the auditorium,” and seats have been installed so that space can be rented out. Concerts and other special events have been held inside. Tours of the cave systems are offered on the hour and last for tour hours.
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Cholula is the oldest city in North America and has been inhabited by people since it’s inception. San Gabriel, one of the oldest Franciscan convents in the Western hemisphere, is located in Cholula, as well as Sanctuary of Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios, which was constructed in the 1500s and placed over the Great Pyramid. This pyramid can also be explored, including a maze of tunnels that go underneath or the paths on the outside.
Some of the popular activities in Cholula include exploring the Cosme del Razo Market and the Container District, where brightly colored cargo transport containers have been recycled into offices, bars, shops, art galleries, restaurants, and more. This urban concept was invented in Cholula by graphic design artist Gabriel Esper Caram and is now used all over the world.
People who want to experience the warm, mild weather of Spring can visit Cuernavaca any time of the year and enjoy beautiful landscapes full of colorful wildflowers, and comfortable temperatures. The tranquil town is also a hub of outdoor recreation due to the mountains, volcanoes, and rivers that offer amazing rock climbing, hiking, and rafting opportunities. Visitors to Cuernavaca can also go spelunking, parachuting, camping, or take it easy on the golf courses.
Cuernavaca is also home to many cultural and historical attractions, including Garden Borda Museum, La Asuncion Convent and the Cathedral, Cortes Palace, the silver and artisan markets, Amanalco Rift, and the Gardens of Mexico. Visitors can also simply take a walk around the city to view the colonial architecture and eat at the fabulous local restaurants.
4.Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park
One of the world's largest caves systems is found in Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park, where visitors can tour the caves known for their immense caverns that range from 90 to 240 feet high. The Grutas de Cacahuamilpa Caves are still active with stalactites and stalagmites still forming today. Part of the Sierra Made del Sur, these caves originally formed under the ocean millions of years ago but have been carved out by underground rivers in recent centuries. Guests can only visit the caves by booking a tour; however, visitors can explore on their own after the tour. A bathroom has been installed in the middle of the cave, and there is also an auditorium where musicians have performed.
There is more to do in the park than visit the caves, however. Visitors can also purchase tickets to go rafting, zip-lining, rappelling, and horseback riding. Getting to the National Park from Mexico City takes less than two hours and is accessible via public transportation.
Hidalgo is a state within Mexico that can be reached in just 1 ½ hours by car from Mexico City. Among the capital city Pachuca, there are many other thriving towns and cities within the state that offer unique shopping, dining, and adventure activities, among many other attractions and local culture to explore. People love to learn the history of Pachuca in a fun way at the Rehilete Children’s Museum, which is open year-round. The Mining Museum preserves Pachuca’s mining history, and the Museum of Mineralogy provides an educational experience on mining minerals in the area.
Archeological sites can be found in Tollan, Pachuca, Huapalcalco, Tula, and Xihuingo that are all within the Hidalgo borders. Most of the state’s lands are mountainous, with rolling hills and valleys, ponds, lakes, rivers, and alpine forests that are perfect for any outdoor activity.
6.Izta-Popo National Park
This national park is revered as one of the most significant and beautiful in the entire world and is only a 2 ½ hour drive from Mexico City. Upon touring the park, visitors first see the great active volcano Popocatepetl, and Iztachihuatl, a dormant volcano, both of which can be explored. These two volcanoes are the second and third highest peaks in Mexico, consecutively. Hiking trails and roads lead to viewpoints and wind through the volcanoes and various mountains that are easily accessible.
Near the entrance to the park sits a small museum dedicated to educating the public about the history and facts about the volcanoes and the area. One can even learn some historical facts a little folklore about the famous Hernan Cortes there. While traveling through the volcanoes, people can see the highest peak in all of Mexico, the Pico de Orizaba, which is another active volcano.
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Malinalco is a picturesque city surrounded by large mountains, alpine forests, and lush flora, where many opportunities for outdoor adventures await. The city itself is quite old, and visitors love to immerse themselves in the local culture and unique experiences. The Mexica Shrine is an ancient place that memorialized warriors from years past and is open to the public year-round.
There are many unique restaurants that serve the local cuisine that keeps people coming back. Cuauhtinchán is a museum that lies within the Texcaltepec Mountains that surround Malinalco. The museum provides many experiences and exhibits throughout the year, educating the public on the history of the area, along with wildlife exhibitions, as well. The downtown area is filled with cobblestone streets that take visitors to amazing eateries, shops, and other places that provide a cultural experience unlike any other.
Mixquic is a city that was founded in the early 11th century with a vast history, historical sites, cultural significance, and unique places to explore. It is most famous for the enormous Day of the Dead Celebrations that are held on October 31st through November 2nd each year. The celebrations are mostly held in the center of the town, where San Andres Apostal sits, which was once a monastery built in the 16th century. The graveyard surrounding the church is the focus of the celebrations, where parades and parties occur.
The area around the town is beautiful, and many outdoor adventures are available to those seeking it. Mixquic has a unique culture, and that can be found at the many shops, restaurants, museums, and other places of cultural significance.
9.Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
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This sanctuary consists of four different sites that are protected by activists who wish to preserve the Monarch Butterfly and their habitats. Scientists discovered that these majestic butterflies migrate all the way from Canada down to Central Mexico, within the Oyamel Fir Forest, where the four parts of the sanctuary reside.
The sanctuary is completely outdoors, and no butterflies are housed in buildings. Upon entering any one of the sanctuaries, people can see millions of Monarch Butterflies that have flown to Central Mexico to stay for the winter, before again flying all the way up north to Canada.
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Morelia offers amazing historical tourism just four hours away from Mexico City., in Michoacan. The city architecture features amazingly preserved colonial structures built from pink stone granite, relaxing hot springs, and tranquil countryside. Morelia is also home to an international film festival, and the Historical Center is a UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity Site. The town center also includes museums, the pink stone Cathedral, mansion, temples, monuments, public parks, gardens, markets, and more.
Visitors who want to embrace the outdoors while visiting Morelia can stroll through Cuauhtemoc Forest. There is a Museum of Natural History and Contemporary Art Museum , and Sports Complex that is all surrounded by trees more than 100 years old.
11.Nevado de Toluca
Just outside of Toluca is the Nevado de Toluca National Park. The volcano is one of the highest peaks in Mexico that offers hiking opportunities with views of the Mexico countryside. Hiking the Nevado calls for scarfs, gloves, and boots; however, as snow is often on the mountain and temperatures are cold with an alpine climate. There are two base camps along the hiking trails; one is near the two crater lakes that have small sheds that sell snacks and drinks, but bringing your own water and snacks are recommended. The last time the volcano erupted was more than 10,000 years ago. Throughout the national park, there are 18 archaeological sites that offer clues to indigenous culture and ritualistic practices. One of the sites is particularly popular and is located near the Cerro Prieto Cave. Pre-hispanic people’s evidence is here as well as a centuries-old shrine to Michael the Archangel.
Pachuca is the capital city of the state of Hidalgo, located just a couple of hours from Mexico City. It is a large town filled with places that provide historical education, local cuisine, unique shopping experiences, adventure, and exploration activities, and much more. Families are welcome to explore the Rehilete Children’s Museum to learn the history of Pachuca and the surrounding area by experimenting and getting hands-on experience from historians.
Pachuca is a very old mining town that is a large part of their history and culture. The Mining Museum provides the town’s mining history, and the adjacent Museum of Minerology further educates people on what was mined in the area and how it helped the city prosper into what it is today. Pachuca is also famous for its unique local cuisine and traditional Mexican food, which can be found in the many restaurants and eateries throughout the city.
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Visitors to Puebla get to enjoy modern amenities and attractions, as well as many opportunities to learn about history and culture. The city has long been a source of inspiration for writers, artists, and filmmakers and has been nicknamed the “city of angels,” after the local legend that angels guard the bell tower of the Cathedral. Each corner of the city also offers views of different volcanos in Mexico and downtown is home to more than 2,700 monuments dedicated to religious figures and civil leaders.
Some of the best attractions to visit in Puebla include the Nuestra Senora De La Inmaculada Concepcion Cathedral, Sweets Street, where there are lots of dessert vendors, Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden, Amparo Museum, and the Museum of Folk Art which was once the Convent of Santa Rosa. The gastronomy scene is also vibrant in Puebla, and many restaurants offer fine dining experiences.
14.Pyramid of Tenayuca
The site where the Pyramid of Tenayuca is located dates to around the time of Aztec dominance in Mexico and is a near-perfect, scaled-down, replica of the Tenochtitlan Temple and Tlatelolco Temple. Inside of the pyramid of Tenayuca is five smaller, nested pyramids that were earlier iterations dating back to the 13th century. Interlocking snakes surround the pyramid, and while there many missing, more than 100 remain, and two coiled snakes stand out in particular as they are oriented to the stars and sun during the solstices.
15.San Miguel de Allende
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San Miguel De Allende is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities found anywhere in the world and Mexico and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city maintains an artistic, cosmopolitan, Neo-Gothic, atmosphere and appearance. Some of the best architectural sites to visit include the San Miguel Arcangel Parish, Canada la Virgen, and the market district where visitors can shop local artisans along cobblestone streets.
When visiting San Miguel de Allende, some of the best places to venture to include the Casa de Allende Historical Museum, San Francisco Church, Barrio del Chorro, and the local markets. The city also offers a modern, vibrant nightlife with clubs, bars, restaurants, and nightly entertainment.
16.Santiago de Queretaro
The World Heritage City of Santiago de Queretaro is a colonial treasure that is home to many different ecosystems and has great biodiversity. Santiago de Querétaro is also popular for eco-tourism and has many nearby villages that can be explored.
Some of the most popular things to do when visiting Querétaro include taking a wine tour through the countryside and exploring the historic town of Santiago de Querétaro. The town is known to be the place where the Mexican movement for Independence began, and the historic center features architecture that is centuries old, regal monuments, San Agustin Temple, or Temple of San Francisco de Asis, which has important roots in the city. There are also many amazing local restaurants that make regional favorites like stuffed cactus and enchiladas.
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17.Taxco de Alarcon
Taxco was once the only place silver was mined and extracted in Mexico, and the town is still known for its artisan jewelry makers and silversmiths. Also known as the "magic town," Taxco is also famous for its gothic architecture, cobblestone roads, convents, and a history of religious subjugation. There are also several natural wonders nearby, including Pozas Azules Waterfalls, caves of Cacahuampila, and more.
Most visitors to Taxco de Alarcon spend the days walking around the colonial city and marveling at the old churches, eating at local restaurants, and visiting museums such as the Museo de Arte Religiosa at Casa Humboldt or Museum of Archaeology William Spratling. The most iconic attraction in Taxco is the hilltop statue of Christ.
Visitors to Mexico City who want to see ancient ruins can spend a day exploring Tenayuca, where at the center is a 20-meter tall pyramid that dates back to the Aztec period. The Tenayuca pyramid is a miniature version of the Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan pyramids and contains five other older versions of the pyramid nested inside of it. One unique feature of this pyramid is the interlocking snakes made of stone that once surrounded the pyramid with more than 100 sets of them remaining. Two of the snake coils aligned with the stars during the solstices.
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The ancient Teotihuacan city ruins site is just a half-hour from Mexico City and one of the most famous archaeological sites in Mexico. The origins of the city are unknown; however it is thought that the founders could have been peoples fleeing the Xitle volcano during the first two centuries BC. The town would have flourished between 350 AD and 650 AD. The people that lived here suddenly vanished without a trace.
Some of the most important sites to see at Teotihuacan include the main avenue named Cazada de Los Muertos; La Ciudadela, a Citadel with the pyramids, and temples being the main attraction; and The Pyramid of the Moon at the most northern part of the site.
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Tepotzotlan is a beautiful, ancient town full of historical landmarks such as the Temple of San Francisco Javier, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the National Museum of the Viceroyalty.
Visitors to Tepotxotlan can explore the central garden, visit the street vendors and artists booths that are set up every afternoon. There are also many wonderful street food vendors and restaurants in Tepotzotlan. The Yohualichan Archaeological site is nearby and another favorite ancient attraction for people wanting to experience history and culture in Mexico.
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21.The Mexican Highlands
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The Mexican Highlands consists of many cities that mix Spanish and indigenous culture that creates a traditional Mexican experience for travelers. The cities within the highlands are old, and each one unique unto itself, with shopping, dining, and adventure available to anyone. The entire highlands area is just a couple of hours away from Mexico City.
Oaxaca is a city alive with music and dancing, traditional Mexican dining, and is known for its arts culture. San Miguel de Allende is another town full of vibrant culture and authentic Mexican shops, food, and arts. Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage City and is larger than the others, with cobblestone streets that wind through all the amazing shops, museums, restaurants, and other places along the rolling hills the city sits on.
This beautiful town is only a two-hour drive from Mexico City. The area is full of natural wonders where visitors may take a hot air balloon ride to see volcanoes, mountains, and places like the Peak of Orizaba. Kayaking, boating, fishing, hiking, and biking are favorites among visitors who wish to explore the forested lands throughout the area.
The city has many historical sites and museums to explore. Other notable locations are the Government Palace, Cathedral of the Virgen de la Asunción, Basilica of Ocotlán, Parish of San José, the Art Museum within Tlaxcala, and the Staircase of Heroes. There are many unique shopping and dining places for everyone within the city as well.
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Some of the best art and architecture Mexico has to offer resides within Toluca, which is only an hour’s drive from Mexico City. Visitors go to the Alameda de Toluca and the Cuauhtémoc Park to see gorgeous gardens, art exhibits, and special events. The Botanical Garden exemplifies the arts culture in Toluca by providing over 500 different plant species from around the world to explore.
La Marquesa is a large Nature Reserve in which Toluca resides, where people can fish in the ponds and rivers, hike the mountains and alpine forests, and visit the many festivals that occur each year. There are many historical sites, restaurants and eateries, museums, and shops within Toluca as well.
24.Tula and the Tollan Ruins
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These ancient ruins are preserved within Tula de Allende, which is an old city that was founded around the year 600. The archeological site is open to visitors and has a large museum and shop located on the grounds. The Jorge Acosta Museum features artifacts and exhibits, both permanent and others that change frequently, and rooms that tell the story of the ruins.
The tours through the ruins and the museum are self-guided. The ruins include many temples, pyramids, stone sculptures, statues, homes, and other pieces of the once-thriving city. These ruins are about 1 ½ hour away from Mexico City.
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25.Valle de Bravo
This beautiful waterfront city is only a couple of hour’s drive from Mexico City. The enormous Valle de Bravo Lake sits directly in the middle of the city, where many outdoor and water adventures await. People often go fishing, swimming, and boating, as well as hang gliding and paragliding over the picturesque landscapes. Valle de Bravo is most known for its water recreation and amazing year-round climate that is perfect for kayaking, water skiing, and sailing. There are also several golf courses and hiking trails throughout the mountainous surroundings.
The Mazahua community also calls the Valle de Bravo home, and the city is full of live music, parties, and artisan vendors selling their wares and crafts street side. The Feast of Santa Maria is a great time to visit Valle de Bravo, or during Festivals of Souls during Day of the Dead.
25 Best Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Mexico City
- Cacahuamilpa Caves, Photo: Miguel/stock.adobe.com
- Cholula, Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/stock.adobe.com
- Cuernavaca, Photo: Josuhe/stock.adobe.com
- Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park, Photo: Miguel/stock.adobe.com
- Hidalgo, Photo: fergregory/stock.adobe.com
- Izta-Popo National Park, Photo: MaxPhotoArt/stock.adobe.com
- Malinalco, Photo: Byelikova Oksana/stock.adobe.com
- Mixquic, Photo: Angel/stock.adobe.com
- Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Photo: Hummingbird Art/stock.adobe.com
- Morelia, Photo: Noradoa/stock.adobe.com
- Nevado de Toluca, Photo: Alexandra/stock.adobe.com
- Pachuca, Photo: Marc/stock.adobe.com
- Puebla, Photo: Leonid Andronov/stock.adobe.com
- Pyramid of Tenayuca, Photo: isabela66/stock.adobe.com
- San Miguel de Allende, Photo: Bill Perry/stock.adobe.com
- Santiago de Queretaro, Photo: frenta/stock.adobe.com
- Taxco de Alarcon, Photo: frenta/stock.adobe.com
- Tenayuca, Photo: Keith/stock.adobe.com
- Teotihuacan, Photo: Tamme/stock.adobe.com
- Tepotzotlan, Photo: notsunami/stock.adobe.com
- The Mexican Highlands, Photo: R.M. Nunes/stock.adobe.com
- Tlaxcala, Photo: Noradoa/stock.adobe.com
- Toluca, Photo: Amelia/stock.adobe.com
- Tula and the Tollan Ruins, Photo: Madrugada Verde/stock.adobe.com
- Valle de Bravo, Photo: Apolinar/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: robnaw/stock.adobe.com