We’re addicted to Mexico City and all it has to offer including Mexico City’s museums, the varied Mexico City neighborhoods, the tacos of Mexico City, and so much more. But if you can tear yourself away from the city’s urban charms these day trips from Mexico City take you to a very different world of high peaks (Pico de Orizaba), small towns (Tlaxcala), and odd archaeological sites (Cacaxtla and Xochitecatl).

18,490 foot (5,635 meter) Pico de Orizaba is the tallest mountain in Mexico.

Pico de Orizaba

Between Mexico City and the coast lies the tallest mountain in Mexico, an 18,490 foot (5,635 meter) volcanic giant called Pico de Orizaba. You can climb Orizaba. Or you can just admire it from the small town of Coscomatepec which is famous for bread baking and saddlery. We saw one saddle shop and found only mediocre bread, but maybe we were too busy admiring Pico de Orizaba from the roof of the Hotel San Antonio where 210 pesos (about US$18) got us a super clean room right off the square with parking for our truck.

One of two perfectly manicured plazas in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

Tlaxcala town

Tlaxcala seems far too laid back, traffic-free, and spic and span to be a state capital, but it is. Okay, so it’s the capital of Mexico’s smallest state which is also called Tlaxcala, or Estado Libre y Soberano de Tlaxcala if you want to get technical, but the town’s official name almost has more letters than this state has citizens. Tlaxcala has plenty of tranquility and charm with two picture-perfect plazas and freshly painted everything, including the sidewalks thanks to talented artists.

Filigreed metal crosses along one wall of the Parroquia de San Jose in Tlaxcala.

Freshly-painted porticos and traffic-free streets in Tlaxcala.

The Churrigueresque-style Basilica de la Virgin de Ocotlan in Tlaxcala, Mexico is a major pilgrimage site an architectural marvel.

Tlaxcala’s Basilica de la Virgin de Ocotlan is a major pilgrimage site because the Virgin of Guadalupe is believed to have appeared here in 1541. An image of her even dominates the main altar. Even if you don’t believe in miracles, the over-the-top architecture is a miracle of its own sort.

An image of the Virgin of Guadalupe dominates the altar of the Basilica de la Virgin de Ocotlan in Tlaxcala.

Karen checking out the creepy crawly work of a sidewalk artist in Tlaxcala.

The Cacaxtla archaeological site

We’ve visited more than our share of Mayan archaeological sites (nearly 60 and counting), so it was refreshing to visit what remains of cities built by other cultures. First, we visited the Cacaxtla archaeological site. Built by the Olmec-Zicalanca people, the site’s highlights are its large collection of vibrant and strikingly-intact murals with bright colors and imagery.

The unusual collection of colorful murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site are protected under a giant roof that covers an area larger than a football field.

Some of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.

Some of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.

Some of the amazingly well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site in Mexico.

Xochitecatl archaeological site

At the Xochitecatl archaeological site, we were surprised by the unusual round shapes of the structures.

An unusual round structure at the Xochitecatl archeological site with Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes shrouded in clouds in the distance.


Here’s more about travel in Mexico

Here’s more about Archaeological Sites


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