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Attractions in Toluca, Mexico: What to do and where to go
Toluca is an incredibly cultural city that features lots of fascinating museums. In fact, it is number two in the whole country with respect to the number of museums and historical sites. Toluca is also full of outstanding neoclassical architecture and has been rated as one of Mexico's most architecturally beautiful cities. When walking through the streets of Toluca you will be able to see an endless assortment of buildings dating all the way back to the 16th century that contrast perfectly with the city's modern industrial face.
Religion and mysticism manifest themselves in the diversity of cultural, religious and folkloric festivities. For example the celebration of the Day of the Dead, carried out during the month of November in the streets of Toluca, and the traditional ''Alfenique Fair'', where death is represented on the many different shaped candies created by the skilled hands of the local craftsmen. Also, for the entertainment of visitors, the city of Toluca features an incredible amount of beautiful natural attractions just waiting to be explored.
In the surrounding areas of Toluca, in direct contrast to the modern hectic lifestyle, there are large expanses of open countryside with stunning vistas, ideal for enjoying all kinds of outdoor activities, such as camping, exploring archeological sites or simply interacting with nature as you enjoy the clean fresh air and forget about the rush of the city.
In Toluca's surrounding area, there are several archeological sites that take us way back into the past, to a time long before the Spanish conquest. One of the best sites is Calixtlahuaca, where even though this area was mainly occupied by the Matlazincas, there are also buildings, built by the Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc tribes, and architectural elements that prove that this site was also inhabited by the Teotihuacan and Toltec cultures. This is now known due to the architectural elements shown on these buildings. Calixtlahuaca is one of the most important pre-Hispanic religious centers in the region and it is located just 10 kilometers northwest of Toluca.
Centro Cultural Mexiquense
This beautiful place features a large number of services of public interest, such as a library and very important museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Anthropology and History Museum and the Museum of Popular Culture. In this area there are also places to play sports or relax with a family picnic.
The Cosmovitral is a spectacular construction, built in Toluca at the beginning of 1900 to serve as a venue for a renowned market. It was remodeled in the seventies, into an art nouveau building that features 65 stained glass windows, made of 1500 pieces of glass brought from Europe. The work was done by a famous artist called Leopoldo Flores Valdes, who was a native of Toluca. The Cosmovitral has some of some the greatest artistic work in the whole country and it is one of the largest of its type in the world. It is home to a stunning botanical garden where you can admire over a thousand species of plants, all in an incredibly tranquil environment surrounded by three thousand pieces of glass in 28 different colors.
This dynamic city welcomes its visitors with a beautiful landscape and natural attractions, such as the Insurgente Miguel Hidalgo National Park, popularly known as ''La Marquesa'', where you can enjoy several outdoor activities as well as some extreme sports. ''La Marquesa", located 32 kilometers east of Toluca, is a wide valley of almost 4 thousand acres, where the weather remains mild year round. La Marquesa also features an important ecological conservation center, from where you will find several trails, ideal for a hike or a horseback ride through the pristine natural environment.
In Toluca you will find a lots of great museums, such as the Fine Arts Museum that features sculptures and paintings of a great artistic importance; the Stamp Museum that exhibits the work of renowned artists such as Jose Luis Cuevas, Pedro Coronel and Gunther Gerzo. The Jose Maria Velasco and Felipe Gutierrez museums exclusively exhibit the realist paintings created by these two renowned Mexican artists.
Other museums and galleries definitely worth visiting while on your trip to Toluca are Museo de la Acuarela, located in one of Toluca's oldest landmark buildings, housing beautiful watercolors by local painters and secondly the History and Anthropology Museum, with its fantastic collection of over 7000 pieces. There is also a great Modern Art Museum with a selection of art by renowned artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. The Folk Art Museum should definitely be mentioned for it exhibits on different aspects of Mexican culture, such as typical cuisine, toys, the rodeo and horsemanship. Finally, one of the most interesting museums is the Museo de Numismatica. Open since 1987, it is the only one of its kind in all of Latin America, displaying, through its many exhibits of Mexican currency, the country's historic evolution and transformation over the years.
Nevado de Toluca
If hiking is your hobby or you just love to ramble through the countryside, you should stop by the Nevado de Toluca Volcano, which is the fourth highest peak in the country and a favorite with eco-tourists. In its crater there are two lagoons that you will be able to easily see, because the Nevado de Toluca is the only volcano in the world that you can drive up, all the way to the top. By the lagoons, there are beautiful wide-open areas, which are perfect for long walks and admiring the fantastic local flora and fauna. A couple of the best places for hiking and natural beauty are ''El Fraile'' and the ''Pico del Aguila''.
Twinned with the town of Tlalpujahua, El Oro is located about a 40-minute drive north of Toluca, in an important mining region on the Michoacan border. Visiting this town is like traveling back in time, to an incredibly wealthy period in Mexican history when Porfirio Diaz was president. The town's stunning French architecture reminds the visitor of the great fortunes amassed by the many prominent families of that time. As well as admiring the distinct French influence and the old gold mines, you can also visit the impressive Brockman Dam, surrounded by a lush forest of evergreens and cedars, ideal for a lovely picnic, a fantastic hike or even a day spent fishing.
In Toluca you will find several large national parks, such as the Sierra Morelos Park, situated 4 kilometers northwest of Toluca, spanning over 700 acres and full of pine tree and eucalyptus forest. In this area, you will also find rustic kiosks and tables next to the lagoon and some outdoor grills, ideal for enjoying a delicious meal while on your camping trip or day out.
Another beautiful area is the Bosencheve National Park, situated 40 miles away from Toluca, it is one of the most important water basins in the Valley of Mexico. It's the perfect place to take a long walk in the forest beside the lagoons and lose yourself in the incredible surrounding natural beauty. Finally, stop by and visit the 2000 Alameda Park, located in southwest Toluca, close to the downtown area. This perfect spot is often the setting for cultural, political and sporting events and for the thrill seeker it also features some of the best mountain bike trails in the area.
Plaza del Parian
This square is a center of gastronomy dedicated to culinary and artistic traditions, as well as typical handmade items. This plaza is one of the most interesting spots for national and international visitors, because it is home to and exhibits the ancient historical archeological roots of Mexico. It is located on the Mexico City - Toluca freeway, which is one of the best, most convenient roads in the country. From here, visitors will be able to view the Ajusco mountain range, the Lerma valley and the Nevado de Toluca volcano. The wide open spaces will take you back to a time when large haciendas stood proud, displaying their beautiful hand-carved wooden and quarry stone facades.
In downtown Toluca, you will find beautiful religious temples of a great historical value, such as the Carmen Temple, built in the eighteenth century. It features an imposing facade, decorated with shields of the Carmelita Order. Now home to the Museum of Fine Arts, it has one of the most comprehensive collections of colonial, modern and contemporary paintings. Also in the downtown area, you will find the Merced Temple that has a splendid baroque design from the seventeenth century.
Furthermore, the most important temple is probably the Toluca Cathedral, which was built on top of the remains of the San Francisco Convent that dates back to the sixteenth century. It features three naves, each adorned with a baroque style altarpiece, and other touches typical of neoclassical times. Finally, do not forget to visit Los Portales, an area with arches and buildings from the nineteenth century that have been transformed into distinctive symbols of Toluca.
Señor de Chalma Temple
About 45 minutes from Toluca, you will find the village of Chalma, famous for people devoted to the Senor de Chalma and considered by many as a miraculous area. The legend says that in 1537 the Spanish monks found out that the indigenous people worshipped Oxtoteotl (god of the caves) with human sacrifices inside a cave not far from town.
The Spanish priests forced the indigenous people to destroy their idol, then mysteriously three days later appeared a statue of Christ in its place, whose image remained inside the cave for another 125 years until the Senor de Chalma Temple was built. A pilgrimage with music and dance is carried out in his honor every year.
Teotenango, also called ''the city of the sacred wall'', is another important pre Hispanic site built by the mazatlincas. If you walk through this site, you will discover the grandeur of this ancient indigenous culture. This city was an important military and religious center. This site is located on the peak of the Tetepetl Mountain. On the mountain side, you will find the Roman Pina Chan Archeological Museum that features archeological pieces from every corner of the state. Teotenango is situated 20 kilometers southeast of Toluca.
Valle de Bravo
This beautiful area has become a favorite vacation or weekend getaway spot with locals and visitors alike. The weather, the lake and the woods provide an absolutely charming environment. When you visit the village of Valle de Bravo, you must visit the ''Plaza de los Tres Arboles'' (Three Trees Square), the Chapel's Viewpoint and the Embarcadero (pier), where you can rent a motorboat for a pleasant ride on the lake. A fun time is guaranteed on your visit to Valle de Bravo, because it is also an excellent place for sports, such as horseback riding and tennis, among many others. When the sun has set, the nightlife begins! There are lots of bars and clubs to be enjoyed and a great night out with friends is guaranteed.
If you like animals and enjoy taking long walks in the open air, you will definitely love the Zacango Zoo. It measures over a hundred acres squared and shelters more than 200 animal species living in recreations of their natural habitat. The zoo is located 12 kilometers south of Toluca on the way to Santa Maria Nativitas. There is also a charming lake where you can enjoy a motorboat ride and a museum that exhibits several stuffed animals. Close to the Zacango Zoo, you will find the town of Calimaya, which is home to a stunning Franciscan Convent, well worth visiting.
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