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As the nation’s capital and the home of its busiest airport, Mexico City is a logical major hub for travelers exploring central Mexico. And while there are certainly enough attractions, activities and diversions in CDMX (as locals call it) to last a lifetime, visitors will also find that Mexico City is an enjoyable base for a variety of day trips.
Within this list are several of the most interesting destinations that lie within three hours or less from Mexico City, making them viable for a quick getaway. Most offer enough to do that they certainly justify spending a night or two.
CuernavacaLocated about 60 miles from Mexico City, Cuernavaca is known as the “city of eternal spring,” thanks to its year-round temperate weather. In addition to enjoying the pleasant climate, visitors can explore La Casa del Olvido, where Emperor Maximilian stayed in 1866, and Las Estacas, an open-air attraction that offers spa services, yoga, kayaking and even snorkeling.
Cuernavaca’s handsome 16th-century cathedral is part of an attractive and historic complex that includes two lovely smaller churches that date to the 18th and 19th centuries. Also noteworthy are Palacio de Cortes, a 16th-century palace and fortress built by Hernan Cortes, and Jardin Juarez, a garden with a gazebo designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the guy with that tower in France).
MoreliaHome to a historic city center that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the city of Morelia is the capital of the state of Michoacan. Best experienced as an overnight trip, Morelia is dotted with beautiful 16th- and 17th-century architecture, featuring an eclectic style that incorporates both baroque and neoclassical elements. Visitors to Morelia can also explore art exhibits at Centro Cultural Clavijero, a cultural center set in a palace built between 1660 and 1767, and view stunning works at Museo de Arte Colonial, the colonial art museum.
TaxcoSilver deposits first brought wealth to this small city in the 16th century, and Taxco continues to lure visitors with its pristine architecture laced with cobblestone streets. The Santa Prisca church, built between 1751 and 1758, is a supremely photogenic attraction, with ornate baroque details and twin bell towers, while the local silver museum recounts the history of mining and the silver trade. Take the teleferico (cable car) for a pleasant ride and a picturesque view of the hilly countryside surrounding the city. Silversmith shops offer rewarding opportunities for shoppers interested in picking up jewelry and other souvenirs made from the material that made this destination famous.
TeotihuacanLocated about 25 miles northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is a legendary must-see destination. A guided tour is the best way to understand the full majesty of the remains of this ancient Mesoamerican city, which was founded sometime around 200 B.C. Its most breathtaking sites lie along the so-called Avenue of the Dead, where visitors can climb more than 240 steps of the Pyramid of the Moon and 260 steps to the Pyramid of the Sun, which is one of the largest pyramids in Mesoamerica. A hot-air balloon ride is yet another memorable way to enjoy the view of what’s left of this ancient settlement.
TolucaLocated in the state of Mexico just outside the nation’s capital, Toluca is an easily reached destination, known for its museums and other cultural offerings.
Centro Cultural Mexiquense, for example, is a cultural complex that’s home to three different museums: one focused on anthropology and history, one on popular arts and crafts and another on modern art. At Cosmovitral Botanical Garden, visitors can wander a former market, built in 1909, which now features gardens set against the backdrop of 48 stained-glass panels made with glass from seven countries. And Museo Luis Nishizawa is yet another noteworthy cultural institution, with a permanent exhibit of the work of modern Mexican-Japanese artist Luis Nishizawa, who died in 2014 and is celebrated for his mastery of both Mexican and Japanese artistic techniques.