One of the grandest and most amazing sights in Mexico is the Earth’s volcanic system, comparable only to the Eastern Range of Kamchatka or the giant Alley of Volcanoes in Ecuador. We are talking about the Transverse Volcanic Sierra.
This is where Popocatepetl is located, a restless volcano that attracts thousands of tourists, bewitched by the local natural beauty and coming on small group tours.
Translated from the language of the Aztecs, the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, the name of this landmark translates as “smoking mountain. Mexicans affectionately call it El Popo. Popocatépetl, Mexico’s second-highest volcano, is located 55 km southeast of the capital and 45 km southwest of the city of Puebla. Popocatépetl has a neighbor, the sacred mountain Istaxihuatl, with which it is associated by a poetic legend.
Istaxiuatl, daughter of the ruler, fell in love with one of his warriors, Popocatepetl. His father sent him off to war to his certain death and promised his daughter that if he returned, they could marry. During Popocatepetl’s absence, the princess’s suitors deceived her, telling her that the beloved had died, and her father forced her to marry another. But Popocatepetl returned, and Istaxiuatl committed suicide with grief. For her, the warrior ordered a stone pyramid to be built, on top of which he placed his beloved. He ascended a neighboring pyramid to gaze upon Istaxiwatl forever. In time the pyramids became mountains.
When to Travel
The mountain should not be climbed when the volcano is active; the best months for an outing are:
How to Get There
Istaxihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park has located one hour and 64 km from Mexico City. You can reach it by intercity bus, getting off at any bus station in Mexico City.
To enter the “volcano danger zone” located in Popocatepetl-Istaxiuatl National Park, you must obtain a special permit, which is signed by the Park Authority, whose office is located in the town of Amecámeca.
Near the giants Popocatepetl and Orisaboy, young volcanoes are constantly growing, whose activity periodically worries residents of nearby villages. For example, Jorullo, which appeared in the 17th century, continues to increase, and Paricutin (1943) periodically emits clouds of smoke. Popocatépetl does not give the surrounding villages any trouble, it last erupted in 820, but occasionally becomes active as well.
Routes and Zones of the Volcano
The volcano can be divided into three zones:
The lower area is considered a green zone covered with fragrant coniferous forests due to the lush vegetation. This zone flows smoothly into the dead (or stone). The upper part of the mountain is covered with melting glaciers. Thanks to the fertility of the soils surrounding the volcano, there grows the Tule Tree, the world-famous yew tree, which has been declared a natural monument by the Mexican government. Its trunk weighs about 550 tons.
The age of the largest tree in the world is estimated to be between 1,200 and 6,000 years old. It is believed that it was planted by an Aztec priest on a sacred site to the Indians.
On the slopes of the volcano stand 14 monasteries that are beautifully preserved and are examples of early 16th century Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian architectural styles.
2 Things to Do at Popocatepetl:
- Stop by the town of Cholula at the foot of the volcano for some maize tortillas at one of the cafes. Because of the volcanic ash in the soil, they have a unique flavor and aroma.
- Try the rides of the Extreme Amusement Center, which is 7 km from the entrance to the national park.