Explore Around Mexico City
The terrain west of Mexico City is varied: high and flat due west around the biggest city, Toluca, and broken only by the occasional soaring peak, then dropping away on all sides, particularly south of Toluca, where the country becomes ruggedly hilly as you descend. Dotted with small towns of some interest, it also gets progressively warmer and more verdant. The main artery through the region is Hwy-55, which is superseded in places by a modern autopista but still used by most of the buses to the small towns.Read More
Toluca and around
Toluca and around
The capital of the state of México, Toluca de Lerdo is today a large and modern industrial centre, sprawling across a wide plain. At an altitude of nearly 2700m, it is the highest city in the country, and comes surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, dominated by the white-capped Nevado de Toluca. It is not a place you’ll want to linger, but it is the site of what is allegedly the largest single market in the country. Held a couple of kilometres southeast of the centre, just east of the bus station, every Friday (and to a lesser extent throughout the week), the market constitutes the overriding reason to visit. Many visitors stop over on a Thursday night (book accommodation in advance) and then move on, or make an early start from Mexico City on Friday morning.
The market attracts hordes of visitors from the capital, but is so vast that there can be no question of its being overwhelmed by tourists; quite the opposite, many outsiders find themselves overwhelmed by the scale of the place, lost among the thousands of stalls and crowds from the state’s outlying villages. Though increasingly dominated by cheap imported goods and clothing, there is still a substantial selection of local crafts – woven goods and pottery above all. For an idea of what quality and prices to expect, head first for the Casa de Artesanías, Paseo Tollocan 700 Ote, a few blocks east of the market and very near the bus terminal.
Día de los Santos Reyes
(Twelfth Night; Jan 6). The Magi traditionally leave presents for children on this date: many small ceremonies include a fiesta with dancing at Nativitas, a suburb near Xochimilco, and at Malinalco.
Bendicíon de los Animales
(Jan 17). Children’s pets and peasants’ farm animals are taken to church to be blessed – a particularly bizarre sight at the cathedral in México and in Taxco, where it coincides with the fiestas of Santa Prisca (Jan 18) and San Sebastián (Jan 20).
Día de la Candelaria
(Feb 2). Widely celebrated, especially in Cuernavaca.
(the week before Lent, variable Feb–March). Especially lively in Cuernavaca and nearby Tepoztlán; also in Chiconcuac on the way to Teotihuacán.
(the Sun before Easter Sun). A procession with palms in Taxco, where representations of the Passion continue through Holy Week.
(Holy Week). Observed everywhere. There are very famous Passion plays in the suburb of Itzapalapa, culminating on the Friday with a mock Crucifixion on the Cerro de la Estrella, and similar celebrations at Chalma and nearby Malinalco. In Cholula, with its host of churches, the processions pass over vast carpets of flowers.
Feria de la Flor
(early April). Cuernavaca’s flower festival.
(May 1). In Cuautla marked by a fiesta commemorating an Independence battle.
Día de la Santa Cruz
(May 3). Celebrated with fiestas and traditional dancing, in Xochimilco, Tepotzotlán and Valle de Bravo.
Cinco de Mayo
(May 5). Public holiday for the Battle of Puebla – celebrated in Puebla itself with a grand procession and re-enactment of the fighting.
Día de San Isidro
(May 15). Religious processions and fireworks in Tenancingo, and a procession of farm animals through Cuernavaca on their way to be blessed at the church.
Religious festival in Tlaxcala
(third Mon in May). An image of the Virgin is processed around the town followed by hundreds of pilgrims.
Día de San Pedro
(June 29). Observed with processions and dances in Tepotzotlán and traditional dancing in San Pedro Actopan, on the southern outskirts of Mexico City.
Día de la Virgen del Carmen
(July 16). Dances and a procession with flowers to the convent of Carmen, in San Ángel.
Día de Santiago
(July 25). Particularly celebrated in Chalco, near Amecameca. The following Sunday sees a market and regional dances at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas and dances, too, in Xochimilco.
Día de Santa Marta
(July 29). In Milpa Alta, near Xochimilco, celebrated with Aztec dances and mock fights between Moors and Christians.
Día de la Asunción
(Assumption; Aug 15). Honoured with pilgrimages from Cholula to a nearby village, and ancient dances in Milpa Alta.
(Sept 15–16). Celebrated everywhere.
Día de San Miguel
(Sept 29). Provokes huge pilgrimages to both Taxco and Chalma.
Día de San Francisco
(Oct 4). A feria in Tenancingo, with much traditional music-making, and also celebrated in San Francisco Tecoxpa, a village on the southern fringes of the capital.
Fiesta del Santuario de la Defensa
(Oct 12). A street party that centres around an ancient church just outside Tlaxcala.
Día de los Muertos
(Day of the Dead; Nov 1–2). Observed everywhere. The shops are full of chocolate skulls and other ghoulish foods. Tradition is particularly strong in San Lucas Xochimanca and Nativitas, both to the south of Mexico City.
Día de Santa Cecilia
(Nov 22). St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, and her fiesta attracts orchestras and mariachi bands from all over to Santa Cecilia Tepetlapa, not far from Xochimilco.
Feria de la Plata
(Dec 1). The great silver fair in Taxco lasts about ten days from this date.
Día de la Señora de Guadalupe
(Dec 12). A massive pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe runs for several days round about, combined with a constant secular celebration of music and dancing.
(Dec 25). In the week leading up to Christmas, Nativity plays – also known as posadas – can be seen in many places. Among the most famous are those at Taxco and Tepotzotlán.