by Tyler Black
Since arriving in Mexico City, I’d practically hit the ground running. I got a little personalized tour of the historic district, rode the hop-on/hop-off bus around the whole city, and took a day tour to Teotihuacan. To say I was having the time of my life would be a complete understatement. Check out parts one, two, and three to read more about those experiences.
Day Four – Hiking the Iztaccihuatl Volcano
I woke up on my fourth day in Mexico City not realizing it was going to be one of the most exhausting, yet exhilarating days of my life. Just like the day before, I had to be at Hostal Amigo bright and early to catch my tour to the Iztaccihuatl Volcano with Amigo Tours once again. Like I mentioned in my previous article, I highly recommend Amigo Tours for any excursions based out of Mexico City. They are prompt, organized, and run things safely and smoothly.
This time, only Tito was our guide. His eccentric attitude kept everyone in the group eager and motivated to begin the trek. Unlike the previous tour to Teotihuacan where everyone was packed like sardines on a tour bus, this time only a handful of us were loaded into a rather large van. It was certainly a more comfortable experience. As we set off, Tito went over some of the ground rules and what to expect during the hike.
Since I had previously hiked for four days to Machu Picchu a little more than a year prior, I only half-listened to Tito’s speech. I mean, I was practically a pro at hiking, right? The answer is no. I was a damned fool. In less than a few hours, Iztaccihuatl would make me its b****. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try this excursion if you’re not in the best of shape. Just know that it isn’t for the faint of heart. I would definitely train for it a little bit for it a few months beforehand.
Approaching Iztaccihuatl Volcano
As we approached Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, we had a clear view of Iztaccihuatl. Although the Iztaccihuatl volcano is dormant, I was still expecting to see that classic cone shape that every volcano has. Iztaccihuatl is more of a very rocky mountain. However, Tito explained to us that the volcanic mountain is Nahautl (the Aztecan language) for “White Woman” because it resembles a woman sleeping on her side. Once I noticed that, it totally blew my mind and took away any sliver of disappointment I had. Don’t worry, I’d actually get to see an active, cone-shaped volcano very shortly.
We pulled into the visitor’s center for a bathroom break and to get a rundown of the park and the trail we’d be taking. As I hopped out of the van, I kept staring at Iztaccihuatl, fascinated by the silhouette of the sleeping woman and also eager to begin our hike. But when I turned around, my jaw hit the floor. Towering over us was Popocatepetl, an active volcano and the second highest peak in Mexico. It had that classic cone shape and even a slight haze of smoke billowing from the top. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it. Funny enough, the volcano erupted less than two months after this hike.
Searching for Views of Popocatepetl
I was now more excited than ever to begin the hike because I knew that the higher we got on Iztaccihuatl, the better the views would be of Popocatepetl. And so, after a short drive from the visitor’s center, we arrived at the base of Iztaccihuatl. The bright blue sky made the snow-capped volcano mountain pop. Where my hike to Machu Picchu was more slow-paced and rhythmic, Tito started flying up the mountain like a bat out of hell. Fifteen minutes into the climb, I was gasping for air and my legs were burning. Not once did I want to give up, though. I pressed on with the group.
As the hike continued, the views became increasingly picturesque. Tito luckily gave us some time to rest a little and take some photos of Popocatepetl in the distance. He also explained to us that the saddle between Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl was known as the Paso de Cortes. It’s where the Conquistador Hernan Cortes and his army passed through on their way to the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).
As we trudged on, the trail began getting steeper and rockier, and I started falling behind in the pack. Man, this hike was a lot tougher than I had imagined. I had to stop a few times to collect myself before carrying on. After about an hour of this we started nearing our endpoint. Thank God, too, because I was afraid that if we went on any longer, my legs would give out. And before anyone makes fun of me, I was not the last person to reach the top! Nonetheless, I did have to sit on a rock for a while to catch my breath before enjoying the majestic view of the valley and Popocatepetl.
Back Down the Volcano
We stayed up there for about thirty or forty minutes chatting and getting to know one another. We had a very diverse group of people from all over the world. I wished we could have hung out at the top longer, but Tito was pushing for us to head back down Iztaccihuatl so we could enjoy a nice surprise lunch he had planned for us. Luckily, going down was a whole lot easier. Despite that, though, I slipped on a rock and jammed my big toe. It still hurts to this day but it makes for a good story, no?
After taking one last gaze at Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, we piled back into our van and exited the national park. We stopped at a small hut just outside the park where a family was waiting for us. They were preparing all kinds of traditional Mexican food: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I tried as much of it as I could along with a variety of different types of hot sauces. It was really delicious and a great way to end the day after an exhilarating experience.
The excursion to the volcanos was an exciting one even though I didn’t expect to struggle as much as I did. The best part of adventures is pushing your body and mind and getting out of your comfort zone. It may suck in the process, but you will leave a much better person. You’ll be filled with motivation and confidence in yourself that you can’t get by playing things safe.
Thank you for taking the time to read this part of my trip hiking the Iztaccihuatl volcano in Mexico! Stayed tuned for next time where I enjoy a night out courtesy of Casa Pepe and a wonderful food tour!