Mexico City is the largest city in North America, but the Mexican capital is usually overlooked by tourists looking to head to the beaches of Cancun or the Pacific.
There’s so much to see in Mexico City though, and even more to explore in the surrounding states, making the city the perfect base for day trips.
You can visit the Aztec Pyramids of Teotihuacan, the colorful colonial cities of Cuernavaca and San Miguel de Allende, or you can hike the dramatic volcanoes in Izta-Popo National Park.
To inspire your next adventure, here are the best day trips from Mexico City.
How to Get Around
Although many of these day trips can be undertaken with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. Your own four wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
1. Teotihuacan Pyramids
One of the best things to see in Mexico outside of Mexico City is the Teotihuacan Pyramids. The pyramids are an important religious site which has stood for hundreds of years and are one of the most impressive, lasting legacies of the Aztecs empire.
This is where you’ll find the Avenue of the Dead which leads to the towering pyramids where human sacrifices were made.
You can climb many of the steep pyramids to this day, while the museum will give you a great insight into Aztec history.
Getting there: Direct buses leave every 15 minutes from Mexico City’s northern bus terminal. It takes at least an hour, but allow for two in case of traffic. Buses drop off and pick up tourists outside the main entrance of the complex. However, to get the most out of your experience, we highly recommend booking a guided tour.
Only a short trip from Mexico City you can find Xochimilco, an ancient network of canals built by the Aztecs.
This is a beautiful way to escape the concrete jungle of the capital, as the canals are surrounded by lush green fields and fresh air.
Join a boat tour as local guides navigate tourists through the intricate waterways and ply visitors with beers and cocktails. Mariachi bands play alongside the boats, while floating vendors sell Tacos and Tamales. This is a fun and historic day away from Mexico City.
Getting there: You can reach Xochimilco using the Mexico City metro system, as it’s located right on the edge of the city. However, the most cost effective and social way of visiting is to join an organized tour, as this provides you with transport and splits the comparatively high cost of the boat hire between several people.
The colonial city of Puebla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site best known for its Spanish-era architecture and excellent cuisine.
Take a ride on the cable car for an all-encompassing view of the colorful city below before exploring the ramshackle streets on foot.
There are cathedrals and churches and excellent local museums, but the highlight is the food. Puebla claims to be the birthplace of Mole, the rich chocolatey sauce that’s famous across Mexico.
Getting there: You can join one of the many organized day tours from Mexico City, or take a public bus from Tapo bus station, a two hour journey. Once you’re there, a great way to explore is by signing up for a walking tour.
The small town of Cholula is just outside the city of Puebla, and for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish it was one of the most important religious centers in the region.
In Cholula you’ll find the largest pyramid in Mexico. So large in fact that the Spanish believed it to be a huge hill and simply built a church on top of it. Visit the archeological sites in Cholula to find out more as part of one of the best side trips from Mexico City.
Getting here: Day tours from Mexico City often include both Puebla and Cholula on the itinerary, but there’s a lot to fit in if you’re trying to hit both destinations in a day. You can also take a public bus from TAPO bus station, which has a journey time of two hours.
5. San Miguel de Allende
Located north of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende is one of the most colorful towns in Mexico.
Named for the Mexican hero Ignacio Allende, who was born there, the town played an important role in the country’s wars of Independence against Spain.
Stroll through the colonial-era streets and learn about the War of Independence in the local museums.
Related article: 15 Best Things to Do in San Miguel de Allende
Getting there: With traffic it could take up to three hours to reach San Miguel de Allende, but leave nice and early and it’s very doable. You’ll want to join a tour or hire your own vehicle as public transport from Mexico City takes much, much longer!
Another colorful colonial era destination, and one of the best Mexico City day trips, is Cuernavaca.
Located in the green, verdant hills of the state of Morelos, Cuernavaca is where Aztec royalty built their summer palaces to escape the city. When the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs he built his own palace here too.
The Palace of Cortes is a highlight of a day trip to Cuernavaca, where you can delve into the history and find murals by the famed Mexican painter Diego Rivera.
Getting there: Head to the southern bus terminal in Mexico City to catch the regular public buses to Cuernavaca. It can take as little as one hour, if the traffic is light. Alternatively, book a guided tour.
7. Izta-Popo National Park
If you’re searching for nature, one of the best places to visit from Mexico City is Izta-Popo National Park. In the park you can tackle hiking trails in the shadow of active volcanoes.
This sprawling national park protects the second and third highest peaks in Mexico. Both of which are dramatic volcanic peaks that you can see from Mexico City.
These volcanoes both rise to well over 5,000 meters in height, and while you might not be able to summit them in a day, there are certainly plenty of day hikes in the national park.
Getting there: From TAPO bus station in Mexico City, jump on the aptly named Volcanoes Line bus to Amecameca, from where it’s a quick taxi ride to the park entrance. Start early to maximize your hiking time. If you don’t want to tackle the volcanoes yourself, consider joining a small group tour.
The archeological site of Tula is home to the last remnants of the once mighty Toltec Empire.
This war-like empire conquered much of Mexico before the Aztecs, and long before the Spaniards.
Today you can wander through the excavated ruins of this once powerful city, and marvel at the megalithic warrior statues that still stand proudly above Tula.
Getting there: Tula is a two-hour journey north of Mexico City, with buses running hourly from the northern bus station.
Toluca is the bustling capital of Mexico State, and it’s best known for its botanic gardens and volcanoes.
Nevado de Toluca is one of Mexico’s highest volcanoes, and it’s both an impressive sight and a challenging climb.
The Cosmovitral Jardin Botanico is perhaps the most unique botanic garden in the world, as the wonderful array of plants and trees are kept in a marvellous dome, surrounded by colorful, stained glass windows.
Getting there: Toluca is a big transport hub for the southwest of Mexico, so there are regular buses from most Mexico City terminals all throughout the day. Public buses should only take about one hour.
Tlaxcala doesn’t make it onto most tourist radars but it does make for a fantastic day trip from Mexico City.
The little known city has a place of under stated importance in Mexican history. It is here that Hernan Cortes made the alliance with the indigenous Tlaxcalans which would ultimately bring down the Aztec Empire.
The historic center of Tlaxcala is a charming place to visit, but better yet is the archeological site of Cacaxtla, which was once an important palace for the Tlaxcalan elite.
Getting there: Tlaxcala is a two hour bus ride from Mexico City’s TAPO bus station, with regular departures several times per hour.
The city of Taxco was historically home to one of the richest silver mines in Mexico, but the natural resources dried up long ago.
Its silver tradition hasn’t been forgotten though. Nowadays, Taxco is known for its silver crafts, and a day trip here is a cultural treat for any traveler.
The streets are lined with grand colorful houses built during the heyday of the silver mines, and the colonial center is brimming with artisanal shops and silver workshops.
Getting there: A day trip to Taxco will be longer than most, as it’s a three hour bus ride from Mexico City’s southern bus terminal. Many travelers choose to combine this with a visit to Cuernavaca, which is just over half way, especially if they have their own transport. There are also tours that visit both places in one day.
Tepotzotlan is a Pueblo Magico that makes for a fantastic day trip from Mexico City.
The city is known for its grand churches and convents, as well as its beautifully kept parks and outdoor areas. The real highlight though is the Museo del Virreinato, a museum dedicated to colonial art works and history.
The Centro Histórico is beautiful too, and you can find plenty of souvenirs to take home, or local dishes to try at the bustling local market.
Getting there: Tepotzotlán is less than an hour away from Mexico City, just head to the northern bus station. You can combine a trip to Tepotzotlán with a visit to the archeological site at Tula if you book a tour or have your own car.
Not to be the Confused with Tepotzotlán, to the North of Mexico City, Tepoztlán makes for a great day trip south of the capital.
Another Pueblo Magico, Tepoztlán can trace its origins back centuries. It has long been an important place of religious worship, and is the legendary birthplace of several Aztec gods.
You can visit archeological ruins looking over the small city and hike out into the adjacent national park.
Getting there: Tepoztlán is a two hour drive south of Mexico City, and there are regular bus connections from the southern bus terminal.
14. Santiago de Querétaro
Santiago de Querétaro has a fascinating history and is one of the most understated day trips from Mexico City.
The charming historic center is UNESCO World Heritage listed and has been the site of many important events throughout Mexican history, so take a walking tour to discover more.
On the edge of the city you can marvel at the impressive Aqueduct, built in a classic Roman-style, while nearby you can also find the third largest rock monolith in the world.
Getting there: Buses from Mexico City’s northern bus station will take at least two hours to reach Santiago de Querétaro from the capital, but do depart regularly.
15. Pachuca & Real del Monte
Pachuca is one of the more curious day trips you can take from Mexico City. This old mining city is home to Mexico’s first soccer team, and you can visit the impressive Football Hall of Fame while you’re in Pachuca.
You can also visit Real del Monte, one of the highest altitude towns in Mexico. This Pueblo Magico was settled by miners from Cornwall, England, and they popularized not only soccer in the area, but Cornish Pasties too.
Getting there: It takes one hour to travel from Mexico City to Pachuca, and buses depart regularly from the northern bus station. To reach Real del Monte, it’s a half hour taxi ride from Pachuca.
Some of the best places to visit in Mexico are just a short journey from Mexico City. There are a huge range of day trips, from hiking in the shadow of active volcanoes to delving back in time at the archaeological sites. These are some of the best day trips from Mexico City, but there are many more places waiting to be discovered too!