Great things to do in Ixtapan de la Sal | The Thermal capital of Mexico

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Planning on visiting Ixtapan de la Sal, one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos” and the thermal capital of Central Mexico? Look no further! In this post, I wanted to share some of the great things to do in Ixtapan de la Sal.

If you’re new to this blog, hi, we are Liza and Jose, a Russian-Mexican couple based in London. We come to Mexico quite often and would love to share with you some useful tips and experience that only locals know! Check our entire Mexico blog posts category to see what we have written about Mexico so far!

Getting to Ixtapan de la Sal: weekend/day trip to Ixtapan de la Sal from Mexico city.

Driving to Ixtapan de la Sal

Ixtapan de la Sal is located circa 2 hours driving away from Mexico City. There are two ways to get to Ixtapan: by renting a car or taking a public bus.

You can rent a car in Mexico City via – I always recommend using, as it’s the service we’ve been using for the last three years and I love their full insurance product. However, recently Expedia has also introduced affordable full insurance for renting a car, so make sure to check it out.

Driving in Mexico (especially in Mexico City) can be a bit tricky, as many people don’t follow the rules and there are plenty of crossroads without any roundabouts or traffic lights, where you need to be extra careful. However, driving in Mexico city certainly isn’t impossible. If you want some useful advice, make sure to check out my guide to driving in Mexico city!

Once you rented a car, you need to get a bit of cash for the toll roads or buy a special “multimodal” device from Oxxo or 7 Eleven (you can charge it there too). It might not be worth it if you’re only going to Ixtapan; however, if you’re taking a proper road trip in Mexico, this device will save you a lot of time. It’s accepted pretty much everywhere, so it’s very convenient.

Make sure to charge the device with a lot of money, as you will probably need around 500 MXN to drive to Ixtapan and back ($25) as a few paid roads to exit Mexico city via Santa Fe are expensive! Alternatively, you can take free roads (to exit the city only), but it will take a bit longer.

There is also a free road to Ixtapan de la Sal, but it would take you 3.5-4 hours getting there via a free road.

Getting to Ixtapan de la Sal by bus

If you’re not very keen on hiring a car to go to Ixtapan de la Sal, you can get there by bus. You can find more information, prices and timetables here.

The journey takes around 2 hours 40 and costs around 166 MXN or less than $10 one way.

Great things to do in Ixtapan de la Sal | The Thermal capital of Mexico

Finally, let’s talk about the best things to do in Ixtapan de la Sal – the thermal capital of Mexico!

Drive through Mexico’s tallest city – Toluca

On the way to Ixtapan, you will actually be driving near Mexico’s tallest city, Toluca, located at around 2.8km above the sea level. Some parts of the road pass at even km above the sea level.

If you have time, you can drive through Toluca! It might not be the prettiest city in Mexico (it’s quite industrial, to be honest); however, it’s still interesting!

On a clear day, you can also see the beautiful Nevado de Toluca – the 4th highest volcano in Mexico! In winter, its tip will, most probably, be covered in snow. It’s also very cold up there, so make sure to bring some warm clothes if you decide to visit.

Visit a Thermal water park or a spa.

Ixtapan de la Sal has a huge water park with a few thermal pools. You can even hire a private “Roman bath” for yourself. There are also a few lidos (balnearios) with thermal water that are even cheaper than the water park! There are also plenty of lidos in a tiny town next to Ixtapan called Malinalco! If you want a more private and relaxed experience, you can also stay at one of the hotels that have a swimming pool (unfortunately, hotels in Ixtapan De La Sal don’t have thermal pools).

Walk around the city centre

As I mentioned before, Ixtapan de la Sal one of Mexico’s 134 pueblos magicos, so the city centre of Ixtapan is very pretty. Like any rural town, it’s pretty laid-back: nobody is rushing anywhere.

It takes around 2 hours to walk around the city centre, buy a paleta and have a quick lunch!

Visit the caves – Grutas La Estrella

Ixtapan has amazing caves, where you can even swim in an underground river (although it must have changed recently during the pandemic). The caves are located a short drive away and are called Grutas La Estrella. The entrance costs circa 50 MXN, so they are definitely cheap!

Stay overnight in a spa hotel

If you’re planning to stay in Ixtapan de la Sal overnight and wondering where to stay and what is the best spa hotel in Ixtapan, here are the best options:

Rancho San Diego Spa Resort

Victoria Hotel and Spa


Go on a day trip to Taxco

If you’re coming to Ixtapan de la Sal for a weekend or longer, you can also visit the silver capital in Mexico – beautiful Taxco in Guerrero! It takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to drive to Taxco, and the road is pretty safe and very photogenic.

Taxco is the best place to buy silver in Mexico, however, it’s also a beautiful and unique city. Taxco is located on top of a hill and has very swirly narrow roads. Most of the cars in Taxco are white old Volkswagen beetles. Considering the fact that the city is full of these cars, it looks absolutely surreal!

Summary of the best things to do in Ixtapan de la Sal

Ixtapan de la Sal is a great day (or weekend trip) destination if you’re based in Mexico City or taking a long trip all around Mexico! There are plenty of things to do in Ixtapan de la Sal, from exploring the town centre of this “Pueblo Magico” to visiting stunning caves and thermal pools. There are also a few interesting locations nearby including Nevado de Toluca and Taxco, the silver capital in Mexico. You can get to Ixtapan de la Sal by car or by bus in just 2-2.5 hours from Mexico City!

Some other posts you might find interesting:

Cancun vs Riviera Maya: what are the main differences

Driving in Mexico City: things you need to know

Driving to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende

or just check our Mexico travel category for more useful posts about travelling around Mexico!

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