Day Trips & Weekend Breaks from Mexico City
One of the great things about Mexico City is how many places there are to visit nearby. Whether you’re living in the capital or just visiting, there are literally dozens of colourful pueblos magicos (magical towns) and villages nearby where you can escape for the day, the weekend or longer. So once you’ve finished exploring all that Mexico City has to offer, jump in the car or board a bus and head out to one of these 16 best day trips and weekend breaks from the capital.
1. Tequisquiapan, Querétaro
Distance from Mexico City: 187km
Once famous for its thermal springs, the pretty town of Tequisquiapan is an easy day trip or weekend retreat from the capital. The cobbled streets are lined with colourful colonial buildings and at the heart of the town stands the pink sandstone church of Santa Maria. Don’t miss the Museo Mexico Me Encanta!, a charming museum that details Mexican traditions via miniatures. Scenes include a school yard, a tortilleria, a posada, a mercado and more. The mountains surrounding Tequis hide opals and there are tours that allow you to mine for the rocks yourself (or get the kids doing it!). Nearby is the small vineyard of San Juanito that is open to visitors; buy a bottle and pair it with one of the 128 cheeses for sale at La Vaca Feliz!
2. Nanacamilpa, Tlaxcala
Distance from Mexico City: Approx. 89km
The small village of Nanacamilpa is located in the state of Tlaxcala, to the east of Mexico City. During the summer months this small village comes alive with visitors arriving by the dozen to see the incredible firefly phenomenon. Positioned within 200 hectares of the Santa Clara Forest, the Reserva de Luciérnagas is filled with thousands upon thousands of glowing fireflies between June to August. These are the months for mating when the female fireflies light up to attract a mate. The result is a sparkling, fairytale woodland like no other.
Where to stay Nanacamilpa: The Eco-hotel Piedra Canteada, which are cabins in the woods, come recommended.
3. Bernal, Queretaro
Distance from Mexico City: 236km
The small town of San Sebastián Bernal (or just Bernal) is famous for its Peña de Bernal (Bernal’s Boulder or Bernal Peak), the largest monolith in the world that was formed some nine million years ago. Residents – and some visitors – believe that the rock has mystical powers. One legend says that the rock hides a cave where a giant snake sleeps, guarding riches and the secret to the origin and destiny of the human race. Magical powers aside, visitors can hike to a small chapel located about halfway up the rock or, if you’re into rock climbing, you can scramble up the sides.
Where to stay in Bernal: Read the latest reviews from family travellers on TripAdvisor.
4. Santiago de Querétaro, Querétaro
Distance from Mexico City: 218km
The city of Santiago de Querétaro (or Querétaro, as its more commonly known) is one of a handful of old silver mining cities that lie north-west of Mexico City. Querétaro is a very pretty city (the centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site) filled with colourful colonial buildings with graceful balconies, charming cobbled streets and dozens of tree-lined plazas.
This is definitely a city for walking and you can easily spend the weekend simply wandering around fro plaza to plaza. Highlights include the historic centre where you’ll find the stunning 18th-century Baroque mansion, Casa de Ecala, and the town’s Aqueduct, with 74 arches, that still delivers water today. There are also a couple of excellent museums. With kids, a trolley bus tour of the centre is a fun way to get around (and stops anyone complaining of being tired!). One of the most popular things to do for the weekend in Querétaro is a tour of the cheese and wine route. These tours include cheese-making demonstrations and the chance for kids to get a taste of farm life.
Where to stay in Querétaro: Mision Juriquilla is a beautiful Hacienda hotel and comes highly recommended as does La Casa de la Marquesa. For more ideas on where to stay, read the latest reviews from family travellers and compare the lowest hotel prices on TripAdvisor,
5. Malinalco, Estado de México
Distance from Mexico City: 95km
One of my absolute favourite pueblo magicos for an easy getaway is Malinalco. It’s a really pretty town filled with colourful houses and cobblestone streets, and surrounded by emerald green mountains. There’s a wonderful bug museum, home to the local creepy crawlies that kids can hold if they dare! The town is most famous for its archaeological zone, once home to the Aztec military elite, the Eagle and Jaguar warriors. You can climb to the top of the Cerro de los Idolos (Hill of the Idols) to see what’s left of the House of the Eagles. For more ideas on visiting Malinalco, take a look at this post.
6. Cuernavaca, Morelos
Distance from Mexico City: Approximately 95km
Known as the City of Eternal Spring for its year-round balmy weather, Cuernavaca is an easy and popular city to visit from the capital. Highlights for visitors include the Palacio de Cortes that dates all the way back to 1526. This two-storey stone palace was built over the ruins of Tlahuica Aztec tribute collection centre that the Spanish destroyed during the conquest. Hernán Cortés turned it into his personal residence to demonstrate his rule over the local people. Today, the former residence houses the Museo Regional Cuauhnáhuac, which has two floors of exhibits highlighting Mexican cultures and history. Don’t miss the mural by Diego Rivera on the upstairs balcony.
Also worth visiting is the Museo Robert Brady, which showcases the private art collection of American artist and collector Robert Brady. Brady lived in Cuernavaca for 24 years but regularly travelled the world picking up paintings, carvings, textiles and from all over the globe. These are now all on display in his former house alongside works by famous Mexican artists. Approximately 40km southwest of Cuernavaca is the pre-Columbian archaeological site, Xochicalco, which means “in the house of flowers” in Nahuatl.
Where to stay in Cuernavaca: Las Mananitas and Hosteria Las Quintas Resort both come recommended as does this hacienda Cason de Elefantes. For more ideas, read the latest reviews from family travellers and compare the lowest hotel prices on TripAdvisor.
7. Tepoztlán, Morelos
Distance from Mexico City: 90km
The pueblo magico of Tepoztlán is hugely popular with chilangos looking to escape the capital. As such it can be very crowded at weekends, but don’t let that put you off. Legend has it that the area is the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god, one of the major deities of ancient Mexico. Myths such as this one have seen countless spiritual pilgrims arrive in town to soak up some of the town’s perceived natural energies. Not surprisingly, therefore, the town is filled with places to practice yoga or have a massage, try a traditional temazcal or try crystal healing. Mysticism aside, the town is famous for its craft market, the mural made from pulses and beans outside the church entrance and the remains of El Tepozteco temple built on top of the nearby Tepozteco Mountain. Climb to the top for amazing views across the valley. Finally, the town is well-known for its crazy ice cream flavours, which should keep kids happy!
8. Val’quirico, Tlaxcala
Distance from Mexico City: 115km
The European medieval town of Val’quirico is located on the way to Puebla and is a fun weekend break from Mexico City. Far from being an ancient Italian fortress, however, this village was designed as a real estate development and a tourist destination. Yes, it does feel a little like Disneyworld as you wander along the Tuscan streets of, erm, Mexico but it’s a pretty setting and there are lots of good restaurants and comfortable hotels to choose from. If you really like the place, you can even buy your own Tuscan villa!
9. Real del Monte, Hidalgo
Distance from Mexico City: 105km
Real del Monte is a lovely town and a wonderful day trip or weekend away from Mexico City. Unlike most colonial towns in Mexico, this one has a decidedly British, rather than Spanish, feel. From the central square and its wrought iron gazebo to the colourful houses with their red tin roofs, it’s an easy and enjoyable place to wander. The town is an old tin mining town and, at one point, was home to hundreds of Cornish miners who lived, worked and died here – you can even visit the British cemetery where all the miners are buried pointing towards England (except for one – see if you can discover which one!). The first game of football in Mexico is credited with taking place in the mine yard at Mina Dolores Real del Monte and the first tennis match was apparently played here too! The other highlight of a weekend in Real del Monte are the Cornish pasty shops which are prolific and simply delicious. Real del Monte sits at 2,660m and the weather can be quite British; don’t be surprised if its chilly and foggy when you visit!
Where to stay in Real del Monte: We stayed at this wonderful Historic Cornwall House when we visited.
10. Puebla City, Puebla
Distance from Mexico City: 135km
The colonial era-planned city of Puebla is an easy getaway. Famous for its chiles en nogada, its mole poblano and its colourful Talavera pottery, Puebla is a fun place for eating and wandering. It’s also good for antique shopping (try Callejon de los Sapos, Alley of the Frogs) but kids will probably find Museo Amparo and its organised kids’ activities more intereseting. Just outside the city is Africam Safari, a wildlife park home to some 2,500 animals including giraffes, zebras, elephants and tigers. You can drive through the park yourself or hop aboard one of the park’s guided buses.
The other place you must visit when in Puebla is the neighbouring town of Cholula, home to the widest pyramid ever built, El Pirámide Tepanapa (a train runs between the two spots, making for a fun trip for kids). Despite this claim to fame however, the pyramid is largely ignored as it is so covered in trees and growth that it’s hardly recognisable as a manmade structure. You can visit the church on top of the pyramid and discover tunnels running through the base of the structure (**Check before you visit, the church suffered damage during the September 19 earthquake and at the time of writing was not open to the public). If you stay overnight in Cholula you may we welcomed with morning views of the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes.
11. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Distance from Mexico City: 270km
San Miguel de Allende is one of Mexico’s most picturesque colonial cities. Home to stunning baroque architecture, twisting cobbled streets and its famous pink sandstone church, this is an easy family destination. Owing to the distance, I would recommend spending three nights here if you can. There’s a brilliant toy museum, some fantastic food, and really friendly atmosphere. The easiest way to explore with kids is on the trolley tour around the city. For more ideas on visiting San Miguel, take a look at this post.
Where to stay in San Miguel de Allende: The Rosewood is amazing but it’s not cheap! For something a little more wallet-friendly, take a look at Vinedos San Lucas, which comes recommended as does Casa Carly. For more ideas take a look at these recommendations on TripAdvisor
12. Taxco, Guerrero
Distance from Mexico City: 177km
Located to the southwest of Mexico’s capital, the hilly town of Taxco is famous for its silver jewellery production and colonial-era architecture. If you’re serious about jewellery buying come on a Saturday when the weekly market takes over the centre of town. Learn where the silver comes from with a visit to Mina de Taxco. Silver asides, there’s lots to see and do in Taxco. To get started, take a taxi up to El Mirador del Cristo, a statue of Christ that sits on a hilltop overlooking the town for great views. You can also ride the teleferico for vistas over Taxco and beyond. Near to town are two waterfalls, Las Pozas Azules and Cacalotenango, where you can swim if it’s warm enough.
13. Valle de Bravo, Estado de Mexico
Distance from Mexico City: 140km
The Pueblo Magico of Valle de Bravo (or Valle as it’s more commonly known) has long been a favourite weekend escape for chilangos. It’s a pretty colonial town that looks and feels like an Alpine village with a smorgasbord of adventure sports to boot. At the heart of the town sits Lake Avándaro and here you can sail, fish, kayak, water-ski and stand up paddleboard. Out of the water there are opportunities for mountain biking, go-karting, motorcross racing, paragliding and more.
Nearby to Valle is the Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary), a great place to take the family in the months of January and February during the migration of the Monarchs. Around town it’s worth visiting the Mercado de Artesanías (Artesanal Market), and Iglesia de Santa María del Cristo Negro (Temple of Saint Mary of Ahuacatlan, featuring the Black Christ).
14. Las Estacas, Morelos
Distance from Mexico City: 121km
One of the easiest day trips from Mexico City is to this natural water park, Las Estacas. Just two hours from Mexico City, this is not a water park in the traditional sense, rather a mineral spring, day spa and natural reserve located in the town of Tlaltizapan. You can visit for the day or you can stay overnight; there is a camping area and a trailer as well as hostel and hotel accommodation. A river winds its way through the park and the water is beautifully clean and clear for swimming (if not a little chilly at times), or you can let yourself drift along on the gentle current. There are diving platforms, rope swings and even a kiddie pool with a playground positioned in a couple of feet of water. Away from the water you can go zip lining or horseback riding. There’s also a small petting zoo tucked away in a corner of the park with goats, chickens and an assortment of other animals.
Where to stay in Las Estacas: See what other families have to say on TripAdvisor
15. Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo
Distance from Mexico City: 124km
The first town in Mexico to be given the title of pueblo magico, Huasca de Ocampo is one of the most popular places to visit in Hidalgo and a lovely weekend break from Mexico City. Known for its red roofed buildings and cobbled streets, it’s also famous for Los Prismas Basálticos, columns of basalt rock 30- to 50-metres high rising in uniform from a gully. Some say it looks similar to Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. To get a good look at this geometrical phenomenon, formed by minerals in the ground, walk along the rope bridge that hans over the gully. Los Prismas Basálticos are located to the north of town. Within Huasca de Ocampo itself, kids will love the Museo de los Duendes (Museum of the Elves), a quirky museum dedicated to popular local stories and legends.
Where to stay in Huasca de Ocampo: Read the latest reviews from families on TripAdvisor.
16. Cuetzalan, Puebla
Distance from Mexico City: 296km
The charming hillside town of Cuetzalan (meaning Place of the Quetzals) is characterised by sloping cobbled streets, whitewashed buildings and steep stairs that run up and down the mountain slopes. The elevated location means that mist often covers the streets in the morning giving way to views over the hilltops to the Gulf coast, 70km away, on a clear day. It also means that you should pack for both warm and colder weather. Best known for its caves and waterfalls, this is a fun weekend break from Mexico City for those seeking some adventure.
Within the forest surrounding the town is La Cascada de las Brisas, one of the most famous waterfalls, as well as the spectacular Las Golondrinas. You can hire a guide to explore the forest and rappel down a 160-feet fall before taking a swim in one of the natural pools. Guides will also point out traditional medicinal plants and tell the history of the area. For those who like going underground, the cave system around Cuetzalan, the Cueva de Alpazat, is very popular with local and international cavers alike. Make sure you go with a guide! Also nearby is the pre-Columbian site of Yohualichan (House of Night in Nahuatl).
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