Mexico City is full of interesting places to visit and enjoy. However, there are also plenty of destinations between a one and three-hour drive that are worth visiting, whether for their cultural value, history, or even the variety of gastronomy. The surrounding town of Toluca, Puebla, or Queretaro have a lot to offer, in addition to the different archaeological sites or natural landscapes.
The capital of the State of Mexico, although it’s mainly an industrial city, there are many places worth visiting, especially being barely over an hour drive from downtown Mexico City. Churches, such as the cathedral or the Temple of the Lord of Chalma, art, and even a volcano. Legend has it that some friars of the Temple of the Lord of Chalma found some natives who worshipped the god Oxtoteotl, offering him human lives. The friars convinced them to venerate Jesus Christ instead, placing a figure that lasted more than 125 years.
The Cosmovitral Botanical Garden is an art nouveau structure made by the Mexican sculptor Leopoldo Flores, supported by the artisan Bernabé Fernández and a team of 60 craftsmen. It consists of 71 stained glass modules, with a weight of 75 tons of metal structure and 45 tons of blown glass.
From almost any of the Toluca hotels you can take a tour to some of the surrounding towns such as Malinalco, Valle de Bravo, or Ixtapan de la Sal. A must-see is the Nevado de Toluca, an extinct volcano with a beautiful round lake in the center.
An hour’s drive from downtown Mexico City is one of the most important archeological sites in the country. It is believed to be more than 2,000 years old and was given its name by the Mexica people who knew it was built by a civilization before them.
This site is mainly composed of the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, the Calzada de los Muertos and the Citadel. The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and the second largest in all of Mesoamerica, only behind the Great Pyramid of Cholula. It is 63 meters high (206 feet) and approximately 225 meters (738 feet) on each side. It can be climbed to enjoy the full view of the site. The Pyramid of the Moon is much smaller (45 meters or 147 feet on each side) but is at the same height of the Pyramid of the Sun because it’s on higher ground. The main piece of the Citadel is the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, a base with a relief depicting the gods Quetzalcoatl and Cipactli.
Approximately a two-hour drive east of Mexico City, before reaching Puebla, is Cholula. This town is characterized mainly by the Great Pyramid of Cholula. The base of this pyramid is 450 meters (1476 feet) long, the largest in the world. It’s believed to be dedicated to Quetzalcoatl and its style is very similar to the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
The curious and important feature about this pyramid is that it was only discovered at the beginning of the 20th century since it has the appearance of being a hill with a church on top. This is because during the Spanish conquest, the Spaniards could not destroy the pyramid, so they built with some of the remains the church dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies. Gradually its interior was discovered, in addition to the archaeological ruins around it.
A visit to the pyramid and the Church of Our Lady of Remedies also promises excellent local food and incredible views of the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes.
A three-hour drive south of Mexico City lies the small town of Taxco. This town in the state of Guerrero is mainly known for its silver mines.
The silver mines and the museum of William Spratling—considered the father of the silver industry—are both a must-see, but equally recommended is a visit to the Cacahuamilpa Caves, a series of caverns where, in addition to learning about the natural beauty of the deep, tour guides show different rock formations in the shape of different objects or animals.
The capital of the state of Queretaro is located three hours northwest of Mexico City. One of the most important cities in the country industrially and historically, has also become a cultural and environmental center.
In addition to the historic center, it’s recommended to visit the aqueduct and its surroundings. Peña de Bernal is home to the largest monolith in the world and is one of the destinations on the Wine and Cheese Route. This route includes several towns in the state of Queretaro with vineyards or where special regional cheese is made. On the other hand, the Sierra Gorda is a mountainous complex where one can go hiking, biking, camping or visit some of the caves on the mountains.