While I love seeing new parts of Mexico City and hanging out or eating tacos, part of a trip to Mexico’s capital city is seeing the incredible things just outside this giant metropolis.

When most people think of a trip to Mexico City, they’re thinking of dining out for great food, amazing museums, awesome nightlife and shopping. There’s more culture, nature and activities to do, when you hop in a car or join a trip to see nearby destinations during your trip!

I’ve put together a few of my favorite CDMX day trip ideas in the list that follows! Some are close to the city center, while others require a few hours in transport. Whichever you decide, use Mexico City as your base for exploring this breathtaking region of Mexico.

Stay safe during your day trips: while Mexico is a very safe place to travel, I recommend bookmarking my Mexico city safety guide to stay up to date with best practices to avoid theft.

There’s no shortage of popular day trips from Mexico City that you’ve seen photos of already. Here are the most well-known day trip ideas, followed by some that are more unique and adventurous!

Teotihuacán Pyramids

Like our day trips to the ancient pyramids of Chichen Itza and Uxmal, a day trip to Teotihuacan is one of the top picks for travelers to CDMX! Teotihuacan is a pre-Hispanic and pre-Aztec ancient city northeast of Mexico City and its pyramids are famous for visitors from all over the world.

What was different for me, in visiting Teotihuacan, is that you can actually climb the pyramids and get great views from the tops of a few of them. This impressive archaeological site is incredible to visit, as you learn about how the city was, at one point, the greatest in Mesoamerica.

I got lucky in that I was able to take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise, and see Teotihuacan from above. It is one of the most special things to do in Mexico City on a trip. If you have the trip budget, the time and the love of heights, go for the hot air balloon ride sunrise tour. Visiting Teotihuacan during the day is also fun (I recommend going on a weekday and taking sunscreen).

Book a Teotihuacan day trip

Tepoztlán Pueblo Mágico

Tepoztlan is one of Mexico’s “magical towns,” or “pueblos magicos.” What this means is that a town like Tepoztlan has a sort of characteristic charm about it, and it retains authentic culture. Tepoztlan seems to me like the gateway pueblo magico, as it’s one of the more popular towns to visit with a day trip from Mexico City. It’s directly south of CDMX, and the drive is about 90 minutes.

I went to Tepoztlan with a group and we pretty much had our whole itinerary set. I liked this, because I had worked really hard already to research so much about CDMX! We hiked up the mountain to the Tepozteco Archaeological Zone (check out the guide to it from Modern Hiker) and visited the town’s market, twice!

If you plan to go to Tepoztlan for the day, I think a day tour is the way to go. I recommend this one.

Book a private Tepoztlan day tour

Day trips within Mexico City DF

A big surprise for me was just how big “Mexico City” is. It’s like the difference between NYC (8 million people) and the “New York Metro Area” (22 million people), but the entire Metro Area is its own state. Because Mexico City is really a “Federal District,” much like Washington, D.C., it is giant, in size.

With a bit of driving or taking a bus, you can take day trips within the DF and feel like you went really far!

Xochimilco

Xochimilco is on the outskirts of Mexico City and it is an area of canals that also has an ecological park. I went to Xochimilco without knowing that the region is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you dig deep, you can learn about its Aztec past. Today, going on a trajinera boat in Xochimilco is a unique experience that is truly Mexican!

I went to Xochimilco with a group, and we took an Uber in the morning dropping us off at the spot where trajinera drivers find boat-goers like us to take for the day. After setting off in the canals, we spent the afternoon floating past mariachi bands, vendors on boats selling pulque and many other entertainments.

It’s definitely a social media opportunity that I list in my best photo spots in Mexico City!

Getting to and from Xochimilco takes anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, approximately, if you hit traffic. Xochimilco is located in the southeast of Mexico DF.

Book a Xochimilco day trip

Desierto de los Leones National Park

A few years ago, a local Mexican friend from Mexico City invited me one morning to go take her dog for a walk in Desierto de los Leones. It may sound random, but this “desert” is technically within the city limits of the DF (Distrito Federal), the state in which Mexico City is designated. And if you’re expecting sand and cacti, you may be surprised that it’s a forest of conifer trees.

Where is Desierto de los Leones? It’s in the southwest of the Mexico City region, and depending on how long it takes you to get there (driving takes 50-60 minutes), it can really feel like a day trip. Once you arrive at the national park, choose from all these hiking trails that vary in difficulty, potentially taking you to the top of Cerro San Miguel for a lookout point.

Day trips that are close to Mexico City

These day trips require minimal driving or transit time.

Cuadra San Cristobal Los Clubes Luis Barragán

The Cuadra San Cristobal by Luis Barragán is the horse ranch home of the architect, who was one of the most famous of the past century. If you are into photography, architecture, or just being able to walk somewhere really unique, a visit to the Barragan home is a great day trip to take.

It’s full of whites, pinks, straight lines and maybe even a horse or two.

You can get there by taking an Uber for 30-40 minutes from most central parts of Mexico City like Condesa and Roma. Keep in mind that reservations are required. You can book those here.

Butterfly Sanctuary visits

In the west of Mexico State, you’ll find the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries. There are a few of these sanctuaries, with at least two also located in Michoacan state. The “Reserva de la Biósfera Santuario Mariposa Monarca” (Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Sanctuary Reserve) is a designated natural area that straddles both provinces.

For butterfly enthusiasts who want to see the butterflies in all their glory, it is possible to go alone (probably with a car rental), or, more easily done with a guided trip from Viator that will bring you right to the sanctuary and any interesting stops nearby, safely.

Book a Monarch Butterfly sanctuary day trip

Mexico City day trips a few hours away

If your time permits, there’s a whole lot to see in neighboring Mexican states if you’re willing to get on a longer-distance bus, rent a car or join a day trip that has transportation included. See this list of interesting day trip destinations that are a little bit farther.

Cholula

Cholula is the name of the hot sauce I just put on my eggs, and it’s also the name of a full-of-character town outside Puebla. Cholula has beautiful churches, volcano views on hilltops, parks, nearby hiking and horseback riding, and of course, trying the local flavorful mole. I like this guide to Cholula from Maddy’s Avenue.

Cholula is a 2- to 2.5-hour journey from Mexico City, and that’s not too bad for a day trip that will let you pack in so much in this vibrant destination. Of course, if an organized day trip that stops at the highlights of both Cholula and Puebla sounds convenient, here’s a top-rated tour recommendation.

Book your Cholula and Puebla day trip

Puebla

Puebla is so awesome for a day trip from Mexico City that I honestly think it deserves a trip of its own with an overnight stay. If you’re short on time though, and you want to visit the home of the Poblanos, a day trip to Puebla from CDMX is possible. A bus will take somewhere between 2-2.5 hours, and a drive may be slightly more enjoyable, but won’t save too much time.

Why go to Puebla for a day trip? I think the answer is clear: Puebla has a LOT for travelers to see, eat, drink and experience! The city has its own culture and very strong identity, and I would definitely go to Puebla with an empty stomach because there are so many local specialties to try in the restaurants and markets.

I like this Puebla travel guide from Where Goes Rose!

Interested in taking a day trip with a driver and tour company to Puebla?

Book a Puebla small group day trip

Taxco

I’ll never forget that Taxco is the Mexican city best known for silver jewelry and production. Maybe it’s because the “tax” part of its name is so memorable.

Taxco is a 2-hour and 45-minute journey from CDMX, so while it’s not the closest, it’s kind of like traveling just far enough to feel a different culture in Mexico. That’s because it’s all the way in Guerrero State, which is a state that doesn’t even border the DF.

Given the distance, it’s smart to group a trip to Taxco with a stop in Cuernavaca as well, and you can do this simply with a group trip and a guide. There’s usually an option to enter a mine, and this is something for which an expert guide is required.

Book a day trip to Taxco

Nevado de Toluca

Nevado de Toluca is a majestic natural volcanic area for a day trip jam-packed with hiking, views and experiencing the wild, not too far from CDMX. The area around el Nevado de Toluca is one-of-a-kind, and looks like it’s almost on another planet, with crater lakes, ashy volcano slopes and barren terrain. It’s 110km (68 miles) from Mexico City.

It’s mostly recommended to hike the summit of Nevado de Toluca with a guide, and this is for safety. The area can be isolating, and it’s at a considerable amount of altitude (4000m+). Those who hike Nevado de Toluca do not regret it.

Get a spot on a Nevado de Toluca day trip

Cuernavaca

Cuernavaca, located in Morelos State, is only 1 hour and 45 minutes from Mexico City and I found out that it’s a popular vacation destination because of its gardens, museums, history, colorful streets and cathedrals. Cuernavaca is a side trip idea from Mexico City that really has it all, and it’s a closer alternative to larger cities you’d have to fly to.

It also has a pleasant temperature year-round (and is nicknamed The City of Eternal Spring), so there’s no bad time to visit Cuernavaca for a day from CDMX. For your travel guide, I like the list of things to do in Cuernavaca from Stories by Soumya.

Book a trip to Cuernavaca and Taxco

San Miguel de Allende (SMA)

My good friends Alex and Ryan like San Miguel de Allende so much that they chose to spend three months there! SMA is known as a haven for American expats, and is a safe and pretty Mexican town known for colorful streets, great atmosphere and excellent preserved architecture.

While it’s not top of mind as a ‘day trip from Mexico City,’ there are some tour operators that can get you there and back in a day. Driving takes between 3.5-4 hours, so if you’re set on going, opt for driving with a guide who has done the trip before, and you can relax during it.

Note that a private day tour from CDMX to SMA is a 14-hour experience including the drive.

Book a full-day trip to San Miguel de Allende

Tula Ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Tula)

The “Tula Ruins” are a special archaeological site that is not the typical archaeological dig: the ruins feature upright stone statues on top of a flat pyramid top, and sections of ancient columns… all in the middle of the desert.

If this enchants you, then the good news is that the Tula Ruins are only 2 hours from Mexico City, just outside the town of Tula. I would personally recommend going with a guided tour so that you can learn all the ins and outs of the history of the place.

You can usually do a day tour that will combine a visit to the Tula Ruins with a trip to Teotihuacan.

Book a day trip to Tula and Teotihuacan

Texcoco

Texcoco is a town of its own within Estado de Mexico. If you’re short on time during your trip and you’d like to get out to a Mexican town with its own feel, a “day trip” to Texcoco can check a few boxes. The blog Slight North writes a really good Texcoco travel guide to check out.

While there, the things to do are walk around the historic downtown and visit the Molino de Flores National Park, the cathedral and the Zona Arqueologica Texcotzingo. All these things are unique on a smaller scale than the “greats” of their types, but if you’re the type who wants to avoid the crowds during travel, Texcoco is a good city getaway.

Day trips to do with a car rental from Mexico City

For flexibility in the day trips near Mexico City, you can reach these best if you have rented your own car.

Mineral del Chico

Recommended by my friend Rachel, an expat living in Mexico City, Mineral del Chico is a village in Hidalgo state surrounded by charming natural beauty. The best thing to do there is to hike the Mirador Pena del Cuervo. The Hidden Corners blog has a nice guide to the town itself. Getting there takes around two hours from Mexico City.

Paso de Cortes

The Paso de Cortes circuit is an incredible opportunity to hike with volcano views in Mexico. It’s probably not for the faint of heart, as the hiking is twisty and turny, and the altitude is high, at 12,000 feet or 4000m.

What’s thrilling is that the volcanoes El Popo and Izta are active, and according to AllTrails, in “permanent eruption.” If doing this on your own is not your jam, join a guided day trip tour.

Book a day trip to Paso de Cortes

Val’quirico

Val’quirico is a fascinating day trip from Mexico City, as it’s called both “a piece of Italy in Mexico” as well as “a medieval village.” Interestingly enough, it really was constructed to replicate Tuscany, and it has some very pretty locations in which to take photos.

Probably the best way to visit Val’quirico is with a full day trip like this Viator Tour that offers a way to visit both Val’quirico and Puebla, with stops in the highlights of each. Val’quirico is located about 30 minutes from Cholula and 60 minutes to Puebla.

Book a Val’quirico day tour

Grutas de Tolantongo

“Grutas” means grottoes in Spanish, and the Grutas de Tolantongo are located in Hidalgo State. Depending on where in CDMX you leave from, the drive can be around 4 hours. The Grutas de Tolantongo website has some really good “how to get to” info for travelers.

Why go? If you’ve ever seen photos of the Grutas, it’s enough to want to visit. This thermal bath oasis is both a “water playground” and an eco-adventure, with the caves, hot springs and canyon. It’s probably one of the more unique day trips to take from Mexico City, despite the long journey.

Parque Ecoturistico Dos Aguas

This park for “ecotourism” at the base of El Popo is good for nice hiking, according to Rachel. The hiking areas are located outside the city of San Rafael, which is southeast of Mexico City DF. There’s a recommend hiking trail on AllTrails.

You can see more in TripAdvisor (in Spanish). Driving can take 1 hour and 45 minutes from Mexico City.

Las Estacas

A trip to Las Estacas is for swimming! This natural area is approximately 2 hours away from Mexico City, and directly south. Reminding me more of the cenotes you’d see near Tulum in the Yucatan, this natural paradise also has adventure sports available, like diving, snorkeling and rafting.

I enjoyed reading this trip recap from The Froggy Adventures.

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