Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park: The Complete Guide

Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park was decreed by President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1935, making it the oldest national park in Mexico.

In 1937, the Zoquiapam Farm was added, so its official name is Parque Nacional Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl Zoquiapan, although people often refer to it simply as Parque Izta-Popo.

It extends over 98,395 acres and crosses three state divisions: Puebla, Morelos, and the State of Mexico.

Izta-Popo's main attractions are the two prominent snow-capped volcanoes that are an imposing part of the Mexican landscape and also feature prominently in mythology.

Local legend imagines them as lost lovers: The Smoky Mountain (Popocatepetl) was a fierce warrior, and his beloved, the White Woman (Iztaccihuatl), was a princess.

They couldn't be together in life, but they turned into mountains so they could be together for the rest of the time.

When viewed from the west or east, the top of Iztaccihuatl clearly looks like a sleeping woman.

In 1519, the Spanish invaders, led by Hernán Cortés, crossed the two volcanoes on the way to Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City), giving the name: “El Paso de Cortes”.

Later, Cortés would send some of his men to climb Popocatepetl and obtain sulfur from the interior of the volcano, which they used to make gunpowder.

We hope you enjoy watching this video about Trekkings The Izta-Popo National Park in Puebla, Mexico

Source: Casa Veeyuu

Things to do

This national park is the ideal place for nature lovers and offers a quiet outdoor getaway, such as a day trip from Mexico City or Puebla.

There are many options for hiking. Climbers, with the necessary preparation and equipment, can scale its peaks, while other visitors can take easier mid-altitude trails or mountain biking, camping or having a picnic in the open air and with wonderful views.

The park is home to several different ecosystems, including pine forests, grasslands, alpine areas, and mixed pine-fir forests, which are home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

Be on the lookout for the teporingo (also known as the zacatuche or volcano rabbit), a very cute little bunny that is only found on the slopes of Mexico's volcanoes and is now in danger of extinction.

There are also white-tailed deer, gray foxes, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, and badgers, as well as many species of birds. See the national park species checklist on iNaturalist.

Some choose to take the route through the Paso de Cortes on the way from Puebla to Mexico City (or vice versa), as an alternative to the toll road.

It takes longer, but it is much more scenic. The highway on the Mexico City side is paved and the signage is good, while the Puebla side is unpaved and sometimes in poor condition, so if you plan to take this route, it is better to go on a vehicle with good ground clearance and preferably with all-wheel drive.

The Paso de Cortes Visitor Center is nestled between volcanoes 12,000 feet above sea level.

This is the starting point for exploring the park and offers spectacular views of the volcanoes.

There are toilets, water, and snacks for sale here, and tourist information is available.

If you are going hiking or camping, sign up and pay for the park entrance fee; You will receive a bracelet to show that you have paid the fee.

Better walks and trails

There are several hiking options within the park. There are several trails that start from the Paso de Cortes, and La Joya is the beginning of the trails to the peaks of Iztaccihuatl.

Most people drive to La Joya and start walking from there, but you can also choose to walk from Paso de Cortés to La Joya, about 5 miles. ExperTurismo offers day and night walk at all levels of difficulty.

Summits Adventure offers mountain bike tours. Choose a one or two-day adventure.

They have bikes or you can bring your own.

Many visitors come just to take on the challenge of climbing Iztaccihuatl, which at more than 17,000 feet above sea level is the third highest peak in Mexico.

Due to its eruptive activity, it is forbidden to climb Popocatepetl.

If you plan to climb to the top of Iztaccihuatl, you must go with a guide.

There are different companies that offer tours, or you can ask at the visitor center if a guide is available.

While Iztaccihuatl may not seem like a very challenging climb, the upper areas are covered in snow and ice and you should only venture with the necessary equipment and experience.

Where to Camp

Camping is allowed in Paso de Cortes, La Joya, and Llano Grande, but you must obtain a permit.

The facilities are minimal: bring everything you need for your stay.

If you go up to Iztaccihuatl, there are some "Refuges" or shelters where you can stay, but space is limited and again you will have to bring everything you need: a sleeping bag, food, water, toilet paper.

Where to Stay Nearby

Many people on climbing expeditions choose to stay in Amecameca, about 25 kilometers from Paso de Cortes, for an early start.

Here are some simple but useful hotels, such as Hotel Fontesanta, Hotel San Carlos, and Hotel El Marques.

Hotel Campestre Eden is located inside the park and has cabins and offers a temazcal experience.

For something more sophisticated, Hacienda San Andrés in Ayapango is a good option, with a spa and country food.

How to get there

  • Getting to the Izta-Popo National Park in a private vehicle is the most convenient way to do it.

It takes approximately one hour and forty-five minutes by car from Mexico City to Paso de Cortes via Amecameca or, if you are coming from Puebla, about two hours via Cholula and San Buenaventura Nealtican.

Some of the roads within the park are quite bumpy and a vehicle with high ground clearance is recommended.

  • There are many tour companies that offer activities in the park and provide transportation from Mexico City or Puebla to the Park.
  • If you use public transportation, from the TAPO bus station in Mexico City, you can take a bus to Amecameca.

In Amecameca's main square, you can find a bus that goes to Paso de Cortés or hire a taxi (and arrange for a later pick-up).

Tips for your visit

  • Popocatepetl is an active volcano, so you should check its activity before starting your trip.

It is not uncommon for the volcano to spew ash and dust, in which case access to the site may not be allowed.

You can consult the Mexican government website CENAPRED, which offers up-to-date information on volcanic activity (in Spanish).

  • Start early as the best visibility is early in the morning and around sunset.

You will be very disappointed if you come to the park and cannot see the volcanoes!

  • Register at the Paso de Cortés Visitor Center or at the Amecameca National Park headquarters.

You will need a permit to get to La Joya, which is the base of the trails to Iztaccihuatl.

  • If you go hiking, make sure you bring enough water. You'll find bottled water for sale in Paso de Cortes and sometimes in La Joya.
  • Wear sunscreen. Although you may be bundling up to protect yourself from a cold at this altitude, the sun is still strong, so be sure to protect exposed skin.
  • Layered dress. With a wide range of altitudes, the temperatures within the park can vary greatly.

Come prepared with a sweater and a jacket, and if you are going to climb, a hat and gloves as well.

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