I can’t say that anyone has ever asked me what to do in Mexico City. Known by most as the mega Mexican metropolis home to world-renowned restaurants, iconic artists, diverse museums, rich history, lively entertainment, and of course – it’s multitude of hip neighborhoods – Mexico City is arguably the cultural and culinary capital in all of North America. Unbeknownst to most of its annual visitors, however, it’s what lies just beyond the city’s borders that truly make this city one-of-a-kind.
As noted by Mexican philosopher and diplomat, Alfonso Reyes, “in the middle of the salty lake sits the metropolis, like an immense flower of stone […] and surrounded by a spacious circus of mountains”. That’s right – Mexico City finds itself surrounded by not only one mountain rage, but two. Resting at the confluence of two major ranges known as the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental, Mexico City lies more or less at what is known as the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, which accounts for a large string of volcanoes that extend right across the central part of the country. You know what the means – not only are there nearby mountains to explore, but volcanoes as well. Now, before you begin to worry, rest assured knowing that only seven of the 25 central Mexican volcanoes are considered dangerous. As some of the most popular attractions near Mexico City, tours to these nearby natural giants are carefully organized – there’s don’t have to worry about your overall safety.
This is great news for adventure lovers who look to have a bit of fun outdoors when visiting this Latin American urban powerhouse. That said, you best get your fill of the city’s world famous cuisine, visit its stunning museums and galleries, and enjoy some rest at your sure to be exquisite hotel – after all, you’ll need all the rest you can get before exploring the city’s remarkable surrounding landscapes. When looking into Mexico city tours, a good place to start is at the nearby Nevado de Toluca.
As mentioned above, due to being nestled within the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, Mexico City is every hiker’s dream come true. While it may be true that many visitors are unaware that hiking near Mexico City is even option, its outdoor activities are quickly gaining traction and popularity. Although it takes an hour to two to reach its breath-taking landscape views, the hiking trails and natural scenery surrounding the city are well worth the trip.
Located just two hours southwest of the city is the magical, alpine landscape of Nevado de Toluca – an extinct, snow-dusted volcano with two sapphire and turquoise crater lakes. Talk about draw-dropping views! And the best part – it’s trails are open to hikers of all levels. Whether you’re simply looking to picnic with a view, or are a seasoned mountaineer attempting to summit Pico de Fraile – with an astounding height of 15,354 feet (kilometers) – Nevado de Toluca is the place for you.
This is a popular destination offers a one-mile hike from the main parking lot to the crater rim, and more advanced trails such as Los Venados, which takes hikers through pine forests and grasslands before reaching the rocky summit ridge, exposing stunning panoramic views. Enjoy Mexico’s fourth tallest mountain and join us on our Nevado de Toluca Volcano Climb. Perfect for moderate to advanced climbers, the spectacular scenery on this climb is sure to leave you speechless. Don’t worry – the volcano is extinct – no lava here!
For those truly adventurous at heart, a trip to the lovely nearby town of Cholula is a must. I’m sure upon hearing its name, your mouth begins to water as you think about the savory hot sauce that adds so much spice to your life. However, the city of Cholula is much more to offer than its salsas – home to one of the historic and famous twin volcanoes known as Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl, this “Magic Town” is sure to leave its guests in awe. Sitting right at the base of the Popocatepetl Volcano, also known as the “Smoking Mountain” the town of Cholula has quite the draw. Home to16th century, UNESCO protected monasteries and incredible views, it tends to entice climbers from around the globe. However, due to its frequent activity, hikers need to check with local authorities prior to taking on its challenging climb.
Its twin, however, volcano Iztaccíhuatl, boasts a height of 17,000 feet (kilometers) and is Mexico’s third highest and dormant volcanic mountain. Iztaccíhuatl, which means “white woman” in the native nahuatl language, is an excellent choice for advanced climbers who want to follow in the footsteps of the mighty Aztecs. To make the climb even more entertaining, its landscapes boast a rich biodiversity and form a part of the 100,000 acre (hectare) Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park. Our Itzaccihuatl 2-Day Volcano Climb Tour is the prime activity for those willing to take on the challenge of this incredible climb. Home to a great diversity of habitats, including mixed forests of pine, evergreen, oak, alnus, and high mountain prairies, hikers are sure to be mesmerized with every turn and exposed scenic view.
You can’t mention Mexico City’s impeccable natural environment without discussing one of the most truly beautiful nearby towns – Valle de Bravo. A small, mountain town surrounded by lush, green, pine-covered mountains just two hours west of Mexico City, Valle de Bravo has transformed in recent years into one of the region’s most popular lakeside retreats. Especially enticing to water sport enthusiasts is the town’s location along the shore of its shimmering lake, Lake Avándaro. Perfect for sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, paddle boarding, cliff jumping and waterfall hopping, this popular, yet quite hidden destination has something to offer all of its guests. For those preferring to stay dry, hikes to the nearby Mirador La Peña are the perfect afternoon get-a-way and offer incredible panoramic views of the region’s idyllic landscapes.
What has really become popular, however, are the many paragliding activities available for adrenaline junkies. In fact, our very own Valle de Bravo Paragliding Adventure offers participants a truly unique experience and birds-eye view of the incredible landscape below.
With the assistance of our paragliding instructors (and always in tandem), you will have the opportunity to launch from the mountain tops and soar with the birds. Simply put, Valle de Bravo is where all the action is at – both on the water and on the mountaintops. This is a place you won’t want to miss.
Additional sites for avid hikers and nature lovers are those of Pico de Orizaba (third highest mountain top in North America and available to experienced climbers only), Desert of Lions National Park (for moderate to experienced climbers), and the volcano known as La Malinche (perfect option for hikers of all levels). Our Pico de Orizaba Climb, Cerro San Miguel Climb, and La Malinche Volcano Climb are all excellent options for those looking to explore these amazing Mexican giants in an organized and safe tour environment.
Don’t let the city fool you – while Mexico City is a beast in its own nature, it’s the intimidating yet beautiful natural giants that surrounded its borders that truly awaken visitors’ adventurous spirits. Now equipped with useful Mexico City facts, you should have no problem planning your ideal get-a-way.
With more than enough options to set out and explore the surrounding natural landscapes, once home to ancient Mexican civilizations, not only with the action enthusiast enjoy the challenge of a climb, or the beauty of a panoramic view – but perhaps, they will gain a new appreciation for the history, culture, and natural beauty that Mexico has to offer. Now that would make for a truly successful vacation.