A stay in Mexico City of three days will give you just enough time to visit the Centro Historico and Chapultepec Park. If your trip to the capital is five days long, you should take at least one-day trip to nearby sites. Visit for a week, and you'll have enough time to see Mexico City's main attractions and spend a day or two exploring the area around it. The four main bus terminals – one for each direction – make exploration outside the Valle de Mexico comfortable and inexpensive.
The most important place to visit near Mexico City is the ruined city of Teotihuacan. Located about a one-hour bus ride north from D.F., this is the site of the marvelously impressive Temples of the Sun and the Moon. Archeologists remain hard at work excavating the massive complex and interpreting their findings but precious little is fully understood about this culture that collapsed around 600 AD. A rite of passage for visitors to Mexico is the steep and arduous climb up the Temple of the Sun; do it if you are physically able and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view.
East of Mexico City on the road to the Caribbean port of Veracruz, stands Puebla, which was founded by the Spanish in 1531. It is Mexico's fourth largest city. The colonial center has been designated a World Heritage Site because of its unique combination of architecture that spans five centuries. Shoppers will delight in visiting the workshops and galleries of the city's famed Talavera pottery industry. The cuisine is famed and includes the sauce, mole poblano, which contains twenty ingredients including chili peppers and chocolate.
South of Mexico City stand two cities that merit visits of their own. Cuernavaca and Taxco. Cuernavaca, nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring, occupies a high, wide mountain valley located about a two-hour drive from the capital. This proximity has made it a popular weekend destination for Chilangos looking to escape DF's sometimes-smoggy air. Ravines slice Cuernavaca into hilltops and valleys, some of which have become parks that are perfect for strolling. In the heart of the city, conquistador Hernan Cortes built his palace after he was ousted as supreme ruler of Mexico City; today it is a fine regional museum and houses important Diego Rivera murals.
The Silver City, Taxco, is a picturesque little town that hugs the mountains from which the Spaniards extracted a fortune in the precious metal. But it was only in the 1920s that American William Spratling settled here and reintroduced silversmithing to the populace. Locals embraced the art form and today you can't walk one block without encountering at least one plateria. Some of the establishments cater to bus tours and provide inexpensive jewelry but you can still find some artisans that produce high-quality necklaces, rings, and earrings.
Near Cuernavaca, but light year's away in spirit is Tepotzlan. Surrounded by craggy mountaintops, Tepoztlan is equal parts Brigadoon and Santa Fe, New Mexico. New Age folks from around the world have colonized the town. It's not unusual to see white-clad yoga enthusiasts deep into their practice in the Tepozteco pyramid high atop one of the cliffs that overlooks town.
West of Mexico City lies the village of Valle de Bravo. The pleasant little town hugs the shores of a half-century old manmade lake and is filled with interesting shops and restaurants. Visitors can rent the vacation homes that hover over the water, which is filled with pleasure craft. Valle de Bravo's unique location makes it a year-round destination for parasailers.
Fine toll roads connect Mexico City to these towns and many more. For bus travel, make sure you know which one station you need: Terminal del Norte for Teotihuacan; Tasquena in the south for Cuernavaca, Taxco, and Tepotzlan; and Observatorio in the west for Valle del Bravo. TAPO is Mexico City's eastern bus station and connects to cities like Puebla and Veracruz.
Avenida Veracruz, 102
Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas esquina Francisco I. Madero
Avenida de las Naciones 1 Piso 45