For a great overnight trip if you are in Mexico City, DF, there are some great sites in the direction of Puebla. Teotihuacan is just 50km to the north east of Ciudad Mexico, and is the areas main draw in terms of cultural importance and interest. Beyond that lie two of the highest volcanoes in Mexico, snowy peaked Popocatepetl (po-po-ka-teh-pet-l) and Iztaccihuatl (iss-ta-see-watt-l) and then beyond that to the east is the 16th century city of Puebla and all are worth the effort of seeing.
Pyramids outside DF
Teotihuacan is the 3rd largest pyramid in the world behind Egypt’s Cheops and Cholula, Mexico, and was the site for Mesoamerica’s most powerful civilization and its greatest city. The site is dominated by two large pyramids, named Piramide del Sol and the other Piramide de la Luna. The construction of the city began in the first century AD and continued for 200 years. Its inhabitants continued living in the city until social and environmental events lead to eventual decline and collapse of the society in the 8th century AD. A climb up the Piramide del Sol takes less than 15 minutes and is well worth the effort, if only to see the impressive engineering the former denizens displayed in their organizing of the city with vast avenues and tablero style building. The most important features of the views are the Calzada de Los Muertos, the Avenue of the Dead, where the tombs of the former aristocracy and kings were built and the Citadel which is believed to be the primary rulers palace. Flanked on all sides are mountains with similar shape and the two volcanoes in the distance, with one actively smoking and especially active during the winter months when ice cracks and creates fissures in the lava.
Volcanoes outside Mexico City
Popocatepetl or Popo and Iztaccihuatl, the White Woman, are two 5400m volcanoes which form the eastern rim of the Valle de Mexico. While Itzaccihuatl is dormant Popo is active and has had a history of erupting and causing evacuations the 30 million people that live within threat of its destructive path of ash and lava. In 2005, an eruption through ash 5km into the sky. The danger of the crater has closed off hiking for the last 40 years but access to the dormant White Woman is open all the way to the summit. The climbing of Iztaccihuatl requires an overnight usually so be prepared for below freezing weather throughout the year with the safest time being November to April when the use of crampons and stable snow pack allow the swiftest ascent. For more information on climbing visit the Parques official website at http://itzapopop.conanp.gob.mx.
Puebla: Colonial Brightness
Less than an hours drive to the east and south lies the colonial city of Puebla. The Spanish began construction of the city in 1531, and the center of the city has a stunning medieval cathedral which to this day remains the jewel and center of the city.
Nothing could have surprised me more than to find the rich colonial preservation of a city I thought was not much more than a suburb to the more well known capital of Mexico, Ciudad de Mexico. For people interested seeing and visiting Mexico’s third largest population centers, after DF and Guadalajara, we recommend that you stay close to the zocalo or central plaza. With obvious Spanish colonial influence, visitors could imagine themselves being in Seville or Salamanca save the tropical palmettos that shade the plazas fountains and ice cream vendors, and the smoking volcano that provides the back drop. Visitors won’t be disappointed with the brightly colored and well kept buildings that make up the UNESCO World Heritage protected city center. The avenue that contains many fairly priced hotels is called Reforma, and make sure to try out the famous mole poblana!