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Basic Guide for Climbing Iztaccihuatl Volcano

By Karelyn López |

In DINKtravelers we tell you all about the legend of the Iztaccihuatl volcano, as well as some climbing tips, so you live an unforgettable experience in this Mexican volcano.

Ecotourism is the perfect way to discover the natural beauties of a country. In the past, we have taken you to incredible places such as the Nevado de Toluca in Mexico, Gemona del Friuli,the Lake District in Europe, and even the mysterious Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. This time, we want to introduce you to the mythical Iztaccihuatl volcano.

Iztaccihuatl Volcano  

“The most beautiful Tlaxcaltecan princess lies asleep as she waits for her long lost love.”

Grab your backpack and your weatherproof boots and prepare to go on an adventure this weekend. DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, takes you to the Iztaccihuatl, the third tallest mountain in Mexico. It’s time to drive away from stress and discover an iconic destination in the states of Mexico, Morelos and Puebla, where you’ll enjoy beautiful landscapes and practice mountaineering.  

Get in your car and listen to your favorite travel playlist as you drive to Paso de Cortés or Amecameca. Don’t forget your coffee and guajolota (corn dough filled with spicy sauce and shredded pork meat inside a piece of white bread) in case you get hungry! Wait until you see the beautiful figure of a woman lying asleep, waiting for her long lost love.  

The best season to ascend the Iztaccihuatl is from October to February, when days are clearer and the weather is chilly, but nice. You can also climb up during the summer, but take into account that this season is usually rainy.

The Legend of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl

The Iztaccihuatl is also known as the “Sleeping Woman” or “The White Woman” after a Pre-Hispanic myth that was consolidated in the Modern Age. It tells the story of two young Tlaxcaltecan lovers, and illustrates the concept of love in Mexico in the 1930s.  

The warrior Popocatepetl was madly in love with princess Iztaccihuatl. Before going to war, he asked for her hand in marriage. The princess’ father gladly accepted, and promised that when the warrior came back, he’d offer a banquet to celebrate their wedding. Months later, news came that the warrior had died. When Iztaccihuatl heard this, she was devastated and died of sorrow.  

However, Popocatepetl didn’t die, but came back triumphant from the war. When he found the lifeless princess his soul matched the color of the melancholic fields that surround the Iztaccihuatl, which is 3,180 meters high over sea level.  

In order to honor his lover’s memory, Popocatepetl sent thousands of slaves to build her a grave facing the sun. They built it by putting 10 mountains atop one another. That’s where he placed his lover’s lifeless body, which, as soon as it touched the earth, became the mountain’s snowy top. Meanwhile, Popocatepetl sat north of the hill, guarding his princess’ tomb. 

Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl National Park

The Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park was created in 1935 under the rule of president Lázaro Cárdenas. “Los Volcanes” is a Biosphere Reserve protected by UNESCO since 2010. Its geological origin dates back to 30 million years ago. It’s contemporary with the Transverse Volcanic Axis, and it’s located only 70 km away from the country’s capital.  

For these reasons, it’s one of the most popular tourist sites for mountaineering enthusiasts and experts. Moreover, it is known as the “Water Factory” of the most populated region in Mexico.  

The Iztaccihuatl runs across 7 km. Its uneven topography with its thalwegs (river beds), steep hills, flora, fauna, and its 32 archaeological sites, will be proof of the park’s iconic landscapes, great biodiversity and cultural heritage.  

The Heart of the Iztaccihuatl 

The valley located between “The Chest” and “The Feet “ (4,740 meters over sea level) of the mountain is known as Ayolocotl. The indigenous inhabitants of the area called it like that because of its heart shape. Some nearby townspeople collect snow from this area. You can also enjoy the snow of this natural “heart” when it’s illuminated by sunrays that give it pink, blue or even purple hues.  

The cone shaped craters of this volcano are found atop The Knees, The Chest (5,230 meters over sea level), and the  The Head (5,146 meters over sea level). They date back to 800 thousand years ago. The rest of the hills are named after the scientists who explored the mountain in the late 19th century.  

Iztaccihuatl Hike

Climbing up the Popocatepetl is forbidden, but if you want to ascend the Iztaccihuatl, drive to Paso de Cortes. From there, take the road (9 km) or walk the alpine trail (7 km) to La Joyita. There you’ll find a parking lot, restrooms and food stalls during the weekends). Only 700 meters away from La Joya (3,900 meters above sea level) you´ll find the ascent to the Iztaccihuatl, going from the Feet to the Head.  

You can also start by climbing up the Head, but in that case, you must drive to the town of San Rafael and take the road to Llano Grande. You’ll have to walk the sandy path of El Tumbaburros, a sinuous trail at a height of 5,156 meters over sea level.  

Most routes take two days and a 10-hour long walk. For difficult routes such as that of the Ayolocotl Glacier or the Ramp of José Oñate (named after a man who had a tragic accident in 1974) you need more time and experience.   

Tips For Climbing the Iztaccihuatl Mountain 

  • You’ll experience several climate changes, so you should have a good physical conditions and wear appropriate clothing.  
  • Practice running, swimming, and other cardiovascular exercises. Strengthen your leg muscles to increase your resistance and prevent injuries.
  • A good flexibility can help you prevent muscle tears, and having core strength will help you keep your balance.
  • Keep hydrated, pack high protein snacks and complex carbs and take breaks from time to time.  
  • Try to sleep 8 hours a day at least for one whole week before your climbing adventure.  
  • Don’t consume alcoholic beverages at least 48 h before your ascent.  
  • At the entrance of the National Park you can find local expedition groups whom which you can rent the necessary equipment.  

Mountaineering Equipment to Climb up the Iztaccihuatl 

  • Crampons 
  • Sunscreen lotion  
  • Mountaineering helmet with frontal LED lamp  
  • Piolet 
  • Trekking poles 
  • Personal first-aid kit  
  • Camping backpack and camping gear  
  • Survival kit: bottled water, blankets, chloride tablets, extra clothes, matches, lantern with batteries, compass, card of medical information, and snack bars. 


Iztaccihuatl Hike Outfit 

  • Weatherproof hiking boots 
  • Polypropylene socks 
  • Dri-Fit hiking shirt 
  • Weatherproof anorak
  • Fleece or polar
  • Mittens or hiking gloves
  • Hiking weatherproof pants
  • Winter hat or baklava
  • Sunglasses for mountain sports  

The Glacier of the Iztaccihuatl Mountain

The Ayoloco Glacier is one of the most difficult trails at the Iztaccihuatl. Along this trail you’ll find places such as the Shark Snout, the Red Wall, the Cross of Roses and the Otis McAllister Refuge. From the latter, cross the glacier that takes you directly to the middle of the mountain or to the Chest.  

The Oñate Ramp, the Head and the Hair, full of crevices covered with greenish-blue stalactites, are the favorite spots of the most experienced climbers.  

Cost of the Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl National Park  

The entrance to the Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl National Park costs $30.50 MXN per person. It includes: guided or self-guided tours, camping sites, bike trails, hiking trails, restrooms and parking. For $30.50 pesos more you can spend the night at the Altzomoni shelter. Reservations are required during the high season: November-March. You can find more informationabout this  here.

Art Inspired by the Popocatepetl and the Iztaccihuatl   

The mythical aura of the mountain inspired painters from the Landscape Painting School such as Gerardo Murillo (Doctor Atl), Ixca Farías, Pedro Galarza Durán and Francisco Torres.

Among the muralists that painted the Iztaccihuatl are Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Juan O’Gorman. Also, we can mention members of the Mexican Plastic Arts Hall such as Luis Acosta Guitiérrez, Luis Nishizawa, Olga Acosta, Sofía Bassi, Nicolás Moreno, and Feliciano Peña.  

Static and eternal is how the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl remain in the paintings of some of the best Mexican artists. We are sure these witnesses of time, life, love, and nature will inspire you and stay in your memory forever.  

Now that you know the basics for climbing the Iztaccihuatl, it’s time to prepare your backpack and plan your trip. When you reach the top, enjoy the view, and the satisfaction of having climbed the third highest mountain in Mexico. When you come back, share your big achievement with us!