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Mexico is home to a number of tourist attractions showing off the natural beauty of the region, as well as a vibrant culture and beautiful colonial architecture. In Toluca, just one hour outside of El Distrito Federal, the capital of Mexico City, all of these fascinations wait for the visitor willing to veer off the beaten path.
The Beautiful, as Toluca is referred to by locals, sits high above sea level at an altitude of over two and a half kilometres. Not too far from the city’s highly industrialised economic sector and colonial architecture downtown is the Nevado de Toluca, the highest volcano in Mexico, as well as the national park La Marquesa. Both have striking natural landscapes worthy of the many tourists that visit them.
The most prominent tourist attraction, however, has to be Los Portales, a defining hallmark of the city’s colonial 19 th century architecture. Also noteworthy is the centrally located Toluca Cathedral, with its Neo-Classical aesthetics.
If exploring by foot or bike is something that appeals to you, then walking around the downtown area is something you will not want to miss. You can see the aforementioned Los Portales, a triple set of arches extending all the way around the block from the cathedral. The arches were constructed in 1836 and originally the interior contained a Franciscan monastery, La Asuncion. Nearby some of the oldest buildings and industries in the city can be seen, all dating back to the same period as Los Portales.
The construction of the Cathedral itself spans some nine years, beginning in 1867. Over the years it was remodelled and thus contains visible signs of the competing designs used during the years of its construction and renovation. One does not have to be an archaeological or biblical expert to note the prominent façade displaying the visages of various saints, including various disciples and apostles, and even an ascending figure of Jesus himself.
A short walk away at the northeast end of the Plaza Garibay is the Cosmovitral, a botanical garden right in the middle of the colonial ambiance, surrounded by a stained-glass art nouveau mural. This unique structure was originally built as a market at the turn of the 20 th century, but a wise city planner decided its 3,500 square meter would best serve the public as a garden. The artist Leopoldo Flores is responsible for the gorgeous installation of 48 stained-glass panels merging the stunning display of art and nature into a single spectacle.
For fans of adrenaline-pumping action or just plain, good-old fashioned outdoor exercise in mother nature, the surrounding mountains provide the perfect outlet for your outdoor wishes. Whatever you are partial to there is something to suit your tastes. Bouldering and rock climbing, four-wheeled ATV riding, and horse riding are all available for those with more extreme tastes, all with views of the stunning scenery surrounding Toluca. Of course, if you want to simply hike on or around Nevado de Toluca or La Marquesa and its park, there are many walking paths available and open to tourists.
Animals at the Zoo
The Zacango Zoo is a great place to visit as a couple or as a family with kids. Away from the city on the outskirts, it is a quiet respite from all the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. Nature is on full display with plenty of luxurious greenery and a menagerie of animals waiting for you to visit them.
If museum wandering is your idea of an afternoon well-spent, you will not be hard pressed for choices. The Centro Cultural Mexiquense is home to three museums - the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Popular Culture and the Anthropology and History Museum.
Where to stay?
There are many fine accommodations available in Toluca, but a few stand out from the rest. The Fiesta Inn franchise has made inroads as a hotel of great value and reliable customer service. Choose between its Tollocan, airport, or central locations.
Out of all the culinary delights available, NorteSur is one of the absolute best places to visit. Customers rave about its food and hospitality. Amarante also receives good reviews, and is touted for its excellent dishes, wonderful service and beautiful setting in a tranquil neighbourhood.
Both of these establishments have a unique flair which you will not soon forget.
There’s so much more
This is just a taste of what is possible to see and do when you visit Toluca. This article merely scratches the surface of what there is to do in Toluca, which has long been a delightful tourist destination for those in the know. There are more museums, more restaurants worth visiting, and more activities than could possibly be listed here. So what are you waiting for? Visit Toluca today!