In central Mexico, March normally has nice, sunny and cloudless days. After the cold of the winter, it´s great to explore Mexico City and it´s surroundings, enjoying it´s fresh mornings and it´s warmer afternoons. Hereby some great options to escape the beautiful monster that is Mexico City and to have a great day out, having some fresh air.
1. Exploring the volcanoes nearby Mexico City
From Mexico City, within 2.5 hours, you can easily explore some of Mexico´s highest peaks. March is a perfect time to visit, since you ideally have cloudless views and since it is less cold and better accesible than other months.
National park and volcanoes Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl
After a 2 hours drive from Mexico City (towards Puebla), you can reach the Paso de Cortes, the nearest you can get to the active Popocatépetl volcano; Mexico´s 2nd highest mountain (after Pico de Orizaba in the State of Veracruz), at 5,426 m (17,802 ft). From there you can have impressive views on the active Popocatepétl volcano, which has been in Yellow Alert Fase 2 in recent years. On active days, you can admire the fumaroles come out of the volcano and sometimes even small eruptions. It´s generally safe to visit the volcano, but always check it´s latest condition at the CENAPRED website to see if there are any warnings.
After the Paso de Cortes, it´s very worthwhile to drive up to La Joya, at about 40 minutes, while enjoying the incredible views. At La Joya, you can try some of the best quesadillas in Mexico and have a great hike toward the nearby picknick area and optionally up the dormant Iztaccíhuatl volcano for about 2 hours. On a day trip it´s a beautiful walk or hike, just take enough time to get used to the height (you are at about 4000 meters / 13000 feet); arrive early and always check the latest weather forecast. Afterwards, you can drive back to Paso de Cortes and optionally visit it´s nearby waterfalls, a 30 minutes drive and a beautiful relaxed walk for about 1 hour. Don´t miss the informal restaurants with great local food and drinks!
Nevado de Toluca volcano
After a 2 hours drive from Mexico City (towards Toluca), you can visit the impressive dormant Nevado de Toluca volcano (4,680 meters / 15,350 feet). Make sure to take the entrance of Parque de Venados, if not your GPS might take you over a very dificult and sometimes impassible back road. From there you can sometimes drive on to the campsite of Nevado de Toluca in about 50 minutes, but sometimes you are forced to take local transport, which is sometimes very slow / bad organized, so be prepared and arrive early.
On arriving at the campsite of Nevado de Toluca, you can walk up the crater for about 30 to 40 minutes, a tough walk uphill; make sure to aclamatise and take it easy, since you are at about 4000 meters / 13000 feet. On arriving at the crater, you have amazing views on the 2 crater lakes; Laguna del Sol and Laguna de la Luna. You can then go down in the crater of the dormant volcano, eploring the beautiful lagunas on an easier walk of about 2 hours or more. Make sure to always check the latest weather forecast.
2. Exploring the archeological sites in and nearby Mexico City
From Mexico City, it´s great to explore little by litte it´s nearby archeological sites. In Mexico´s Central Region alone there are in total 50 archeological sites open to public !!
In Mexico City, there are 4 archeological sites open to public (Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco, Cuicuilco and Cerro de la Estralla) plus there are 18 in the State of Mexico, 4 in the State of Tlaxcala, 8 in the State of Puebla, 8 in the State of Morelos, 4 in the State of Hidalgo, and 4 in the State of Queretaro; most easily explored on day trips from Mexico City.
Hereby some of our favorites!
Chalcatzingo is a Mesoamerican archaeological site in the Valley of Morelos, at only 2 hours from Mexico City. The site is well known for its extensive array of Olmec-style monumental art and iconography. Chalcatzingo is estimated to have been settled as early as 1500 Before Christ. The inhabitants began to produce and display Olmec-style art and architecture around 900 BC. At its height between 700 BC and 500 BC, Chalcatzingo’s population is estimated at between five hundred and a thousand people. By 500 BC it had gone into decline. The views of the surrounding mountains are amazing!
Teotenango is impressive archeological site at only 1.5 hour from Mexico City. It was an important pre-Hispanic fortified city located in the southern part of the Valley of Toluca. It was initially founded during the last stages of the Teotihuacan civilization, by a group generally referred to as the “Teotenancas.” Later, the Matlatzincas conquered the city and expanded it. The city existed for about 1,000 years, being abandoned only after the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire. At its height, the city was densely population with a main road about 1,400 meters long, pyramidal platforms, palaces, a ballgame court, formidable defenses, drainage and water delivery systems. All around the site there are naturally protruding rocks containing petroglyphs with various signs and symbols. Don´t forget to explore the nearby Grutas de la Estrella, an impressive cave system and the beautiful town of Tonatico.
Tula is a Mesoamerican archeological site at 2 hours from Mexico City. It was an important regional center which reached its height as the capital of the Toltec Empire between the fall of Teotihuacan and the rise of Tenochtitlan. The main attraction is the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl which is topped by four, four metre high basalt columns carved in the shape of Toltec warriors. Tula fell around 1150, but it had significant influence in the following Aztec Empire. Don´t forget to visit the beautiful nearby village of Tepozótlan (not to be confused with Tepoztlán).
Exploring El Tajin
El Tajín is a pre-Columbian archeological site in southern Mexico and is one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica. El Tajín flourished from 600 to 1200 C.E. and during this time numerous temples, palaces, ballcourts, and pyramids were built. From the time the city fell, in 1230, to 1785, no European seems to have known of its existence. El Tajín was named a World Heritage site in 1992, due to its cultural importance and its architecture. This architecture includes the use of decorative niches and cement in forms unknown in the rest of Mesoamerica. Its best-known monument is the Pyramid of the Niches, but other important monuments include the Arroyo Group, the North and South Ballcourts and the palaces of Tajín Chico. In total there have been 20 ballcourts discovered at this site (the last 3 being discovered in March 2013). You can visit El Tajín easily during the weekend, ideally combining it with a visit to the beach an mangroves of Tecolutla, and also visiting Papantla (Pueblo Mágico).
Exploring Tepozteco (near Tepoztlan)
El Tepozteco is a small archaeological site in the Mexican state of Morelos, near the town of Tepoztlan (Pueblo Mágico) It consists of a small temple to Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of the alcoholic beverage pulque. In the middle Postclassic Period, various terraces and a small pyramid were built on one of the peaks of the Sierra de Tepoztlan, overlooking the pre-Columbian town of Tepoztlan. The temple became important enough to attract pilgrims from as far away as Guatemala, although the cult of Tepoztecatl was local to this site. To reach the top you have have to hike about 1 hour 15 minutes uphill, in a lush green environment.
Teotihuacán (pyramids of the Sun, the Moon and the Feathered Serpent) is a Unesco world heritage site and the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas and the most visited archeological site in Mexico. Start early to beat the crowds and the heat and go ideally during the week.
3. Exploring Pueblos Mágicos nearby Mexico City
The Pueblos Mágicos (“Magical Towns Programme”) is an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism, with the support from other federal agencies, to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, art crafts and great hospitality. At this moment there are 121 Pueblos Mágicos. Below some of the lesser known Pueblos Mágicos that we will explore in March.
Exploring Aculco and Amealco
Aculco (Pueblo Mágico), is a colonial town with nearby the dam and waterfall of La Concepción. Aculco was founded approximately in 1110 AD by the Otomies, despite the fact that its name comes from Nahuatl. With the arrival of the Spanish in 1540, construction on the church and the convent of San Jeronimo began. In November 1810, Miguel Hidalgo and his contingent, who began the Mexican War of Independence, arrived in the region. Two cascades are located in the area: “Tixhiñu” and “la Concepción”. One of the most quite and beautiful Pueblos Mágicos, surrounded by beautiful nature.
Huasca is a beautiful town (Pueblo Mágico) in the state of Hidalgo. It´s has a beautiful historic center and incredible food. Don´t forget to explore the nearby Basalt Prisms and the amazing Hacienda Santa Maria Regla.
Exploring Tlayacapan, Tlalmanalco and Yecapixtla
In the beautiful towns of Tlalmanalco (Pueblo con Encanto), Tlayacapan (Pueblo Mágico) and Yecapixtla (Pueblo Mágico) you can also explore 3 of the most beautiful monastries on the Slopes of Popocatépetl, a World Heritage Site. Plus, if you time it well, you can celebrating a traditional Mexican Carnaval in Tlayacapan and try the local cecina dish in the town of Yecapitxtla (Pueblo Mágico).
4. Exploring beaches and lakes nearby Mexico City
Apart from the above mentioned Tecolutla beach (now the closest to Mexico City, at only 4 hours) and Acapulco (at only 5 hours), there are some other great options to relax and explore, and where you not necesarily need to book a flight for.
Exploring lake Catemaco and surroundings
One of the most beautiful lakes in Mexico is lake Catemaco in the State of Veracruz, at 9 hours from Mexico City. An amazing place to explore on for example a longer weekend / puente. Don´t forget to explore the nearby Salto de Eyipantla waterfalls, the nearby ecological reserve Nanciyaga (the northernmost tropical jungle of the planet), and take a relaxing boat ride on the lake. It feels like being on the beach, but with less people and with more options to explore.
At only 8 hours from Mexico City, you can find one of the more beautiful beaches that you can visit in for example a long weekend trip / puente: the beaches of Ixtapa Zihuatanejo. Don´t forget to take a boat trip as early as posible to the incredible Isla Ixtapa, to enjoy and explore it´s 4 different beaches. Another inforgettable boat trip, is visiting Playa las Gatas from Zihuatanejo. An incredible place to relax and enjoy!
5. Exploring hotsprings and natural water parks nearby Mexico City
Another option to relax, swim and explore, is to visit one of the many natural water parks (balnearios) and / or hotsprings. We love the following places, since it´s still 100% nature!
Exploring Natural Water Park Las Estacas
Do you feel like you need to dive into clear water, rest under the palm trees and get a nice suntan? Two hours south from Mexico City, this beautiful nature water park is just what you are looking for. The crystal clear water comes from various springs and forms a wide river with a mild current. Lay down into the water and let yourself being taken through tropic green and tall palm trees. There are also swimming-pools, mini-golf, and a restaurant; you can also bring your own food for a pick-nick. You can also snorkel, dive or rent a canoe. Las Estacas is a perfect place to escape from Mexico City for a one day trip.
Exploring Natural park, river, hotsprings and caves of Grutas de Tolantongo
At only 4 hours from Mexico City, Grutas de Tolantongo is an incredible place to visit on a day trip or longer stay. The mountains around the canyon are volcanic, heating the water to steamy temperatures and infusing it all with minerals, forming some of the world’s loveliest hot springs. And whether you’d prefer to just soak in all this natural beauty for as long as possible, or you want something a little more exciting, all is posible. There are several ways to enjoy this Mexican geothermal wonderland. The first is to explore the tunnel and cave – this grotto features a warm, spring-fed pool and river, and also has warm, mineral-rich water misting in from the walls and ceiling… it’s basically like an all-natural sauna, with a pool for swimming. If that’s a little too steamy for you, then a dip in the slightly cooler river might be more your speed.
6. Enjoying the last flights of the Monarch butterflies
Until mid March, you can still enjoy the wonderful Monarch butterflies sanctuaries near Mexico City (season from mid November to mid March. Our favorites are Piedra Herrada in the State of Mexico (at 2.5 hours) and El Rosario in the State of Michoacan (at 4 hours); so for it has been an excellent season, the population is up 144% versus last year. Both sanctuaries can give excellent expierences, depending on the weather conditions. In March, the weather is generally excellent for good Monarch butterfly experiences. Check out our blog about the Monarch butterflies.
7. Exploring Mexico City
In another article we will focus on all of the highlights and hidden jewels of Mexico City. In March, try to start early to beat the crowds and enjoy it´s fresh mornings. And plan the museums / bars and restaurants in the afternoon. And look further than just it´s historic center and it´s more turisty neighborhoods. A great way to get off the beaten track, is to explore little by little the 21 Barrios Magicos of Mexico City.
Let´s explore México together !!
With Aztec Explorers, the traveller´s club of the small travel agency Azteca Travel Tours Art, we organize day and weekend trips + other events, to off the beaten track destinations and highlights in and around Mexico City, creating unique experiences to learn more about it’s culture, it’s people, its food and drinks, while you can make new local and international friends. Small groups, in English and Spanish.
In March we will explore all of the amazing places mentioned in this article and more; you can find all the details and sign up for free on Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/es/Internationals-in-Mexico-City-Mexican-Welcome/
Our website: Www.AztecaTTA.com
We hope you enjoyed our blog and we hope to meet you soon (again!) on one of our day, weekend or road trips !!