Around Mexico City
Brief itinerary below. For details of each attraction, follow the links associated
|MEXICO CITY||Day 1: Chapultepec Park, Zona Rosa|
|TEOTIHUACAN||Day 2: Teotihuacan Pyramids|
|PUEBLA||Day 3: Xochimilco, Museo Dolores Olmedo, Puebla and Cholula|
|MEXICO CITY||Day 4: Zocalo, Centro Historico|
|HOME||Day 5: Return Home|
On the Christmas Eve, we arrived from FL to MEX around 10PM local. On the other side of a long immigration line, surprise awaited us as the car rental place informed us that there are no cars even if we had reservations. Disappointed and furious, but we chose to move on with back-up plan. MEX airport allows UBER to pick up passengers from Puerta 3 and Puerta 4 and it cost us less than MXN $150 to get to downtown (Zona Rosa). Always been a SPG loyal, our temporary habitaciones was at the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel (my TRIB review here) located right in front of the statue of Angel de la Independencia.
With the back-up plan at work, in the absence of a rental car, we needed a good nights sleep to be able to cope with the changed plan. More follows..
Christmas day travel is always difficult at least in major cities around the world. Also, businesses tend to be closed or close early. So we walked out early to the Chapultepec Park, a mere 20 minute away, to catch glimpses of what the city has to offer. Pleasantly surprised by the neat and wide sidewalks devoid of any street vendors or even unruly trash. Being a Sunday and a major holiday, the streets were relatively empty, but it was not hard to imagine the clamor it will bring on any other weekday.Offices of large multinationals, buildings with unique architecture, and wide avenues coupled well with the gorgeous winter morning in our stroll to the park.
Entering the park, we felt the warmest welcome came from the art/photography exhibition focusing on sustainability and environmental awareness program. There were more than 60 photographs from around the world that indicated the need for environmental sustainability program which clearly was a positive sign coming from the developing world. Anyway, it is a huge park and to scale it well in a day, you’d need to set clear priorities. Our job was easy as only a handful of museums and exhibits were open, plus our palette always craves for street food. With these priorities in mind, we strolled along the paved pathways, through the bustling noise of the street vendors, and the holiday crowd that gathered from all parts of the country. Navigating through the crowd was sometimes difficult but there are clear signs pointing towards various landmarks in the park.
The Chapultepec Castle, Museum of Modern Arts and Museum of Anthropology are definitely the top priorities for tourists. Check out my take on Museum of Anthropology here.
Throughout the day we tasted the local coca, Tlayudas, corn, tortas, and chichineras, bought local souvenirs after heavy bargaining; knowing a little bit of Spanish does help. But what impressed us the most was the helpful, charming, and affable local folk who tried to converse even with a insurmountable language barrier. Definitely a good start to the adventures down in Ciudad de Mexico. #ILoveCDMX
For dinner and drinks, we stayed in the hotel bar, and enjoyed the finals of the national soccer league between the UNAM Tigers and Americana.
We rented a car from Payless (a Budget company), costing ~MXN $1000 per day with CDL and insurance, and headed over to Teotihuacan (UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is a quick 1 hour drive from the city, but navigating the traffic can be difficult, especially if you have not driven outside the US. Holidays bring in a lot of tourists from other parts of Mexico, so ‘local’ tourists were swarming everywhere we went. Pretty sure it would have been much less crowded during the other times of the year.
Before entering the pyramids of Teotihuacan, we entered the city and drove around to catch the vibe. If you have some time, definitely try to park in the market square area, and walk around, shop, and eat some street food.
Getting to the pyramids (esp. Piramides) is just one step of the task. Entering the park is a whole new ball game. There are five parking (esp. Estacionementes) spots but parking lot 2 and 3 are the closest to the pyramids. So if the first entrance has a long line, just drive past them and try locating the lots 2 and 3. Tickets are MXN$65 per person and MXN$45 for parking. The parking attendant will sell you individual entry tickets, so do not stand in the line to buy park tickets separately. There is just one set of restrooms (esp. Banos) right next to the ticket booths and nothing inside the park. So plan accordingly. Plan on spending ~3-4 hours inside to cover all the attractions.
Using public transport, you can visit the pyramids too. For more details see here. Cost in this route should be less than MXN$100, albeit with about 3-4 hours more spent in the journey. Else, there are tourbuses leaving from the city and costs around MXN$750 per person for a 8 hour tour.
After spending half a day in Teotihuacan pyramids, and the ancient city, we hopped back on the road, and on our way back to the hotel drove through some of the nicely painted houses in the Pachuka neighborhood.
For dinner and late night drinks, we hit a restaurant in Zona Rosa and had several mezcals (repsodo), Escamoles and tacos. Check my Yelp review here.
We started the day early as Xochimilco and Puebla City were on the agenda for the day. A lot of miles (err, kilometers) to cover, so we left hotel by 9am. First stop Xochimilco which is about 30 minutes south of the city. We spent around 4-5 hours there including the boat trip, museum (Museo Dolores Olmedo), and lunch.
After Xochimilco, we headed further south to Puebla and Cholula pyramids. There is a brand new toll road that connects Mexico City with Puebla. The drive is scenic and smooth through the hilly roads. On the drive, in a clear day, you should be able to see the Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes on your right. There are several toll booths on the way, so carry cash and prepare to pay north of MXN $200 each way in lieu of tolls.
We hit the Cholula pyramids first in the afternoon. The view of the Volcanoes were not clear, but we heard that the view is much better in the early mornings. There was a long line for the ticket (esp. Taquilla) counter, and while waiting, we munched on some Chapulines (fried grasshoppers) and mundane peanuts. Plenty of street vendors gives you ample opportunity to shop and bargain, if that retail-therapy thing is something that makes you tick. 🙂
After spending about 2-3 hours in the ruins and churches, taking in the afternoon sun, the majestic view, and some selfie/photos, we headed down to Puebla City Zocalo. It is about 20 minutes’ drive depending on traffic. During the Christmas holidays, the Zocalo area takes up new life. The park and the nearby areas are swarming with tourists from all around the world, but dominated by Mexican population. Prepare to spend at least 4-5 hours in the city, especially the evening to get engulfed in the cheerful vibe.
After the rendezvous with the modern face of the city, we planned to spend an entire day in the area where time stood stand-still, Zocalo (or Centro Historico). We enjoyed our time strolling through majestic murals, art history, ancient ruins, and devouring on fabulous street food. It is a good idea to plan out the day in Zocalo, as there could be long lines to enter various places, and there is a lot to see and spend time in. A day in this area should give an ignorant but interested traveler a robust background of the city, the culture and the foundation. Do not miss out on an opportunity to taste some of the typical Mexican food (esp. Comida Tipica) from the street side food corners, at really low prices. Please visit the post on Mexico City to get details on the major attractions.
Below is a good itinerary for the day along with budgeted times –
- Reach Zocalo plaza (arrive by Metro or Cab/Uber) – During holidays, there will be a zillion tourists
- Cathedral Metropolitana CDMX – Spend 30-40 minutes
- Palacio National – Walk 5 minutes; Plan on spending ~2 Hours
- Templo Mayor – Walk 5 minutes; Plan on spending
- Secretaria de Education – Walk 10 minutes. Plan on spending ~1 Hour
- Bellas Artes – Walk 20 minutes/pink rickshaw 5 minutes; Plan on spending ~2 Hours
- Casa de Azul – Walk 5 minutes; Spend
- Mezcal and Tequilla Museum/Plaza Garibaldi – Walk 15 minutes; Spend
- If you are in the mood, end the day with a few drinks in the slightly upscale area of Zona Rosa.
Return home. If you have rented a car, please ensure you budget ~1 Hour to return the car and get to your terminal/gate. Unlike the airports in the US, the car return area and the terminals are not well connected. Avis and Hertz are in Terminal 2. Rest of the car rental companies are in Terminal 1, and it is hard to find as there are not many signs and GPS won’t find the exact addresses.
The car rental area in Terminal 1 can be accessed by driving straight through the terminal departure area through your left. Once out of the general airport area, you will see the sign for car rental to your left. Either a shuttle or an employee of the car rental company will give you a lift to your terminal.
Also, for international travel, they won’t print tickets if the departure time is less than 1 hour away.
Check out some of the visual treats through our camera lenses here.