Tepotzotlan, Mexico: What To Do During A Day Trip From CDMX

My friend and I recently took a fantastic day trip from Mexico City to Tepotzotlan, a charming town in the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico). It really drove home how big it is because it took us nearly two hours to get home and we hadn’t even left the State!

Still, it’s a beautiful town that’s worth visiting depending how much time you have. If you’re a tourist visiting for a few days, there are closer day trips like Teotihuacan Pyramids that you should visit first. But if you have the time, then Tepotzotlan is undeniably lovely.

Pretty Tepotzotlan

Especially if you’re the type of traveler who likes getting off the beaten track to see the real Mexico, I think you’ll enjoy Tepotzotlan. There’s not endless amounts to see and do so it’s easy to explore slowly at your leisure and eat some great local food while at it. The surrounding views of the mountains are gorgeous!

Important note – don’t confuse Tepotzotlan with Tepoztlan (although I can see why you would!). Tepotzlan is a town in Morelos state (south of CDMX) and also a lovely place to visit. This Tepotzotlan is in the State of Mexico, north of the capital.

Is Tepotzotlan a pueblo magico?

Yes! I love visiting these charming ‘magic towns’. These are assigned as such by the tourism board based on their strong sense of national identity and the magic that exudes their attractions.

I’ve been to plenty now including Sayulita, Bacalar, Isla Holbox, Taxco, Cholula, Valle de Bravo, San Cristobal, Mazunte, Ajijic, and Tequila. Hopefully there are lots more to come!

Here’s a full list of the 132 pueblo magicos in Mexico.

Tepotzotlan pueblo magico

Where is Tepotzotlan?

It’s in the State of Mexico, 38km from the capital. The drive takes around 1 hour, traffic dependant while public transport options can take closer to 2 hours.

Tepotzotlan map

Getting to Tepotzotlan from Mexico City

Before I cover what to do in Tepotzotlan, you’ll want to know how to get there. There are two options but only the first one shows up online (in English at least).

By coach (luxury option)

Primera plus bus

For our Tepotzotlan day trip, we got a Primera Plus bus. These buses are very fancy with reclining seats, each with its own TV screen. We paid 95 pesos per person for the 1-hour 20-minute ride.

Note – it seems Primera Plus buses only go to Tepotzotlan from Mexico City, not back. But it’s easy to get home as I’ll explain.

The buses depart from Terminal Poniente station (platform 15). I had never been to this station before but it was clean and well-organised. An Uber from Roma Norte cost 90 pesos. The bus stopped in Santa Fe before going to Tepotzotlan then Queretaro.

We took the 9.10am departure that arrived at 10.40am in Tepotzotlan.

Getting from the bus station to Tepotzotlan center: there are plenty of taxis on the other side of the highway from the station, charging 50 pesos to drive you into town.

By public transport (budget option)

Step #1 – train: From Buenavista station in CDMX, you can board the Ferrocarriles Suburbanos train line which is an electric initiative, connecting six stations in the north of the State of Mexico with the capital.

To ride the train, you need to buy a card for 16 pesos and top it up. There’s a different fare for long or short journeys: you need the 23 peso ‘long’ journey as you’ll be traveling to the end of the line, Cuititlan which takes around 40 minutes (you can also get off before at Lecheria but then the next leg of your journey will be longer so I don’t recommend this).

Step #2 – from outside Cuititlan station, find a white colectivo van destined for Tepotzotlan. There should be a sign in the window. From Cuititlan station, it should cost 15 pesos per person and take around 30 minutes.

Ticket station

Using the ticket machines: these don’t give change so you’ll need 16 pesos for a ticket, then a further 23 peso credit. When adding credit, you have to type the amount you’re about to enter then press confirm before inserting it (and the numbers have to match – so if you’re putting in 25 pesos not anticipating getting your 2 peso change, you need to type in 25 pesos).

The machines have the option of Spanish and English and, if you get confused, there are ticket windows where you can buy a ticket from a person.

Getting back from Tepotzotlan to CDMX

By coach

We just booked our bus there, intending to book a ticket home from the station. However, the staff told us there was no bus to CDMX from the station but we could get one from across the road… We crossed the bridge but couldn’t find any station or ticket counter. Confusing!

What I think they were referring to was local colectivos heading toward the city (requiring a change).

From looking online, there are buses with ETN going from Tepotzotlan to CDMX, but they only seem to go in the morning to the airport. There are also ADO services departing from Tlalnepantla, a 40-minute drive away by bus or colectivo. Overall, the best way to get home during a Tepotzotlan day trip is…

Bus station getting to Tepotzotlan from mexico city

By public transport

In the center of town, wait across from the colorful Tepotzotlan letters for a colectivo to Cuititlan or Lecheria. We got one to Cuititlan for 15 pesos which took around 30 minutes. Lecheria is a bit further so may cost a few pesos more and take longer.

Public mini bus

The colectivos drop at the Suburbanos stations. Simply go inside and find a ticket machine (or line up at the desk if you don’t have exact change for the machines – cards cost 16 pesos and tickets 23 pesos) and ride the train to Buenavista station (the last stop) in Mexico City.

From Buenavista, you can catch the Metro or Metrobus home, or call an Uber, of course. The full journey took about 2 hours so it’s a long day trip to Tepotzotlan, but doable.

A final option is using Blablacar, a shared ride service I have used several times in Mexico. I see regular journies listed for this route.

Things to do in Tepotzotlan, Mexico

Here’s what to do and see in this charming pueblo magico in the State of Mexico…

Museo Nacional del Virreinato and Church of San Francisco Javier

Museo Nacional del Virreinato Tepotzotlan
Iglesia de San Francisco Javier

When I heard the main attraction in Tepotzotlan was a church, I wasn’t initially THAT excited. I have seen a LOT of churches in Mexico. However, the Church of San Francisco Javier is incredible: so ornate and lavish inside, especially the gold-leaf Churrigueresque altarpieces.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite such an impressive church during my many years of travel as the Capilla Doméstica inside the church.

 Church of San Francisco Javier

You can’t go inside for free because it has been turned into a museum, however there’s a working church next door (St. Peter the Apostle Parish) that’s free to visit and holds regular services.

Entry to Museo Nacional del Virreinato, which includes Templo de San Francisco Javier, costs 90 pesos (cash only) and you get a lot for your money: entry to museum exhibits in old rooms of the monastery, the church, art, charming courtyards, gardens (including the beautiful tree-lined walkway below) and the fountain in the gardens, Fuente Del Salto Del Agua, that once brought water from Chapultepec in Mexico City.

I think we spent 2 hours in the museum and gardens complex! And you could easily spend longer if you have a real interest in the subject matter.

The former College of San Francisco Javier was founded by the Jesuits in the 1580s as a center of learning for priests in Tepotzotlan. After they were expelled from the country in 1767, the Spanish kept the center for training and priest retirement. Finally, in 1964, it became the museum it is today.

I found the museum dedicated to ‘New Spain’ awkwardly colonial with model recreations of ships to the ‘New World’. However, I enjoyed seeing some of the exhibits and relics from prehispanic communities and the library full of 4,000 books dating back to the 16th century.

Ceiling of church attractions of Tepotzotlan

There are also some random but beautiful exhibits of Asian items (I believe collected on trips via the Philippines, another former Spanish colony). These items are so ornate and intriguing.

For another beautiful Jesuit site in Mexico City with some very creepy mummy statues, I can recommend the San Angel neighborhood of the capital (which also has an amazing Saturday market to visit).

Tepotzotlan letters

It’s got to be done! I have so many photos from throughout the years with these colorful letters, found at the heart of many Mexican towns. The only downside is that it’s such a long name… It’s hard to get them all in a photo (and impossible for a vertical Insta snap!).

Arcos del Sitio aqueduct

Arcos del Sitio aqueduct things to do Tepotzotlan

After the church complex, this is the most popular attraction in Tepotzotlan is Arcos del Sitio, a spectacular aqueduct in the countryside. It’s also called Acueducto de Xalpa or simply Acueducto de Tepotzotlán.

Measuring 61m in height and 26 miles (42km) in length, it’s the tallest aqueduct in Latin America. To this day, it’s unfinished because the Jesuits who began building it in the 1700s were expelled from Mexico under the orders of King Carlos III of Spain (who was dismayed at the power they had accumulated and their dedication to the Pope in Italy).

The purpose of the aqueduct was to bring water from the Oro River to the town of Tepotzotlan, particularly the residents of the Jesuits.

You can walk the whole way along the structure, taking a circular route along a hanging bridge on the way back. There are also ziplines, plus it’s a popular place to watch hot air balloons.

Getting to Arcos del Sitio aqueduct

It’s a 45-minute drive each way (30km) from Tepotzotlan. In the tourism office, they told us there’s a bus departing from outside daily at 1.30pm to the site. On the way back, there’s no bus and they told us a taxi costs around 300 pesos.

It’s a shame it’s not closer to Tepotzotlan as it’s hard to squeeze it into a day trip from CDMX since it adds an extra 1.5 hours of travel to your day (which already includes 2 hours each way between the capital and Tepot).

Entry costs 35 pesos (20 for students and 10 for seniors).

Take a walk in the backstreets

For an offbeat thing to do in Tepotzotlan, wander the backstreets and soak up the charm of the town. The church gets all the glory but we found the residential areas pretty, peaceful, and colorful.

Street art

Street art

We were expecting Tepotzotlan to be very traditional but we found some funky, modern murals. This one above was across from Ceaps hospital and the one below was further down this street on a turn-off on your right (pinned here).

Spot the giant Jesus statue in the Zocalo

Jesus statue visiting tepotzotlan mexico

You can hardly miss him! At 49 feet (15m), this lying bronze Jesus statue is one of the most notable features of the Zocalo. We remarked that he has the best view in town, looking across to the mountains.

Wandering around the Zocalo is an atmospheric thing to do in Tepotzotlan with beautiful views and striking architecture to boot. It’s where you’ll see Mexican life: locals enjoying days out with their families, eating local snacks, and snapping photos, with no rush to go anywhere fast.

A cute train takes kids around the Zocalo

Browse the lively markets (especially at weekends)

When we visited on a Saturday, the town was alive with markets selling everything from clay pottery to jewelry, textiles, body products, and much more.

Artisan market

Should you want to shop for authentic Mexican items, you’ll have no trouble finding them. Plaza de las Artesanías is the place to go, just beside the Palacio Municipal Tepotzotlán.

Shopping Plaza Tepotzotlan day trip

Food and drink in Tepotzotlan

It’s Mexico so of course there’s good food in Tepotzotlan! You won’t find much international food here although we did stumble across a boujee brunch cafe.

Casa Quintal

Casa Quintal cafe

Casa Quintal is an adorable cafe with colorful murals and delicious food. I just ate a pastry with cream cheese and blueberry but my friend had a full-blown brunch with chilaquiles that came with a free mini muffin and platter of fruit.

The specialty coffee is excellent and they also have lots of house concoctions like gingerbread coffee with a little gingerman cookie on top. The perfect place to start your day or have a sightseeing pitstop!

They serve a huge range of breakfast dishes from hot cakes to omelets, sandwiches, French toast, and more. Your only problem will be choosing! My cappuccino and pastry cost 50 pesos each.

Read next: the ultimate brunch guide to Mexico City

Municipal Market Tepotzotlán

For authentic Mexican food, you can’t do better than the local mercado. The Municipal Market Tepotzotlán is just moments from the Zocalo with a bustling atmosphere and local vendors trying to catch your attention.

The stands all largely serve the same dishes so you can perch yourself at whichever stand catches your eye. We ate pambazos (sandwiches soaked in red guajillo pepper sauce and filled with cheese, lettuce, beans, and other ingredients like chorizo) and quesadillas de chile relleno (chili peppers stuffed with cheese).

Being Mexico, much of the food is meaty but there’s still plenty for vegetarians like flor de calabaza (squash flower) and huitlacoche (a corn mushroom thing often called Mexican truffle).

Regional snacks in main plaza

Wander the Zocalo and you’ll see locals eating all kinds of regional snacks like chicharrón preparado: crispy wheat-based sheets piled high with cream, cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce, and other toppings.

When we visited, stands were serving local drinks like this sweet cacao and corn-based one above. I asked the vendor if it was tejate (a popular prehispanic beverage from Oaxaca) and she said no but it’s similar. She also gave us a sample and it tasted the same.

Try pulque (nectar for the gods)

There are plenty of restaurants and cafes serving this popular Mexican drink made from fermented agave (with an alcohol level of 4%). We loved El Tinacal de los Espíritus, a cute cafe restaurant with a pretty outdoor seating area. We tried guava and ponche (Christmas punch) flavors.

If it was good enough for the Aztec gods, it’s good enough for me!

How long to spend in Tepotzotlan?

A day is easily enough to tick off the top things to do in Tepotzotlan, even including traveling there and back from Mexico City.

However, since the Arcos del Sitio aqueduct is a 45-minute drive each way from the town, it would be a tight squeeze (but possible) to see both this and the town during a Tepotzotlan day trip. One option is staying overnight, seeing the town on the day you arrive, then visiting the aqueduct the next morning before you leave.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you have a better idea of how to visit Tepotzotlan from Mexico City and you have a great day out.

Mexico City food and drink guides:

Mexico City neighborhood guides:

Other Mexico City guides:

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