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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Top Day Trips Near Mexico City

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

If you have the ability to explore outside of Mexico City, we would highly recommend doing so! There are so many incredible spots that you can take day trips, or even multi-day trips, if you are using Mexico City as your base. Some of our favorite spots in Mexico were within a couple hour drive from Mexico City. These are some of the top day trips near Mexico City that we would recommend.


This ancient archeology site is only 50 km northeast of Mexico City. Upon arriving there are people waving you down; we made the rookie mistake of stopping. They seemed official but we soon realized that they were trying to draw us in by saying they had a free introduction. We were pretty sure they would have tried to upsell us once we got to the location they wanted, so we declined. Later upon going to the official ticket booth they told us that all guides have a certain rate, so it obviously wasn’t going to be free. Entrance fees to the site were $80 Pesos ($3.83 USD/$4.91 CDN) per person (13+ years & older) and parking was around $60 Pesos. We parked in Lot 2 where it was the shortest route to the Pyramid of the Sun.

Family in front of Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Visiting Teotihuacan - The Pyramid of the Sun.

There are three different pyramids or temples at the site: Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon and Templo de Questzalcoatl. These are all included in the admission ticket, as well as a couple of museums. The Sun & Moon pyramids are close to each other, whereas they said it was about a 30-45 walk from those pyramids to Templo de Questzalcoatl. The kids were a bit worn out, so we just did the Sun & Moon Pyramids.

There are actually quite a few questions still about the original civilization that built the pyramids and some differing thoughts. One theory is that the sun pyramid was built by 12-14 thousand people and over 139 years. However, its true original purpose is still a mystery because there aren’t the writings that are sometimes found with other ancient civilizations. They believe that it was settled as early as 400 B.C. and became the most influential city in the region by 400 A.D. It wasn’t until the 1400s that the Aztecs found the city and named it Teotihuacan. They believe that the sun and moon pyramids were places where rituals and sacrifices were made. However, after the Aztecs the pyramids weren’t ‘discovered’ again until 1900 when Antonio Penafiel was hired to do some archeological work on the site. When they started this work, the temples basically looked like hills in the horizon as they were covered with overgrown grass, plants, etc.

Viewpoint of Pyramid of the Sun from the other end of the complex near Pyramid of the Moon. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
The Pyramid of the Sun from the viewpoint near the Pyramid of the Moon - Teotihuacan

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Sierra Chincua

To be honest this would be a long day trip from Mexico City, as it is nearly a 3 hour drive each way, but it is technically possible. However, if you find yourself in the area between November to March it is definitely worth checking out! (January/February is peak season.) There are four different sites that you can check out the butterflies within the Reserva de la Biosfera Santuario Mariposa, we decided to go to the location at Sierra Chincua. The reserve is the site of where all the monarch butterflies migrate to during the winter from the northern United States and Canada. If you are a worldschooler (or even if you aren’t!), this is a perfect place to take kids to learn about the butterfly migration!

Butterfly on plant at Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Sierra Chincua, Mexico.
Monarch Butterfly resting at Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Sierra Chincua, Mexico.

We watched several short educational videos about the monarch migration before we went and it was perfect to get the kids excited so they knew exactly what they were seeing once we were there. I honestly found the information about the monarch butterfly migration to be so interesting as well! One of the most intriguing aspects is that they don’t ‘learn’ how to migrate here, rather it is something genetically engrained in them! (There are no previous generations who have made the flight because they have already died.) Most Monarch butterflies complete their life cycle in four weeks, so over the summer there are four generations of butterflies. However, the last generation are part of the ‘Super Generation’ and these butterflies are the ones that fly south to Mexico. They have a lifespan eight times longer (up to 8 months) than the previous generations and they can travel 10 times farther. They also are unable to mate until the spring time because they have to conserve their energy. Then it is up to their set of internal compasses to know where to head and when.

Upon arrival at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Sierra Chincua, we had to pay for parking which was $60 Pesos per vehicle, as well as admission which was $80 Pesos ($3.83 USD/$4.91 CDN) per adult and $50 Pesos ($2.41 USD/$3.07 CDN) per child. The signage at the front said you could only view the butterflies in the forest with a guide; however, after trying to ask the people at the ticket window and nobody seeming to bother us, we just started to hike. As we hiked nobody approached us about not having a guide. When you start the trail there is the option of riding a horse one-way or roundtrip (it was around 200 Pesos per horse); we decided just to hike it. We are pretty decent and regular hikers, but even we found ourselves being more winded than normal because of the high elevation we were at. The trail was approximately 45-60 minutes one way and then you take the same route back. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have the ability to track the exact distance.)

As we approached the area where the butterflies were, we started to see more and more butterflies just flying around the trees and flowers.

Two children looking up in the trees & taking photos of the butterflies they find.
Getting closer to the butterflies at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Sierra Chincua, Mexico

At the top of the loop there were a couple of trees that were absolutely filled with butterflies on them! It was such an impressive site to see! Clara was so impressed with them and called it the ‘most amazing thing ever!” However, it is important to note that once near the butterflies you have to be silent.

We arrived at the Butterfly Sanctuary at 3 p.m. and we were there for approximately 2.5 hours, hiking and just taking in the butterflies. This unfortunately, caught us driving back to Toluca in the dark, which wasn’t ideal, but it all worked out. Therefore, if you are going to make it a day trip from Mexico City, make sure you leave early. Otherwise spending a night in the area might be a good idea!


This cute little town has become a recent destination to explore from Mexico City. The Puebla Old Town is a beautiful colonial town that has many colorful houses and the use of tiles is largely present as an influence from the Spanish. This town is just a great town to spend time wandering and exploring.

The Puebla Cathedral in the centre of the city is magnificent with a nice city park next to it. There are also several side chapels and unique architecture, so going inside to take a look was worth it – plus there was no admission. The city also has several fun restaurants and eating spots!

Puebla Cathedral in Puebla, Mexico at sunset.
Puebla Cathedral in the center of Puebla Old Town, Mexico.

While this town is definitely doable to visit in a day, if you’re looking to get a better feel for it then spending an extra day in the area might be worth it.

Two children on Puebla Sign in Puebla, Mexico.

Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park

This National Park sits between Puebla and Mexico City. We visited from Puebla, but if you have just a rental car or a small vehicle, then coming directly from Mexico City would be the better option. It was approximately 2 hours from Puebla on the rough dirt roads – often with pot holes and washouts – and from Mexico City it would be 2 hours 19 minutes on a paved road. Honestly, if we had a rental car we wouldn’t have attempted it from Pubela, but with the truck it was definitely doable. However, that being said, there were locals and other Mexicans who were using their small cars with lack of decent tires to take these roads.

White truck in foreground with Popo Volcano in the background. Mexico.
Taking the roads through Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park with the volcano 'Popo' in the background.

Upon arrival at the National Park you have to check in at the visitor centre at Paso de Cortes where you pay admission as well as fill out some forms to state what you intended to do in the park and provide contact information. Admission was $54 Pesos ($2.60 USD/$3.31 CDN) per adult and the kids were free.

At Paso de Cortes there are great views of Popocatepetl Volcano. The day that we were there it was steaming from lower vents and periodically releasing gas from the top of it. To be able to see it release gases from the top was pretty amazing, considering we have never seen any type of activity from a volcano before!

Popo Volcano release some fumes at Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park, Mexico
Popo Volcano releasing gas during our visit.

We weren’t exactly sure where to hike and talked to a few people. One person suggested checking out La Joya, as you hike into a flat part of the meadow with the Iztac volcano to your side. Once you leave the visitor centre, you have to enter a gated off-road that takes you up to this trailhead. This was even rougher than the section of road that we took in from Puebla and later we read that it is one of the highest roads in Mexico and considered one of the most dangerous (just because of road conditions) – luckily, we had our truck with 4-wheel drive capability. However, that didn’t seem to stop some people, as we saw all kinds of small cars and even an old classic car that made its way up to the La Joya hut. However, it offered spectacular views and we stopped to have our first barbeque tailgate lunch of the trip.

We continued to the La Joya trail and got ready to set out. However, as we started to walk, Alex and Clara started not to feel well – complaining of dizziness and headaches. (They were already feeling some of this at lunch.) We didn’t have enough time to acclimate, so we decided to just cut our loses and head back.

Family walking on trail with Izta Volcano in the background - Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park, Mexico.
Takin the La Joya Trail near Izta Volcano.

But I did go just a bit farther than them and captured a few views! We later found out that we were probably sitting at 13,047 ft. above sea level (or 3,977 meters). The elevation at the Paso de Cortes, where the information hut was located, was at 11,150 ft. (3,400 meters)

One of the lower La Joya Trail viewpoints in Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park, Mexico.
Viewpoint from La Joya Trail near Izta volcano.

On the way out of the park, we stopped at the Waterfall (Cascada) at Apatlaco Ecological Park, which was a little waterfall spot on our way back to Puebla and a nice little stop. It was also much lower elevation so everyone started to feel better and have more energy again.

Two children playing with the Cascada in the back ground - near Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park, Mexico.
Waterfall at Apatlaco Ecological Park between Paso de Cortes & Puebla in Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl National Park.

We thought the trip to National Park Iztaccihatl-Popocatepetl was quite interesting and beautiful. Our main advice would be to just be aware that you might not get as much hiking in due to the elevation, unless you stay at the lower altitudes.

There is so much to do and see around the Mexico City area – if cities aren’t your thing, I would still recommend checking out many of these other areas around the area. There is definitely no shortage of colonial towns – we only touched the surface by visiting Puebla -- and natural wonders in the area. If looking for family-friendly things to do in Mexico City make sure to check out our previous post.

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