Planning a trip to Mexico City and its surroundings and prefer to avoid tourists? I therefore propose a one-week non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City, through the states of México and Hidalgo. The area around Mexico City offers a multitude of varied and spectacular landscapes. It can be difficult to make choices if you have limited time to visit the area. With this travel guide for a one-week road trip around Mexico City, you’ll be able to see some real gems, some must-see spots, but also some less known places but just as beautiful (if not more so!).
1. Mexico City, discovering a rich and colourful culture
First, I started my trip by landing in Mexico City, where I stayed few days. The capital city of Mexico is full of splendid monuments. I would recommend to take several days to visit the city. First impression is that the city has an incredible architectural wealth.
It was also a good opportunity to get used to the country and its habits and to finalize the last details and get equipped before leaving. Plus, these few days were also necessary to recover from the jetlag and be in good shape for the one week road trip! For information, we rented a car in Mexico City. So once we had picked up the car and after those two days of rest and visit, we were ready to start the adventure !
Here is an article dedicated to the unmissable places in Mexico City.
2. Nevado de Toluca, Day 1 of the non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City
The Nevado de Toluca is a extinct volcano that you can visit and hike. It is even possible to camp on it. Only a 2 hours distance from Mexico City, it is also possible to do a day trip from the capital. It is definitely a great idea for your non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City.
You have to deserve the view, as this is a 3 hours hike to reach the crater, but it is definitely worth it! We went there on the 24th of December and it was snowing a bit, so be prepared and bring your warmest clothes!
3. Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca Piedra Herrada, a true spectacle of nature
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On the second day of our trip, we headed to Piedra Herrada Monarch butterfly Sanctuary. Every year, millions of Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico, travelling about 4,000 km from Canada. They stay for a few months in this sanctuary, and you can see them flying over you, which is a breathtaking spectacle. If you want to admire this magical moment, choose your travel dates carefully because this happens only from November to March. This spot fits well in this non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City as there were not many people with us.
Located at 29km (around 40mn by car) from Valle de Bravo, we could visit the santuary during the afternoon and join our next destination to stay for the night over there.
Tip : It’s preferable to visit it during a sunny day, because when the weather is not so good, they mainly stay on the trees.
4. Valle de Bravo, a beautiful non-touristy colonial town near Mexico City
Day 3 of the journey, Valle de Bravo ! This town is one of the Pueblos Magicos of México, which are towns with a strong historical past and are particularly charming. We discovered beautiful places in the area: walking through the forest, waterfalls, lake surrounded by mountains,.. There is also a hike that offers a magnificent view of this lake and the mountains that surround it. You have to go to the Mirador La Peña, near the town centre.
We rented a nice B&B outside the city center, across the lake. That was very pleasant and from there we were able to go on beautiful walks in the forest. Valle de Bravo is definitely a great stopover to consider on this non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City.
I visited another Pueblos Magicos in the state of Yucatan, which is called Valladolid, click here to know more about it.
5. Archeological site of Tula, non-touristy but incredible pre-Hispanic vestiges
Day 4 – Here we arrive in the State of Hidalgo !
The archeological site of Tula is not the most famous of Mexico, but still is worth the trip ! In the state of Hidalgo, about 2h30 from Mexico City, this is an important site in the history as it used to be the capital of the Toltecs around 850 a.d. Despite that, it was not crowded at all, like Chichen‑Itza for instance. We were almost alone on the site.
The particularity of Tula’s site is the old columns of about 4-meters-high, nicknamed the “Warriors colums”. These columns were used to be inside a temple which has been destroyed, unveiling them to the world. This offers an incredible and kind of a mystic atmosphere.
6. Grutas de Tolantongo, the hidden gem in the Sierra of Hidalgo
Day 5 & 6 – The “ Las Grutas Tolantongo” or Tolantongo caves were the high point of our road trip. This is a thermal water park hidden in the canyon of the Sierra de Hidalgo. The caves of Tolantongo are a true hidden gem, little known to foreign tourists. It is from 3 to 4 hours drive from Mexico City, or around 2 hours and a half from our previous stop in Tula.
We stayed 2 days here to fully enjoy the amazing montains landscape and the turquoise water. One of the great place was these thermal pools with a view on the mountains (as seen on the picture above). In this park, there are incredible waterfalls and caves in which you can swim. There are a few hotels and restaurants in the park intself. It’s not possible to book in advance but if you are going there on week days, there should be enough choices.
Tip #1: I would really recommend to go there during the week and not during weekends to avoid the crowd and fully enjoy the landscape and thermal complex.
Tip #2 : Don’t forget to bring cash with you as you can’t pay by card to pay the hotel and restaurants. Also water shoes will be really useful there.
7. The Pyramids of Teotihuacan, a must-see around Mexico City
The last stop of the non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City is the archaeological site of Teotihuacan. Even though it’s a tourist site, I mention it here because this is a must‑see in the region of Mexico, and it was part of my trip. It is an easy trip from Mexico City as it is located at around one hour from there. The pyramids of Teotihuacán are one of the world’s most impressive pre-Hispanic vestiges. This site, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, was built during the 1st century AD, and has seen several successive civilizations.
To discover archaeological site in Mexico, click here.
Tip : You can also easily go there by bus. I strongly advise to arrive there at the opening to avoid the crowd and warmest hours.
This is the end of my one week non-touristy itinerary around Mexico City, in the states of Mexico and Hidalgo! I had a great time discovering all these underrated or unknown places. In one week, this trip is a perfect way to discover various landscapes and unforgettable views. I hope it will help you to prepare your trip. Do you know of any other non-touristy destinations in this region? Feel free to share them in comments!
For a non-touristy itinerary in the Yucatan Peninsula, click here.