At only 2.5 hours from Mexico City, you can find one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Parque Nacional Izta Popo, with the active Popocatepetl volcano and the dormant Iztachihuatl volcano. Below a short guide, so you can explore the most beautiful parts of this large park (172 thousand hectares); declared as a national park in 1935 and declared as a Biosphere Reserve by the Unesco in 2010.
Viewpoint 1 – Paso de Cortes – Active Popocatepetl volcano
After a short drive from Mexico City, we can reach Paso de Cortes in about 2 to 2.5 hours. Meanwhile we can have amazing views of the active Popocatepetl volcano (5426 meters) and the dorment Iztachihuatl volcano (5230 meters). México’s 2nd and 3rd highest peaks, in the State of Mexico. Our first stop is Paso the Cortes, the closest that we can drive up to the active Popocatepetl volcano. Here we can buy the entrance of the National Park and have a visit to it’s small museum. And learn about the legend of the volcanoes and see the monument in memory of Hernan Cortes. Meanwhile we can enjoy the incredible views of the Popocatepetl volcano. Sometimes covered with snow and most of the time with fumaroles coming out of it’s cráter.
Viewpoint 2 – Valley of México and Nevado de Toluca
We will then drive up a bumpy, not paved road towards the dorment Iztachihuatl volcano. On a very clear day we might even see the Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) in the very distance; an active volcano and highest peak of Mexico in the State of Veracruz (5747 meters). Or second stop is a viewpoint all over the Valley of Mexico. And we sometimes even can see the Nevado de Toluca (Xinantécatl), Mexico’s 4th highest peak (4680 meters). Continuing by car or van, we can enjoy amazing views all around us.
Viewpoint 3 – Dormant Iztachihuatl volcano and local gastronomy: best quesadillas!
Upon arrival at the parking lot near the dormant Iztachihuatl volcano, we first can try some of the best quesadillas. Because they are hand made by the local indigenous women with local ingredients. You can try quesadillas with cheese, mushroom, flor de calabaza (pumpkin flower), huitlacoche (corn fungus), rajas (poblano pepper). Ideally acompanied by cafe de olla or atole (sweet corn drink). Meanwhile we have our local breakfast, we can enjoy the breathtaking views all around us. Because this way, we will slowly adjust to the hight (3990 meters), so we can prevent mountain sickness.
Hike or walk 1 – Towards and up the Iztachihuatl volcano
After our delicious local breakfast, it’s time for some action! First we walk on an easy, not inclined walking path towards the dormant Iztachihuatl volcano. Surrounded by nature, in absolute silence, it is hard to imagine that Mexico City is only 2.5 hours away. Upon arrival at a small picknick area, we have 2 options. Relax and take in the amazing views, or hike up the Iztachihuatl volcano for about 2 hours.
The first part is quite steep, but we will take it easy. Because it is important to prevent injuries and again, to adjust to the height. We will slowly go up to around 4300 – 4600 meters. Every step we go up, the views change, untill we can take a short cut towards our right side. With more views on the active Popocatepetl volcano. And on a very clear day even up to Cholula and the City of Puebla. This is a hike and a view that you will never forget!
Hike or walk 2 – Towards and up the waterfalls
After walking / hiking back to the car or van, we will drive back to Paso de Cortes. To have another bumpy ride towards the nearby waterfalls. Upon arrival and after paying our second entrance, we have 2 options. Either make a relaxed walk of about 30 minutes to the waterfalls, or rent a horse. Either way, we can enjoy the beautiful river and pinewood forest all along our way. Upon arrival on the waterfalls you can enjoy more amazing views. Or optionally make a short hike uphill and all around the waterfalls for some more (optional) action.
Local lunch time!
After our second walk or hike, we can try some more local delicatessen. Because they sell amazing local food at the informal restaurants near the waterfalls. What about fresh trout, just captured at the lake? Or tlacoyos (an oval-shaped pre-Hispanic Mexican dish made of masa / corn dough). Or more quesadillas, or mixiote (a traditional pit-barbecued meat dish)? Maybe together with a fresh Pulque (an alcoholic prehispanic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant). Or Michelada (beer with salt and lemon or spices)? So we can quickly regain our energy after this incredible date with mother nature!
- If you don’t like to try the local food, you can always bring your own breakfast or lunch
- Bring water, sweet and salty snacks, suncream, hat, sunglasses and warm clothes in multiple layers. Because it will probably be cold first, then warmer, and then cool again).
- Take the time to adjust to the height; it’s not a race!!
Let’s explore the National Park and volcanoes Izta Popo together, with Aztec Explorers!
Next day trips from Mexico City to the National Park and volcanoes Iztachihuatl on May 5th and May 18th; all detail and sign up on Meetup – Aztec Explorers