We love Mexico City. In fact, we voted it one of our top destinations for 2014. But if you need a break from this teeming, culturally rich city, here are some incredibly inexpensive day trips to try, all of which are packed full of beautiful sites, from ancient ruins, to picturesque churches, to sprawling main squares...
The pyramids of Teotihuacan are some of the most significant in Mexico. This ancient city is thought to have been established around 200 B.C. and, at its height, had a population greater than that of Rome and was the largest city in the pre-Colombian Americas. The Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) runs between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, which stands next to the other main attraction, the Temple of Quetzalcóatl. You can climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, but be sure to protect yourself from the heat with water, sunscreen, and a hat.
Buses marked Piramides leave every 15 minutes from the Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte in Mexico City. The trip takes one hour and costs about $3. The bus drops you off near the Pyramid of the Sun and it costs about $5 to enter the complex.
At less than two hours by bus from Mexico City, Tlaxcala (capital of the state of the same name) makes for another easy day trip. This colonial city is small enough to walk around and points of interest include the 16th century Palacio de Gobierno, which features murals depicting the city's history by Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin, and the bright orange and blue-tiled Parroquia de San José.
The ATAH (Autotransportes Tlaxcala Apizaco Huamantla) bus to Tlaxcala departs every 15-20 minutes from Mexico City’s Tapo Terminal and costs about $9.
This town is one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos and is believed to be both the birthplace of the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcóatl, and a hotbed of mystical powers. Tepoztlán is famous for its New Age vibe and the remains of a temple dedicated to the Aztec god Tepoztecatl. You can reach the site via a trail that begins at the end of the Avenida 5 de Mayo and runs up a steep 1.25-mile climb. It costs around $3 to access the temple.
Buses leave from the station opposite Mexico City's Tasqueña metro station every half hour and cost about $8.
One of the most popular day trips from Mexico City, Puebla is Mexico's fourth largest city. It's also the site of the May 5, 1862 defeat of the French by Mexican general Ignacio Zaragoza, which gave birth to the Cinco de Mayo festival. Sites of interest include the forts where the battle took place, and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed zócalo, or main square. The well-preserved city center is home to 70 churches and more than a thousand ceramic-tiled colonial buildings.
With buses running regularly from the TAPO (or, Terminal Oriente) terminal, Puebla is a very straightforward trip from Mexico City. The journey takes about two hours and tickets cost about $15-20. If you want to spend the night, the hip hotel chain Grupo Habita operates a boutique named La Purificadora in town. Rates start at $90 per night.