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Photo: Nora Rose Mueller

Stretch Your Legs Outside Mexico City With This Day Trip Hike

Like New York, Mexico City is one of those sprawling, cosmopolitan metropolises where there’s never a shortage of things to do or see. But if you’re in town and yearning for a bit of the countryside, strap on your best boots and great ready for a climb.

Photo: Nora Rose Mueller

Located about an hour and half’s drive outside of Mexico City is Tepoztlán, a mountain and surrounding city, which according to legend was the birthplace of Quetzalcóatl, one of the most important Aztec gods. The ruins of El Tepozteco temple sit at the top of the mountain, which was once dedicated to the worship of Tepoztecatl (the god of pulque, a fermented, alcoholic drink). Accordingly, the site is considered a place of great power– there is even a rumor that it is also a hot-spot for UFO sightings.

Also to be found at the top of the mountain are coati, a creature from the raccoon family that looks like a cross between a lemur, a fox, and an anteater, with a tall, ringed tail that usually sticks straight up in the air. The coati habitat ranges across Central and northern South American; with influx of visitors at the top of Tepoztlán, the coati have grown quite bold: if you leave your bag on the ground for more than a few seconds, they’re apt to crawl through and dig out anything remotely edible.

Photo: Nora Rose Mueller

Though the trail is only 1.3 miles (one way), the path to the top is steep one, with proper steps giving way to rough hewn stones, then to dusty trails, and– as you reach the very end– a dystopian jungle gym of metal stairs built up between the walls of a narrow ravine. But the ordeal is well worth the view at the end, which offers sweeping views of the city below. (And hey! The walk up probably counts for at least two leg days.) Expect the hike to take about an hour to get to the top if you keep a brisk pace (though if you’re not used to the elevation, you’ll probably take a bit longer), and about 30 to 45 minutes on the way down (the biggest delay tends to be navigating your way around those making their way up).

When you get back to the bottom, be sure to stop at Tepoznieves (the ice cream spot in town– don’t settle for anything less) for some much deserved cold sweets. Best general advice? Don’t be afraid to get several flavors and mix them together (especially the saltier, savory options). While any flavor is a safe bet– and you can sample to your heart’s desire–, I personally recommend their spicy options like Chamoy (a sweetly sour chile sauce) or Mangolín (the traditional pairing of mango and chile), or else Mamay (which is a kind of fruit native to Mexico with a hard to describe flavor that’s some combination of pumpkin, honey, and cantaloupe).

The surrounding town is small, compact, and completely walkable, so park your car along the outskirts (you’d have a rough go of driving it around the city anyways) and wander in search of artisan homewares on main street, which stretches out perpendicular from the mountain.

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