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With its majestic height, the Popocatepetl volcano towers over the surrounding landscape. The locals of Mexico City affectionately refer to it as 'Popo'. The volcano is a wonderful destination for walking, climbing, skiing or simply to take in the views. But make no mistake, 'Popo' is still active.
Popocatepetl means 'smoking mountain' in the Aztec language, an accurate description of Popo. Since 1994 the volcano has been somewhat active again and it’s not uncommon to see smoke plumes. The last serious activity was in 2013 when Popo spewed out clouds of ashes, forcing air traffic to avoid the area. The climb to the top of the 5,426 metre-high Popo is not particularly tough but takes at least 6 hours one way.
Estimated to be around 730,000 years old, Popocatepetl is a so-called stratovolcano: a cone-shaped volcano composed of many layers of hard lava. The volcano is connected to its 'twin brother' Iztaccihuatl. Both volcanoes are located approximately 70 kilometres from Mexico City and are separated by a 16-km-long mountain ridge. A tour along this ridge offers great views of Popo and is a nice alternative in case the giant is too active to climb. Various tour operators in Mexico City offer guided tours to these volcanoes.
“14 Spanish monasteries from the 16th century dot the slopes of the volcano”
In addition to nature and scenic views, Popocatepetl also offers interesting historic attractions. Along the slopes of the volcano you will find 14 Spanish monasteries dating back to the 16th-century. These offer a wonderful glimpse into Mexico’s history during Spanish rule. The Spaniards built these monasteries in an attempt to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. All monasteries are open to visitors. The special Monastery Route leads along 11 of them.