While there are plenty of museums, restaurants and historical sites to keep you busy in Mexico City, the central region of Mexico is filled with pueblos mágicos (magical towns) and beautiful areas that are well worth your time for a weekend getaway. Mexico City is conveniently located so day trips are easy and numerous, not to mention a fun way to learn more about this incredible region. 

Top tip: Mexico City is well connected to the surrounding states with four bus terminals so it's easy to get around, but finding the right one for your desired destination can be confusing. Check terminals, times and prices using the ADO app.

Pyramids of the Sun and Moon on the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacan a
Teotihuacan is an ancient Meso-American city with one of the largest pyramids in the world © Anna Omelchenko / Shutterstock

Explore the ancient city of Teotihuacán

Teotihuacán is by far the most popular day trip from Mexico City for travelers. The main pyramid on site, the Pyramid of the Sun, is one of the largest pyramids in the world and you can climb all the way to the top. Just be sure to take it slow, as the altitude of the city is well over 2120 meters (7000ft).

Teotihuacán is an ancient Meso-American city that is believed to have been built as early as 400 BCE. It wasn’t until 1400 CE that the Aztecs stumbled upon this city and gave it the name we know now, Teotihuacán or “the place where the gods were created.”

You can expect to spend anywhere from one to four hours here depending on how long you linger at each pyramid. There is also the site museum and a set of well-preserved murals which are both included in your entry ticket. 

Getting there: There are tours available that also include stops at the Basílica of Guadalupe and lunch near the pyramids. You can also take the bus directly from Terminal de Autobuses del Norte. Buses leave every 10 minutes from 8am to 9pm and you can book your roundtrip ticket at the ticket counter here. You cannot pre-book bus tickets for Teotihuacán.

A female traveller climbs crumbling steep steps in El Tezpoteco, Mexico.
Climbing the nearby El Tezpoteco is a popular activity on day trips from Mexico City © MStudio Images / Getty Images

Find peace in the traditional sweat lodge of Tepoztlán

Tepoztlán is a pueblo mágico about 82km (50 miles) south of Mexico City and easily reached by bus. It’s said that Tepoztlán is the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god, and because of this, many believe it to be a place of great healing and spirituality. 

Visitors from all over the country come to Tepoztlán to take part in a temazcal; a pre-hispanic sweat lodge that was originally used as a way to purify the body and mind after something difficult like a battle or a ceremonial ball game. It was also used to help heal the sick and continues to be used by Indigenous people around the country today for this purpose. 

The second most popular way to sweat a lot and refresh the mind and body in Tepoztlán is to climb El Tepozteco, the mountain at the end of the town’s main street. Follow the steps up and in about an hour you’ll reach the pyramid of Tepozteco. 

Getting there: Take the bus from Terminal de Autobuses del Sur which is just outside of the Tasqueña metro station to the south of the city center. Buses leave every hour.

A woman ladles mole sauce over a plate of enchiladas from a street stall while lots of people walk past
Sampling the food in Puebla is the reason to come; the mole enchiladas are particularly wonderful © Jacobo Zanella / Getty Images

Eat your way around the city of Puebla

The city of Puebla deserves a whole trip of its own, but if you are only in the region for a short time, a day trip to Puebla will at least whet your appetite. Speaking of appetite, the city is best known for its culinary contributions. 

The Pueblan mole's chocolate notes and rich flavor make it a truly decadent sauce to add to any meal. It’s not just the mole that should be sampled, though. Try cemitas and pelonas, Pueblan sandwiches, for lunch, or dive into chalupas and memelas, corn-based snacks that are cooked in lard (keeping them incredibly juicy) and topped with spicy sauce, onions and melt-in-your-mouth-tender pork.

In between meals, the city of Puebla has several sites worth exploring including the Cathedral of Puebla, which is surrounded by colonial-era architecture and an ornate plaza. The Temple of Santo Domingo is incredibly detailed on the outside and inside is home to a chapel made almost entirely out of gold. Also in Puebla is the oldest library in the Americas, Biblioteca Palafoxiana.

Getting there: Take the bus from TAPO bus terminal to Puebla. It’s located just outside of the San Lazaro metro station on the east side of the city center. Buses run every 40 minutes and can be pre-booked on the ADO app. 

White buildings with red roofs built densely together crawl up a mountain lit up in the evening in Taxco, Mexico.
Aside from being a great place to shop for silver, Taxco is also a beautiful city to explore © Stockcam

Shop for jewelry in Taxco

Taxco is a city in the hills of Guerrero, a state to the southwest of Mexico City. It’s about 170km (100 miles) from the city center and takes about two and a half hours to reach. A trip here should start early to avoid traffic.

Taxco used to be known around the world for its silver. When the Spanish arrived and discovered its mineral riches, they established the largest silver mine in the Western Hemisphere. 

As the extraction of silver grew in the area, so too did the art of crafting the silver into something beautiful. When the mines dried up, the shopkeepers and craftsmen stayed behind to continue making what is known around Mexico as some of the finest silver jewelry available. Tourists still flock here to have pieces specially made for loved ones.

In addition to shopping for bracelets and earrings, Taxco is also a beautiful city to explore. At the center of the city is the cathedral, the Templo de Santa Prisca, with its rose-pink stones on the outside and dark frescoes on the inside. 

Getting there: Many tour companies run day tours from Mexico City that include a stop in Taxco and the southern town of Cuernavaca. Buses also run from Terminal de Autobuses del Sur every hour. It takes roughly three hours by bus each way. Check bus times or pre-book tickets on the ADO app.

Man looking away in a balcony
The views in Cuetzalan are worth the drive © Jacobo Zanella / Getty Images

Take in the jaw-dropping views of Cuetzalan

This is more of a weekend trip from Mexico City, as it requires a little longer on the bus than some of the other destinations, but the gorgeous drive to Cuetzalan is one of the most exhilarating trips in the region and an adventure in itself. Beyond the Zaragoza turnoff, the road becomes dramatic, snaking up hills and around hairpin bends and offering breathtaking views. At the end of it all is the remote, humid town of Cuetzalan (Place of the Quetzals). Built on a precipitous slope, this striking town is famed for its vibrant festivals, weekend voladores performances and Sunday tianguis (street markets). On the clearest days you can see all the way from the hilltops to the Gulf coast, 70km (43 miles) away as the quetzal flies.

Start at the zócalo, Cuetzalan’s central plaza with a kiosko (rotunda). Three structures rise above the skyline: the plaza’s freestanding clock tower, the Gothic spire of the Parroquia de San Francisco to the northeast and, to the west, the tower of the French Gothic Santuario de Guadalupe, with its highly unusual decorative rows of los jarritos (clay vases) and design based on the sanctuary in Lourdes.

Restaurants are unfussy and family friendly with no upmarket options, and there are food stands at Mercado de Artesanías Matachiuj. Regional specialties, sold at many roadside stands, include fruit wines and smoked meats. Look for xoco atol (fermented rice drink), yolixpa (herbal liqueur) and dulce de tejocote (yellow hawthorn fruit in anise syrup). Try the regional café de la sierra while you can, as climate change has decimated crops in recent decades.

Getting there: Vía buses run between Puebla and Cuetzalan (M$210, 3½ hours, hourly), leaving Puebla CAPU from 6:45am to 8pm, returning 5am to 6pm. It pays to check road conditions and buy your return bus tickets in advance during the rainy season. AU runs at least five buses a day, 9am to 10pm, from Mexico City’s TAPO bus station (M$394 to M$465, 5¾ to 6¼ hours), returning from Cuetzalan between 4:30am and 2:30pm. ADO offers additional services from Friday to Sunday.

Red and white boats on Mexican lake in the mountains during sunrise
Mineral del Chico is a wonderful weekend getaway from Mexico City © Cavan Images / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Take a retreat in the charming village of Mineral de Chico

Another fantastic weekend getaway, the charming old mining village of Mineral del Chico is among the newest pueblos mágicos. You can take an easy and very lovely day trip or weekend retreat from Mexico City to this "little" town or the nearly 30-sq-km (11.6-sq-mile) Parque Nacional El Chico, which was established as a reserve in 1898. Ask at local hotels or the park's visitor center, a 10-minute drive from the village, for details about guided outdoor activities.

In town, the views are wonderful, the air is fresh and the mountains have some great hiking among spectacular rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. Most Mexicans who visit on the weekend hardly leave El Chico's cute main street (virtually the whole town) – not surprising when the locals are this friendly, proving their motto "pueblo chico, gente grande" (small town, great people).

A street back in most directions from the main street, Corona del Rosal reveals views of the valley. A good spot is the maze of walkways behind the Capilla del Calvario, a rustic 19th-century chapel on Calvario, uphill from the church.

Mineral de Chico is an established weekend getaway and can feel like a ghost town during the week, but the available hotels often have discounted rates and you'll have the park trails almost entirely to yourself.

Getting there: From Mexico City, head to Pachuca, the capital of Hidalgo. There is an ADO 1st-class bus service to/from Mexico City's TAPO terminal, Terminal Norte, and Poza Rica that takes about two hours. From central Pachuca on Raza near the corner of Carranza (opposite the Mercado Benito Juarez) you can catch a colectivo (small bus) every 20 minutes from 8am to 6pm. It takes about 40 minutes from Pachuca up the winding roads to Mineral del Chico. 

By car, three scenic roads (Hwys 85, 105 and 130/132D) climb into the forested, often foggy, Sierra Madre Oriental. 

This article was first published July 2019 and updated October 2023

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