The Ultimate Guide to Nevado de Toluca, Mexico
Discover the Nevado de Toluca Volcano, a must-see if you are visiting Mexico City or the surrounding area. It is the fourth highest volcano in Mexico at about 4690m of altitude. A magnificent excursion to discover at only a few hours from Mexico City and which will make you escape from the boiling Mexican capital. It is a breath of fresh air!
This hike was one of the most beautiful moments of my trip to Mexico because of the splendor of the landscapes and this wild nature still preserved. We chose to take a tour in order to go not only in the crater, but also to the top of Nevado de Toluca. I will explain you all that a little later in this article!
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Nevado de Toluca : The Guide
- Nevado de Toluca
- How to get there ?
- The crater hike
- Guided tour
- My experience I Nevado de Toluca summit
Nevado de Toluca
Located about 100 kilometers from Mexico City, the Nevado de Toluca is one of the most beautiful natural places in this region (in my opinion :).
Also known as Xinantecatl, it is a volcano that has been extinct for many years now. In the crater there are two lakes, the moon lake and the sun lake. You will notice once there that there are two main peaks: “el Pico del Águila” at 4600m and “el Pico del Fraile” at 4660m, which surround the crater. It is the latter that we climbed.
How to get to Nevado de Toluca ?
Getting to the Nevado de Toluca by car is very easy, you don’t need to be a good driver in Mexico. First follow the road to Toluca and then take the direction of the Nevado. Only the last part is a track with a few curves. As you enter the trail, you will find a kind of “customs” to take the road. It charges about 40 MXN$ per car. If you are going during the winter, the upper parking lot may be closed and you may have to park lower. So remember to add a time margin if this is the case. The distance to the crater is longer from this point.
By public transport
Although it takes a little longer, it is still easy to get to Nevado de Toluca by public transportation. From the Central del Norte bus station in CDMX, take the bus to Toluca (about 80MXN$). Once there, you can either take a bus or a cab to Raíces. Ask the locals which bus leaves in that direction. Last step, from Raíces, you can either hitch a ride or take a cab to the Nevado de Toluca parking lot. Several travelers have told me that on weekends, it is easy to find other visitors to share the cost of cabs or cars going to this place!
With a guided tour
From Mexico City you will find many tours to the Nevado de Toluca offering several types of excursions. Learn more about this option in a few lines.
The crater hike
Once you arrive at the upper parking lot, the hike to the crater takes no more than an hour. Technically very easy, but it is true that with the altitude, it can become a little more complicated. The pace is slower and a few breaks can be useful. You will arrive at a first viewpoint overlooking the two lakes and the Toluca massif.
From there, you can go down inside the crater where the lakes of the Moon and the Sun are located. There are several hiking trails around these lakes more or less flat according to your desires! This part is very accessible even with children of walking age. The path is very well indicated, very little chance to get lost.
The vegetation, almost absent, gives the impression to be on Mars. It is really magnificent!
Although it is quite possible to go to the Nevado by yourself, there are several companies that offer tours to this place. There are several options available, two of them mainly: the first one is a hike to the crater with a tour of the Sun Lake from the upper parking lot. This may vary depending on the tour operator you choose. The second one, in addition to the crater, will take you to the summit of Del Pico del Fraile.
For option 1, I think that it is not obligatory to take a tour, if we talk about technical difficulty. But in terms of organization and timing, it is clearly advantageous. They pick you up at CDMX and bring you back in the evening. Often a picnic is even included, which makes life easier.
Option 2, the one we chose, is the ascent “Del Pico del Fraile” offering at the top a 360° view of the crater and its surroundings. The tour starts at the same place and ends at the upper parking lot. You will first go to the lakes before starting the ascent to the summit. This last part requires the accompaniment of a guide. This is a good thing, because the last part of the trail is not necessarily very well marked and can be slightly dangerous.
Most of the tour does not require much technical knowledge, there are however some passages that require a minimum of alpine experience, namely the last part as said above. I would like to point out that you don’t need to have a crazy physical level to do this tour. But be prepared for a 5-6 hours effort at more than 4000m of altitude. As for the first one, the trip from Mexico City is included in the price of the tour.
I put you in link, here, the tour that we chose. I can only recommend you to go through this agency, Traversias Mexico. Very competent professionals who know the region and who will not make you take unnecessary risks. We paid for the tour about 100CHF/USD (May 2022). It’s a lot of money, I admit, but it was really worth it.
My experience I Nevado de Toluca summit
We left Mexico City around 7am and headed to Nevado de Toluca where we arrived around 9:20am. We were a group of 8 people of all physical levels with 2 mountain guides. Once there, the guides gave us a small bag with a picnic, water, some snacks, as well as walking sticks and a mountaineering helmet for the last part of the hike.
The first part of the hike took us to the top of the small pass that overlooks the crater and its two lakes. The view is splendid, as I said above, we have the impression to be on Mars, until then no major difficulty. We then crossed between the two lakes before starting the second climb. At this point, I started to feel really out of breath. But after a few steps, I got used to it and everything went very well. We were starting to climb well in altitude and the path was getting steeper and steeper. Once we passed this part, we reached a second pass that offers a 360° view of the crater, the surrounding mountains and the countryside below. The view was breathtaking.
Our group then split in two for safety reasons. One part did not wish to continue higher. They went back down to the crater and walked around. For the rest of us, we only had the last part of the climb to do, about 45-60 minutes of walking between the mountain flower rocks. I think this was my favorite part, between mountaineering and classic hiking with a magical view. It was really cool! The guide was attentive to our safety and showed clearly where to walk and where not to walk. The summit was quickly seen and we finally arrived, at 4660m, on a volcano in Mexico! A great feeling rewarding all these efforts!
After a short break at the top, we started the descent. This part however was a bit more complicated. Let me explain, in fact we walked/ran through a kind of scree that was quite steep. I was not very comfortable, I must admit. But after a few falls on my butt and dust everywhere, I made it down safely! Once our team was all together, we headed back to the parking lot to meet up with the rest of the group and head back to CDMX.
In conclusion, I really recommend, if you have time, to visit the Nevado de Toluca. And if you can, make the summit, the view is magnificent and the experience is worth it. It’s true that the excursion may seem expensive, but it’s really worth it! We chose the company Traversias Mexico which I recommend 100%!
I hope that this article will have pleased you and will have given you the desire to visit the Nevado de Toluca. Don’t hesitate if you have any question, I will be happy to help you !
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