When you think about Mexico, you are probably not thinking of a country that is geared up for adventure tourism. Mexico is known for its great beaches and delicious food, but if you are after a long hike or a climbing experience, this country probably isn’t the first that springs to mind. But anybody who has flown over Mexico or travelled over ground throughout the country will be aware of the many mountainous areas that exist here. For people who love hiking and climbing, Mexico is actually a fantastic destination.
While I have been living in Mexico City, I’ve got into a not entirely undesirable pattern of eating copious amounts of tacos and churros and not being all that active. But for a city boy, I actually love the outdoors. And so when the opportunity to climb a volcano came about (thanks Amigo Tours!), I was 100% in.
Two of the best known volcanoes in Mexico are only a short distance outside of Mexico City: Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Popocatépetl is an active volcano so don’t be trying to climb that, but Iztaccíhuatl (or The Sleeping Woman) is dormant and perfectly safe to climb. I have climbed a few hills in my time, but this was definitely the highest I have ever climbed. We were even given climbing sticks to help us traverse the tricky terrain, which made me feel like a bonafide mountain climber.
Mexico City is unsurprisingly, a pretty noisy place. But if you feel the need to get away from it all, climbing this mountain gives you the opportunity to experience total peace and quiet, and to experience some truly fresh air away from car fumes. The air is fresh but it is also very thin. One of the first things you will notice on your ascent is that the altitude means that you have to take far deeper breaths – otherwise, you will soon be feeling lightheaded. Our guide was at pains to ensure we kept breathing deeply, so extreme is the altitude when you are climbing The Sleeping Woman.
As you climb the mountain, there are five gates that you can reach. It’s pretty much just professional climbers who make it to Gate 5, and on the day I climbed, our group just made it to Gate 2. But we were still really high, and there was no need to race to the top. It was great just to be able to take our time and take in the incredible surroundings. We made it to around 4500 metres high, which is certainly the highest altitude I have ever reached climbing. Having said that, I definitely want to return to try and make it all the way to the top.
It’s definitely advisable to bring some gloves as it can get chilly at that height, but also slather on the sun screen. I am fortunate to not be quite as white and pastey as my British chums but I got burned to a crisp. The sun’s rays are just so much stronger at that altitude and I was unprepared. I have the peeling skin to prove it – boo.
I’d become so accustomed to the pace of Mexico City life that I forgot how great it was to get into the outdoors, breathe in some fresh air, and do something a little more adventurous than visiting my local taco stand. If you find yourself searching for activities in Mexico City, I highly recommend finding a mountain to climb – there are plenty of them! And if you are in Mexico City, do book the experience with Amigo Tours. It was a fantastic day out that got my blood pumping and made me appreciate all of Mexico’s natural beauty.