The capital city of Mexico is filled with fabulous museums, delicious restaurants, innovative art galleries, and endless shopping opportunities. While there is definitely a lot to see in Mexico City, the city is also filled with people and traffic. After a while, it can all start to feel a bit overwhelming, and you might find yourself craving for a more nature-bound setting. Fear not, as there are more than a few tours that will help you get back to nature available in the area surrounding Mexico City.
This guide will introduce you to our top 3 nature tours around Mexico City, from a scenic mountainside escape, to a once-in-a-lifetime butterfly migration spectacle. We know it can be difficult to navigate the region on your own, that's why our local guides are ready to assist you on your nature getaway. Here are our top 3 picks to help get you inspired!
Popocatepetl National Park
Did you know that one of Mexico's most spectacular national parks is located less than two hours from Mexico City? Situated just 60 kilometers from the busy metropolis, the Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park spans almost 40,000 hectares of land. The landscape in this mountainous area is probably not what you would expect from Mexico. The park area is dominated by pine forests and alpine grasslands, and the mountaintops are covered in an almost permanent blanket of snow!
Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl are the most famous residents of Popocatepetl National Park. These long-dormant volcanoes are the second and third highest peaks in Mexico, measuring 5,230 and 5,426 meters tall respectively. (The highest mountain in Mexico is the 5,636 meter Pico de Orizaba, which is located in the state of Veracruz.) Of the two mountains, Iztaccíhuatl has been dormant since the late 1800’s (earning it the nickname, ‘the Sleeping Woman’), while Popocatépetl is still an active volcano. You can expect to see the odd puff of smoke rising from its crater!
There are a number of ways to explore the park, the easiest option being to simply enjoy a lovely walk on one of the trails which launch off from the park's visitor center. If you're feeling more ambitious, you can also hike up Iztaccíhuatl, but please note that the hike up to the snowline will take around 3 - 4 hours. Needless to say, you will definitely need a guide to navigate the terrain! It is a tough climb, but the views from up high make it more than worth the effort.
Soak in the Tolantongo grottoes
Las Grutas de Tolantongo is the perfect place for escaping the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. The Tolantongo canyon is known for its beauty, with natural minerals coloring the waters a stunning shade of turquoise. The water feeds into the river from the surrounding mountains, with complex channels warming the water up to a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius. The setting is perfect for soaking away all your worldly worries.
Visitors to Las Grutas de Tolantongo can bathe in the turquoise waters in small pools shaded by leafy green trees. The scenery is absolutely stunning, but if you're expecting to have a remote lagoon all to yourself, it's worth noting that tales of the region's beauty have traveled far and wide and the pools can get crowded! Besides the hot springs, Tolantongo offers caves to explore, waterfalls to discover, a suspension bridge to navigate, and, if you're feeling adventurous, even a zipline to zoom down on.
Tolantongo is open every day of the year. Note that the entrance fee (around $7 USD) allows you to explore the pools, waterfalls, caves and suspension bridge, but for the zipline a separate charge will apply. Las Grutas de Tolantongo is located about 3.5 hours from Mexico City. Unless you want to spend the night in one of the local resorts (or if you're outdoorsy you can also camp by the riverside), we definitely recommend arranging a day trip with a private guide from Mexico City.
Marvel at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
If you time your visit just right, a trip to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is guaranteed to take your breath away. Every autumn, millions of butterflies (or maybe even a billion, according to some estimates) arrive from all over the North American continent to this mountainous area located about 100 kilometers west of Mexico City. The migrating butterflies completely transform the scenery, bending tree branches with their sheer combined weight, and painting the trees a flaming shade of orange. The sound their wings make resembles the pitter-patter of falling rain. Anyone who's ever experienced it in person will agree that it is one of the most jaw-dropping natural phenomena you can witness anywhere in the world.
The area that now makes up the reserve was first discovered by researchers in 1975. In the 1980s, the area was declared a Biosphere Reserve. Later on in 2008 it was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The protected area covers some 56,000 hectares of land, mostly covered in oak, pine, and fir tree forests. Illegal logging continues to be one of the biggest threats to this unique region, its forests, and their micro-climates. There are 8 colonies of butterflies located within the protected area, the most popular to visit is called El Rosario.
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is best explored with a well-versed local guide who will show you the way to the butterflies - after all, it would be a pretty big disappointment to travel all the way here without seeing any! Additionally, a knowledgeable guide can introduce you to other unique elements of the local landscape. If you arrange a day trip to the reserve from Mexico City, expect the drive to take around 2 hours.
A refreshing nature escape is a great addition to any Mexico City itinerary. The beauty and serenity of the local landscape is the perfect antidote for the hectic pace of the city. Luckily, there are more than a few nature tours available in the area. Whether you're interested in exploring Mexico's majestic mountains or luxuriating in natural hot springs, private tours are the most immersive and stress-free way to make it happen. Feel free to contact our guides and start planning your Mexican nature escape today!
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