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Mexico Road Trip Itinerary: Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca in 1 week

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Mexico Road Trip Itinerary: Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca in 1 week
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In this post, I wanted to share with your our Mexico road trip itinerary for 1 week. We visited Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca – some of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Mexico during this trip. This road trip involves a lot of driving; however, don’t worry, driving in Mexico is not that complicated (as long as you don’t drive around Mexico city).

If you’re new to this blog, hi, we are Liza and Jose, a millennial couple based in London, UK. Jose (long for Pepe) was born and raised in Mexico; hence, as you can imagine, we travel to Mexico quite often. Interested in more posts about Mexico? Check our Mexico blog posts category!

Here’s a brief overview of what you will find in this post about our weeklong road trip in Mexico!

7-day road trip in Mexico – a short summary

In total, we spent 7 days road tripping around Central & Southern Mexico. Here’s the day-to-day breakdown of our road trip.

Days 1, 2: Mexico City. Recommended hotels: Barcelo Mexico Reforma, Casa Emilia B&B Boutique or Casa Comtesse

Day 3: Puebla and Cholula, recommended hotels: Casona Maria, Hotel Boutique Casareyna, Azul Talavera Hotel, Hotel Isabel

Days 4-6: Oaxaca, stay at: Casa de Sierra Azul, Pug Seal Oaxaca, Hotel Dainzu

Day 7: Driving back to Mexico city, departure or night at Fiesta Americana Viaducto Aeropuerto

Where to rent a car in Mexico

I don’t recommend hiring a car to drive in Mexico City – instead, you can rent it on the way out from Mexico City! In our case, we did drive in Mexico City, but only because Pepe is local and was used to driving in the city. I actually have a separate blog post about driving inside Mexico City and some tips that might help you to be more confident driving there.

However, as I mentioned before, it’s much more convenient to just take taxis (e.g. Cabify – use code LIZAS108 to get $$ off your first Cabify ride or other ride-sharing apps) operate in Mexico City, so you wouldn’t have a problem catching a ride. However, outside Mexico City, you totally need a car. That’s why it would make a lot of sense to hire one when exiting the city (e.g. at the airport).

We always rent cars either through Rentalcars.com or Expedia.com as both of these services have great 3rd party travel insurance.

How to drive in Mexico

Driving outside Mexico City is not stressful at all. One thing to note is that while roads in Mexico have speed limits, they often aren’t indicated anywhere, so it makes sense to research it in advance. Driving too fast might result in traffic police stopping you and issuing you a fine (or, more frequently, asking you for a bribe). If you’re confident that you haven’t exceeded the speed limit, it is always good to have a dashcam just in case (so you can provide proof). Normally, Mexican police are quite friendly to foreigners and might even leave you in peace, especially if you don’t speak Spanish well.

The road from Mexico City to Puebla and Oaxaca is a very nice highway. It’s a paid road, so make sure to have cash at hand. Alternatively, you can buy a special device (usually sold at the gas stations and circle K and 7 eleven shops). You can use it so you can drive via fast lanes and get charged automatically, which saves you a lot of time.

Central Mexico road trip

7-day road trip in Central Mexico: Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca – the itinerary

Days 1 & 2 – Exploring Mexico city. Best things to do in Mexico City for 2 days

Okay, let’s start with the first couple of days in Mexico. I recommend starting with Mexico City, as you will probably fly into Mexico City. Besides, there are plenty of things to do in Mexico City! If you haven’t bought your flights to Mexico City just yet, check the best flight fares here >

When I first came to Mexico City or CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico), I didn’t enjoy it too much. It didn’t help that Jose (my husband and co-founder of Tripsget), who was born and raised in Mexico, failed to show me nice parts of the city! However, having visited Mexico City over 5 times now, I actually grew to like it.

Where to stay in Mexico City

Mexico City is a huge city, which means that there are thousands of hotels to choose from. However, if you are only staying in Mexico City for a day or two, a convenient location probably matters the most. These hotels are located in some really nice and very convenient areas, perfect for exploring the Capital:

Barcelo Mexico Reforma

Casa Emilia B&B Boutique

Casa Comtesse

The best way to get around Mexico City

As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t recommend driving in Mexico City yourself – it could be quite chaotic and frightening at times. Unfortunately, Mexico City’s public transport system isn’t the best (the metro gets VERY crowded and it also doesn’t reach a lot of places mentioned below), metro buses have the same limitations, and in order to use minibuses, you need to know the city very well.

Hence, I would recommend downloading one of the carsharing apps and using taxis to get around the city. Taxis are pretty affordable in Mexico city. In order to order a taxi online, download either Didi or Cabify! If you download Cabify, you can get a $3 discount for your first ride using the code LIZAS108

Here are few things I recommend doing in Mexico City:

Explore beautiful Coyoacan

Explore the district of Coyoacan with huge colourful houses that used to be vacation homes of wealthy Mexicans back in the 1940s-1950s.

Visit Frida Kahlo museum – a house where she lived most of her life. Book tickets online here.

Grab a lunch in one of the restaurants near Jardin Centenario: Ave Maria, Entrevero, Los Danzantes and Corazon de Maguey are all a good option.

You can read more about Coyoacan in a separate post I wrote a few years ago.

Visit the historic centre

Head to the city centre (don’t bring expensive tech and jewellery with you) and explore Palacio de Bellas Artes, Templo Mayor & visit Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s much easier to enjoy the city centre if you take one of the walking tours like this tour, for example

Try local food – it’s dinner time!

Have dinner in Condesa or Colonia Roma – the most hipster districts of the Capital. Some of the best options for dinner:

Moreover, Condesa and Colonia Roma are some of the most impressive districts to visit in Mexico City. If I were to live in Mexico City, I would most definitely live there.

Take a 1/2 day trip to Teotihuacan

Unfortunately, Teotihuacan isn’t on the way to Puebla, so you can’t just take a quick stop there. However, if you feel like you still have time (maybe you are still jet-lagged and wake up quite early or you are eager to see as much as possible during your vacation), you should definitely visit Teotihuacan.

In order to get there, you can either hire a car and drive there by yourself (it takes 50-120 minutes to get there depending on the traffic) or you can purchase a private tour that takes up to 5 hours. This is one of the best-rated private tours that can bring you to Teotihuacan.

Teotihuacan is an ancient city (thriving between 100 BC and 650 AD) that was home to around 100,000 people. Its origin is unknown, and nobody knows (yet) why it fell. However, regardless of that, Teotihuacan is one of the most impressive places to visit in Mexico because its pyramids are one of a kind!

Teotihuacan

Day 3: Exploring Puebla and Cholula

Driving to Puebla

On your third day in Mexico, it would make sense to wake up early (yes, again), head to the airport, pick up your rental car, have a quick bite (there are plenty of options at the airport or, alternatively, you can just find something next to your hotel) and start driving towards Puebla, the fourth largest city in Mexico.

The route to Puebla is incredibly panoramic, and it also goes through some pretty steep hills & forests. I measured elevation on my phone, and at some point, it reached 3.3km above sea level! You will also be able to see at least two very impressive volcanoes on the way to Puebla.

Depending on the traffic, it takes anything between 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to get to Puebla from Mexico City!

Where to stay in Puebla:

There are plenty of lovely places to stay in Puebla, ranging from luxurious palace-like hotels to homey and traditional properties. We stayed at Casona Maria, which was very affordable but felt really upscale! Casona Maria also had parking, so it was a great option for us!

Some other options to consider: Hotel Boutique Casareyna, Azul Talavera Hotel, Hotel Isabel

First stop: Cholula

Cholula is actually a separate city located right next to Puebla. If you look at the map, it might seem that it’s actually part of Puebla, but no, that’s not the case. Cholula is famous because of its stunning views over nearby volcanos, Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl (which are some of the highest volcanoes in Mexico, each at least 5200 high). Moreover, Cholula is home to very impressive ancient ruins – the Great Pyramid of Cholula (Tlachihualtepetl) – there is also a stunning church set on top of these ruins. The archaeological park is closed on Sundays and Mondays. 

Exploring Puebla in the afternoon: best things to do

Once you visited Cholula, it’s time to head to Puebla, check in at your hotel, leave your car at the hotel parking on the streets nearby and go for a walk around Puebla. Puebla is a very beautiful colonial city, and it looks like a mix of Spanish, French and Portuguese cities.

Some of the main highlights of Puebla include:

  • Puebla Cathedral and the square in front of it
  • Colourful streets in the city centre and the antique market
  • The street of sweets (candies) – you can’t leave Puebla without trying at least some of traditional Mexican sweets. The best place to buy these sweets is on the Calle de Los Dulces, which is the nickname for Av. 6 Oriente!

Puebla is also famous for its food, particularly mole. Mole is a sauce that has a unique taste – depending on the ingredients it was made of. Usually, it has a lot of chocolate in it and tastes a bit like cocoa. Puebla claims to be the state where the mole has originated and takes a lot of pride in it. To be honest with you, I’m not a fan of mole and couldn’t grow to like it after trying it many times; however, a lot of my non-Mexican friends who tried mole for the first time actually ended up liking it a lot! You won’t know until you try, right?

Here are some nice restaurants to visit for dinner in Puebla: El Mural de los Poblanos, Maiz Criollo, Restaurante Casareyna.

Days 4-6: Oaxaca City – expat paradise & culinary Capital

Driving to Oaxaca from Puebla

Make sure to eat something substantial as there is nothing to eat on the way from Puebla to Oaxaca. It takes around 4 hours to drive to Oaxaca city. As the sun is always very strong, make sure to bring a lot of water with you as it might get hot inside the car (despite the A/C being on full blast). However, 4 hours might pass pretty fast, as the views on the way to Oaxaca are spectacular! Even if Oaxaca wouldn’t have been as impressive as it is, taking this road would be worth it as it’s absolutely stunning!

Where to stay in Oaxaca

Oaxaca has a lot of affordable (yet amazing) properties you can pick. Some of the best places to stay in Oaxaca include:

Casa de Sierra Azul

Pug Seal Oaxaca

Hotel Dainzu

Things to do in Oaxaca City & Oaxaca State

We stayed in Oaxaca slightly longer than 3 days (6 actually) as we were on our Christmas break and then we’re working remotely from there, however, if you only count days when we were able to go out and explore Oaxaca, that would be circa 3 days. I wouldn’t say that 3 days is enough to see all of Oaxaca, however, it’s enough to see the main highlights and enjoy this beautiful city and state and their amazing gastronomy!

So here are some of the best things to do in Oaxaca:

Try local food in one of Oaxaca’s best restaurants

Food in Oaxaca is delicious and unique, and Oaxaca is often referred to as the gastronomic Capital of Mexico. Moreover, Oaxaca has some dishes that are hard to find anywhere else, such as Xuitlacoche (a unique mushroom that is abundant in Oaxaca). The primary season for Xuitlacoche is winter, so if you’re visiting Oaxaca for Christmas or New Year (or around this time), you’ll be able to try a lot of dishes that contain Xuitlacoche. Huitlacoche is normally added to dishes: e.g. to stuffed chills or salads or can be served on a side. It tastes a bit like the wood mushroom, in case you’re wondering what to expect. Tlayuda (basically a stuffed wrap) is another popular local dish. And of course, just like Puebla, Oaxaca is famous for its mole!

During our time in Oaxaca, we had a chance to visit plenty of restaurants; these ones were our favourites:

Los Danzantes

Casa Oaxaca

Boulenc

Origen

Try Oaxaca’s traditional liquor – Mezcal (drive to Matatlan & visit one of the Palenques)

Mezcal is an alcoholic beverage made from specific types of agave. It’s native to Oaxaca, and 90% of Mezcal is manufactured in Oaxaca. This liquor tastes a bit like whisky (because of its smokiness) and is rapidly gaining popularity all over the world.

El Rey de Matatlan or simply Matatlan is a town where you can find a lot of different palenques – artisanal distilleries, where you can take a free tour and even taste different types of Mezcal! We visited Palenque Mal de Amor – we didn’t need to make a reservation in advance and their Mezcal is amazing!

Also, keep in mind that buying Mezcal in Matatlan is way cheaper than in Oaxaca and twice or thrice cheaper than outside of Mexico.

Visit the ancient city of Mitla

If you haven’t visited enough ancient cities on this trip already, there is one more to visit – Mitla. Mitla is located just a short drive from Oaxaca city (just about 30 minutes), and it’s very close to Matatlan as well, so you can definitely combine visiting both in one day!

Hierve el Agua (if it’s open)

Another of Oaxaca highlights is Hierve el Agua – a stunning “frozen” waterfall. It’s actually a rock formation that looks just like cascades of water. It takes around 1.5 hours to drive there, however, there was a lot of confusion about it being open or closed since the beginning of the pandemic. Nobody really knows, as there is no website or phone number to call. However, recent Google reviews might indicate that this stunning natural spot has reopened, so make sure to check it out!

Visit the thickest tree in the world

Árbol del Tule is a tree with the stoutest trunk in the world and it’s located just 20 minutes driving from Oaxaca city centre. Visit it for some incredible photos!

Walk around Oaxaca and enjoy the city

Finally, the best thing to do in Oaxaca is actually to walk around and enjoy the city! The city centre is so colourful and beautiful and almost every corner in the city is a photo opportunity. One of my favourite picture spots in the blue agaves right in front of Oaxaca Cathedral!

Take a tour to enjoy Oaxaca even more!

If you still have some time left, we recommend taking a tour to enjoy Oaxaca even more. Some of the best tours in Oaxaca are these ones:

Flavors of Oaxaca cooking class & local market tour

Monte Alban guided 1/2 day tour

Oaxaca private city art tour

Day 7: Driving from Oaxaca to Mexico City

On the last day of your Mexico road trip itinerary, you need to prepare for a very long drive. It takes around 6-6.5 hours to drive back to Mexico City from Oaxaca, so make sure to stop somewhere for a short break. We actually stopped halfway in a city called Tihuacan. There isn’t much to do in Tihuacan, however, there is a lovely restaurant called Casa Vieja, where you can grab lunch.

Depending on when is your flight back, you can either stay in Mexico City for one more night or fly right away in the evening. Try not to plan any return flights before 6pm, as in this case, you would need to leave Oaxaca very, very early, around 7am, to be able to catch the 6pm flight.

Summary of Mexico Road Trip Itinerary: Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca in 1 week

I hope you enjoyed this post about the ultimate Mexico road trip itinerary for 1 week: from Mexico City to Oaxaca! 1 week is definitely not enough to see all of Mexico, however, this road trip itinerary includes some of the best highlights of Mexico: from ancient Mesopotamian cities and ruins to beautiful colonial architecture, from amazing food to local traditions.

If you liked this post, here are some other posts about Mexico and other countries that you might find useful!

You might also like:

Cancun or Riviera Maya: where to go on vacation in Mexico

The most Instagrammable hotels in Tulum

2-day road trip to San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato

5-day road trip around Costa Rica for Christmas

Playa del Carmen vs Tulum: the best beach destination in Mexico

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