Around Mexico City
Difficult though it may be to pull yourself away from the amazing Mexico City, the area around is bustling with colonial towns, ruins and volcanoes, each worthy of exploration.
Here are some must-visit places, all within a few hour bus ride from Mexico City. You can take a one-day trip to any of them, or visit them in a row, depending on your time schedule. For example, a good option in the north is to go to Querétaro first, then to the town of San Miguel de Allende and then Guanajuato. This way you won't spend more than two hours a day on the bus and you can have one day per city.
Simply walking around the historic streets to see the architecture and many monuments is one of the best things to do in this Unesco Heritage site. The picturesque streets are also sprinkled with great restaurants and patio bars. There is even a wine region around the city.
San Miguel de Allende (TOWN&Villages)
This pretty town nestled on a hill attracts a lot of foreigners and has become a centre of artistic life (painting, sculpture, pottery, music, literature, and drama). A highlight is the Church of El Oratorio de San Felipe Neri from the 18th century, with a pink stone façade. Outside the city is an open-air thermal spa. The relaxing and healing warm waters are a result of past volcanic activity.
My favourite city in Mexico, the city of silver barons, is located in the hills. The first Spanish mine in the North American continent was started here in 1531 and silver made them rich. Expect cobblestone streets, rows of colourful houses, and lively plazas. And then there is a unique museum of natural mummies (from the time of cholera), preserved thanks to the unusual soil conditions.
The name means the City of Gods. It's layout is a cosmic map. The pyramids were built to awe. And awed you will be!
Take a scenic bus drive past famous Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes to Puebla town, famous for its numerous old churches.
There are actually two majestic snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada (5,452m) and Iztaccíhuatl (5,286m) just outside Puebla. Since 1994 Popacatépetl has frequently spewed forth fragments of rock, ash, and smoke. Visit the Popocatépetl-Iztaccíhuatl National Park, the Paso de Cortés, the route Hernán Cortés took in 1519, as he marched to Tenochtitlán. I recommend staying in Hacienda San Andrés right under the volcano. They will organize a volcano visit for you.
Hacienda San Andrés (Hammocks/Haciendas)
This is certainly not just any old Mexican ranch. Located in the volcano's foothills, it has the elegance and atmosphere of a bygone era, full of history and character, with great views of the volcano Popocatépetl. From here the famous artist Diego Rivera painted that view in his painting La Era (1904).
The city of eternal spring has traditionally attracted high-society visitors year-round for its warmth. Hernán Cortés built his palace here, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico also had a residence here. My favourite museum here was the House of Robert Brady, an eccentric American art collector. You can learn from him how to display in your house a number of unrelated gadgets in very good taste.