Planning a trip to Mexico City? This guest post by seasoned traveler Robert Schrader of Leave Your Daily Hell outlines the very best things to see and do just outside Mexico's sprawling Capital. Here are the best day trips from Mexico City!
Few destinations in North America are more hyped than Mexico City. From its hip neighborhoods, to its out-of-this-world restaurant scene, to the fact that it's only a few hours' flight from most of the US and Canada, Mexico City seems to be on every traveler's radar these days.
There's plenty of goodness to be discovered within Mexico City's center, to be sure, but many of my favorite experiences sit a bit outside it. Whether you're seeking culture, history or a nice mix of the two, these are the best day trips to take from Mexico City.
Ancient Ruins at Teotihuacan
Although many people believe that the ancient ruins at Teotihuacan are Aztec in origin, they pre-date the infamous empire by more than a millennium. The specific origins of the pyramids and other structures here aren't clear at all, in fact, even if researchers have been able to pin down its construction date to around 100 BC.
Irrespective of the true story behind the Teotihuacan ruins, their proximity to Mexico City (just over an hour by bus from the city's northern terminal) makes them one of Mexico's most alluring day trips. Walk along the Avenue of the Dead between the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and finishing off your day of exploration with the surprisingly delicious food restaurants in the area serve up—I'm a big fan of the mole on offer at Restaurante Cinco Estrellas.
"Floating Gardens" of Xochimilco
Mexico City is home to a number of green spaces, but if you want to truly disconnect from the energy of tens of millions of people, you'll need to head further south. Specifically to the "floating gardens" or Xochimilco, which sit about 90 minutes from most points in the city center, and are accessible both by public transport and private car.
Once you arrive at Xochimilco, which is all that's leftover from the network of canals and lacks that made up the infrastructure of ancient settlements in the area of modern Mexico City, get onboard a traditional Trajinera boat to explore them, or simply to relax. Complement your day of relaxation with a delicious meal or margarita at one of the dozens of local eateries here.
Monarch Butterfly Reserves in Michoacan
Teotihuacan and Xochimilco are both awesome in their own right, but for me the best Mexico City day trip (maybe my favorite one in the world, for personal reasons I've written about on my own website) are the monarch butterfly reserves in Michoacan. These include the popular El Rosario and the quieter Cerro Pelón, which is where I chose to have my butterfly adventure.
Regardless of where you see the monarchs be prepared for a long journey (about three hours each way, by a combination of bus and taxi) and a tiring day or hiking and horseback riding. If this sounds like too much to do on a day trip, particularly when you combine it with the exhilaration you're certain to feel as you lay eyes upon the butterflies, consider staying the night at a local guesthouse.
The Bottom Line
Explore Mexico City to your heart's content, but do yourself a favor and embark on a day trip (or two) as well. Traipse through an ancient city, hike to a scenic monarch butterfly reserve or relax on a boat in the aptly-named "floating gardens" you find south of the city. Even if you find that Mexico City itself doesn't quite live up to the hype, these excursions take it into the stratosphere.
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