What To See Outside of Mexico City
Mexico City is surrounded by archeological sites, colonial towns and cities, lakes, hot springs, beaches and other points of interest. Many of these are within a few hours by car or bus, while others are better visited by plane...
Before you go
- For information about coaches traveling to many of these destinations, see the Buses and Coaches page
- The Government of Mexico maintains a website with PDF and interactive maps of safe travel routes and travel advice
- See our business directory for Travel Agents and Trip Planners
- See our business directory for weekend getaway hotels and resorts in some of these destinations
Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan
The ancient city of Teotihuacan located 48km northeast of the city is an archeological site and home to the famous pyramids of Teotihuacan, dating back to the pre-Colombian Americas. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. The pyramids and site can be accessed by organized tours, by taking the Turibus, by taxi or private car. There is a fee for parking at any of the five car parks surrounding the site, and an additional entrance charge (waived on Sundays for Mexican nationals and residents). English-speaking guides can be hired after entering the site.
Cuicuilco is a complex of pyramidal temple bases which once formed a religious community dating as far back as 1400 BC. The area was covered by lava flow around 100 B.C. It is located just off Insurgentes Sur beyond the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.
Tenayuca (website in Spanish) is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican pyramid and archeological site, which has been enlarged and rebuilt seven times. It is located five miles northwest of the Monumento de la Raza in Mexico City.
Tepoztlán (external link) is a “magic town” located near Cuernavaca, unique because it retained its pre-Hispanic characteristics until roads came in 1936 and electricity in 1960. The area is famous for the remains of El Tepozteco temple. Oscar Lewis has written several books about this village of which Tepoztlán Revisited is the best known. It is an hour drive via car or bus from Mexico City.
Tula de Allende
Tula, located in the State of Hidalgo, is one of the oldest and most important archeological zones of Mexico. The famous giants of Tula are remains from Toltec culture. It is about a two-hour drive from Mexico City. More information is available on the Tula government website (in Spanish).
El Tajín is located in the state of Veracruz and features pre-Columbian ruins left by the Totonacas, an indigenous group that settled on the Gulf's coast. El Tajín was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, and hosts the famous Cumbre Tajín Festival each March, with indigenous and foreign cultural activities. It is less than 300km from Mexico City accessible via car or bus.
Mitla is an ancient Mixtec-Zapotec center, well known for its intricate mosaics and geometrical decoration on the site. It is a forty-five minute car or bus ride from Oaxaca, about 500km from Mexico City.
Palenque is the site of ancient Mayan ruins, the most famous of which is the “astronaut” found on the door of one of the tombs. It is located 150km from Villahermosa, Tabasco. Villahermosa is accessible via plane, car or bus, just under 500km from Mexico City.
Bonampak is the most well-known of the Mayan centers and famous for the Temple of the Murals, with very well-preserved pre-historic Mayan paintings. It can be reached by small plane from Tuxtla Gutiérrez and through a road from Palenque or San Cristobal de las Casas. It is approximately 700km from Mexico City.
Tulúm is the site of pre-Columbian Mayan ruins on the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and is especially noted for its spectacular view overlooking the blue Caribbean water. It is 1500km from Mexico City. More information is available on the government website (Spanish)
Colonial Cities and Towns
Querétaro (external link) is the capital of the state of Querétaro and is famous for its aqueduct and the Church and Convent of San Francisco. Querétaro is very geographically diverse, and includes desert and tropical rainforest ecosystems. It is about three hours away from Mexico City. It is accessible via car or bus. Close to Queretaro is Tequisquiapan, famous for its baskets and thermal baths.
Cuernavaca is also known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate climate. It has beautiful colonial architecture, especially near the town center. Features of interest include the Palacio de Cortés with Diego Rivera’s murals and Los Jardines Borja where Maximillan and Carlota spent weekends. Cuernavaca is about an hour’s drive by car or bus from Mexico City. More information is available on the Visit Mexico website.
This colonial city holds a handicraft market every Friday. Hand-woven goods are the specialty, but many the stands offer items handcrafted by members of the nation’s indigenous groups. Toluca also has a number of important museums and 19th century colonial architecture. Toluca is located an hour west of Mexico City and is serviced by busses leaving frequently from the Western Bus Station at the end of Metro Line 1. See the Visit Mexico site for more information.
Located approximately 160km from Mexico City, Ixmiquilpan is known for its 16th century parish church and murals. It is also known for the embroidery and weaving that is available at the Monday Huejutla market, where items produced by the Otomí people can be purchased.
Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s most famous colonial cities, and was once a center for gold and silver mining. The streets of Guanajuato are narrow and winding, and there are many beautiful colonial buildings. In October the Cervantino Festival is held with special performers from around the world. In May there are special performances of classical theater. It is a four-hour car or bus trip from Mexico City. For more information see the Visit Mexico website.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a colonial city a short drive from the town of Guanajuato. San Miguel de Allende is famous for its cobblestone streets and as an American art enclave, and is a popular retirement city for foreigners. For this reason, it is very common to find English-language service providers and cultural activities. It is a four-hour car or bus trip from Mexico City. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Taxco, a former mining town, is famous for its silver and its colonial architecture. It is a three-hour car or bus trip from Mexico City. There is a silver market on Saturdays. Since silver is no longer mined in Taxco, but imported and crafted there, you may find cheaper prices in Mexico City. Other notable sites include the Santa Prisca Church, colonial haciendas, and the town zócalo. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Puebla (external link) is famous for its mole, a chocolate-based sauce usually served with chicken, the Santa Rosa museum of ceramics, the Church of Santo Domingo, the Convent of Santa Mónica and the Church of San Francisco, the oldest church in Puebla. Busses usually leave from the Mexico City airport every hour, and travel about 140km.
This city is located in the Sierra Norte mountain region and is most famous for its Feria de las Flores promoting the flower production in the area, most notably of azaleas. The Feria runs for 9 days, beginning on the first Sunday of Lent. The regular market day is Saturday. Huauchinango is less than 200km from Mexico City. More information is available on Puebla’s official tourism site (in Spanish).
Founded by Augustinians in 1532, this mountain town retains a strong indigenous heritage due to the local Otomí and Nahua communities. San Pablito is within hiking distance where one can watch paper bark being made. There is a local market on Sunday. The town is approximately 170km from Mexico City. For more information, see the Visit Mexico website.
This town is located in the mountains in northern Puebla and is noted for the strong influence of Náhuatl culture. Markets operate on Thursday and Sunday, and feature embroidered blouses, woven belts, ponchos, and Hueyapan shawls. Cuetzálan is approximately 300km from Mexico City. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
The market in this small mountain town in northern Puebla is famous for black embroidered blouses. It is approximately 5 hours from Mexico City.
Pátzcuaro is a colonial town on a lake in the state of Michoacán famous for its white fish and its large markets on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays. Hand-hammered copper from Santa Clara del Cobre, rugs, sarapes, straw figurines, pottery, lacquer-ware and embroidery are available at the market. Pátzcuaro is approximately 360km from Mexico City. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Oaxaca (external link) is famous for its ruins, cuisine and indigenous markets. It is approximately 365 km from Mexico City and can be reached via plane, car or bus. Monte Albán is a former Zapotec ceremonial center and its ruins are famous for Tomb No. 7, a site where magnificent examples of gold jewelry and pottery were found. It is a short car or bus ride from Oaxaca. Mitla is an ancient Mixtec-Zapotec center, and is well-known for its intricate construction. It is a forty-five minute car or bus ride from Oaxaca. Tlacolula has a Sunday market, which is famous for its woven blankets, rugs, shoulder bags and pillow covers. It is a half-hour car or bus ride from Oaxaca.
Morelia is a lovely colonial city and the capital of the state of Michoacán. Sites of interest include the Colegio de San Nicolás founded in 1537, the cathedral and the convent temple of Santa Rosa. Morelia also has antiques and native artisan crafts. It is a three-hour car or bus trip from Mexico City. Small towns in the area are famous for various handcrafts.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristóbal de las Casas is a colonial town, located in the mountains of Chiapas, close to the Guatemalan border. There are many museums and colonial architecture dating back to the 16th century. There is a daily market (except on Sundays) to which indigenous groups from miles around come to trade, dressed in their customary garments. San Cristóbal de las Casas is close to Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages nearby, and approximately 890km from Mexico City. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Mérida, known as the “White City,” is the capital of the state of Yucatán. It is ideal for visiting the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, Chichen-Itzá, Dzibilchatun and Kabah. Morelia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is accessible via plane, car, or bus, and is 1300km from Mexico City. More information is available at the Visit Mexico website. Uxmal is one of the loveliest Mayan sites in the Yucatán. Of special interest is the Casa del Gobernador and the Cuadrángulo de las Monjas. It is a 78 km car or bus ride from Mérida. Chichén-Itzá is the site of one of the greatest Mayan cities. It has pyramids, ballparks and an observatory. It is located 119 km from Mérida on the road to Valladolid.
Guadalajara (external link), one of the largest cities in Mexico, is the capital of the state of Jalisco. It has many colonial buildings, and is noted for the Ospicio Cabañas murals painted by Clemente Orozco. It is accessible via plane, car or bus, and is about 500km from Mexico City.
Lakes, Beaches and Resorts
Cuautla (external link, in Spanish) is near Cuernavaca and is known for its hot springs and thermal waters. Many local hotels have swimming pools filled with thermal water. It is about 100km from Mexico City.
Las Estacas (external link, in Spanish) is a park in the state of Morelos about 150km from Mexico City, perfect for a picnic and relaxing. There is a natural stream for swimming and water activities, hiking, and more.
Oaxtepec (external link, in Spanish) is a tourist town with many water parks and resorts. There is a large vacation complex run by the Mexican Social Security, approximately 100km from Mexico City. It is accessible via car or bus. Busses leave regularly for Oaxtepec from the southern bus terminal in Mexico City.
Valle de Bravo
The town of Valle de Bravo is on the edge of a lake in the state of Mexico. Various water sports are available on the lake. There is also a pottery market on Sundays. It is accessible via car or bus. It is also easy to travel from Valle to see the monarch butterflies that migrate to the state of Michoacán every year. Paragliding and ballooning are popular activities. It is approximately 150km from Mexico City. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Ixtapan de la Sal
Ixtapan is a town near Toluca, famous for its thermal springs. There are many hotels where one may go to swim or relax in the warm waters, and a large waterpark. It is accessible via bus or cars, about 120km from Mexico City. Tourist information can be found on the Visit Mexico website.
Tehuacán is famous throughout Mexico, as the town’s mineral water is sold in every store and restaurant. It has several excellent hotels. Tehuacán is in the state of Puebla, less than 300km from Mexico City.
Acapulco has some of Mexico’s most famous resorts, less than 400km from Mexico City. Acapulco is a favorite weekend getaway for people living in Mexico City, with hotels and resorts to suit most budgets. It is accessible via plane, car or bus. For additional information see the Visit Mexico website.
Bahías de Huatulco
Bahías de Huatulco offers some of the newer resorts on the Pacific Coast, located in the state of Oaxaca and known for its numerous bays. It is also known as a sea turtle conservation site. It is accessible via plane, car or bus, approximately 900km from Mexico City. The Visit Mexico website has additional information.
Cancún is a resort-city located on the Yucatán Peninsula famous for its beaches and blue Caribbean water. It is accessible via plane, car or bus, approximately 1600km from Mexico City. For more information see the Visit Mexico website.
Cozumel is an island located off the Yucatán Peninsula near Cancún, famous for snorkeling and scuba diving. It is accessible via plane or boat. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Playa del Carmen and Tulúm
These beaches are south of Cancun and offer more rustic accommodations in a smaller, less commercial environment. The Visit Mexico website has more information.
Isla Mujeres is a small island located off the Yucatán Peninsula near Cancún. It is best known for its proximity to coral reefs, making the island a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving. There is also an underwater museum. It is accessible via boat from Cancún. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Ixtapa – Zihuatanejo
Ixtapa – Zihuatanejo is a resort-town located 374 km north of Acapulco, approximately 500km from Mexico City, which is not as crowded as Acapulco. Ixtapa features all-inclusive resorts and hotels, while Zihuatanejo offers a quieter experience with boutique hotels, and palapa-style restaurants. It is accessible via plane, car or bus. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Manzanillo is a resort-town located in the state of Colima, located on the Pacific Ocean with temperatures more moderate than other Mexican beach resorts. It is accessible via plane, car or bus, approximately 900km from Mexico City. See the Visit Mexico website for more information.
Puerto Vallarta/ Nuevo Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta/Nuevo Vallarta (external link) is a town rich with history, offering beach resorts on the Pacific Coast, in the state of Jalisco. Known to be LGBT-friendly, Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination for LGBT travelers. It is accessible via plane, car or bus, approximately 900km from Mexico City.
This page was developed in collaboration with the American School Foundation