Mexico Outside Mexico City

Hiking in the clouds: El Nevado de Toluca (Mexico)

A volcano that has been extinct for thousands of years, an impressive crater of over a kilometer of diameter, beautiful mountain lakes with transparent water, a tundra landscape right in the heart of Mexico: today I am taking you to El Nevado de Toluca for a hike in the clouds, at over 4000 meters above sea level!


Who said that it was always hot in Mexico? That day we felt very cold, at over 4000 meters above sea level, to go and discover El Nevado de Toluca. But it was totally worth it! The view we had from the top of the ancient volcano, located at about 80 kilometers from Mexico City, was breathtaking! This excursion was full of surprises:

First of all, it was very cold!

Temperatures were just above 0°C when we arrived. The climate is very different from the one of the Mexican capital, located only about a hundred kilometers away. The good thing is that we came equipped against these cold temperatures that we are not used having in Mexico.

Then, the altitude!

It is only once we were there that we checked how high we were. We could not believe that we were standing 4000 meters above sea level! And 4000 meters are a lot! The lack of oxygen makes the hike a bit more difficult. We realized that we did not have our usual shape. The highest peak culminates at 4 680 meters, that is only 200 meters lower than the Mont Blanc… We were back to the high altitudes we had experienced during our trip across the Andes.

Finally, an impressive tundra vegetation and incredible landscapes!

I had no idea that this type of desert-like vegetation could be found in Mexico! For me it was more associated to Russian freezing lands…

Let’s start the Nevado de Toluca hike!

IMG_2614We left the Mexican capital early that day to reach the Nevado as early as possible and to start this great hike. It took us over an hour to get there – without counting the break we made to have breakfast and buy food and water for the day.

As soon as we got out of the city of Toluca, the landscape started to change radically. We left a very dense urban landscape to find ourselves – almost instantly – in the middle of mountains! The contrast was breathtaking.

We followed a little road surrounded by giant pines that led us higher and higher in the mountains. Once we got out of the pine forest, the landscape changed completely once again, vegetation rarified, we were reaching the tundra!


We left the car, equipped ourselves against the cold temperatures and started going up towards the lakes located about 2 kilometers away. And that was hard! Even though we had hiked the Andes a few months before, it was not any easier! The landscape was incredible. We felt so far away from Mexico! We started seeing these funny “flowers” that were everywhere around the volcano.

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We walked slowly (especially me as I was taking tons of pictures at the same time…) and we finally reached our first stop. We got a first glimpse of the lake, but at that moment it was still wrapped in the clouds. We would have to wait a little bit – and go higher – to totally grasp the beauty of this place.


We caught our breath and continued going higher and higher into the clouds! We followed a very steep path. The higher we went, the warmer we felt!


We then made a second stop to admire this incredible landscape! We could now better see the “Lake of the Sun” lost in the crater. We started realizing that we were in the crater of a volcano – that had long been extinct fortunately.


We continued going higher in the clouds. The view kept clearing the higher we went. It was beautiful!

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After a third stop to enjoy the view, we resumed our ascension. Our friend Jeff was so fast that he was far ahead of us, as if he had been running. How could he do it?!

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We realized that we were walking on the ridge of the crater! All around us, the view was amazing. We made a fourth stop and then the team split into two… Jeff was already a few meters higher. After a few minutes of reflexion (we were already quite high, weren’t we?), we decided to follow him on a path that seemed to be steeper and steeper to us… We would reunite with the rest of the team later by the lake.

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We were having a hard time catching up with Jeff but once we reached the top, we had no regrets: the view was gorgeous. From up there, we could see both lakes. We were in the clouds!

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Jeff was wondering if we could go down this way. We decided that we could. We started going down slowly and Jeff was already at the bottom by the lake. He was definitely very fast!

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And then we finally reached the lake. The water was transparent – and freezing. We took a well deserved break while waiting for the rest of the team. At that moment it was very hot! What’s more, I don’t know what I was thinking but I forgot to bring sunscreen! How could I be so stupid! The sun is very strong at 4000 meters above sea level!

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We then walked around the lake, towards the second lake, the Lake of the Moon. The landscape was definitely surprizing.

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We took a last break when we reached the Lake of the Moon. We were exhausted! We tried to regain energy as we had to go up again to go back to the car…


We then started going up for the last time of the day. It seemed almost impossible…. One last picture for the road…


And this is how ended this great excursion to El Nevado de Toluca. We then drove back to the mexican capital and I fell asleep at 9pm that night!

A few tips if you are planning on doing the Nevado de Toluca hike:

  • Don’t make the mistake I made, don’t forget to bring a strong sunscreen!
  • Take something to eat. There won’t be anything around the volcano!
  • Wear warm clothes and good mountain shoes.

Continue reading

  • All excursions outside Mexico City: Click here to see all articles.
  • All articles about Mexico City: Click here to see all articles.
  • All articles about Mexico: click here to see all articles.

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