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.