Festivals and Events, Mexico City

Mexico City during Easter Week

Basilica de Guadalupe, Mexico City

One of Mexico City’s distinctive features is the extraordinary number of people and road vehicles which almost constantly make their presence felt on the capital’s streets every day of the week.

The sheer volume of people living in the capital which, in turn, creates its legendary rush hours — of which there are three: 6 to ~10 a.m, 1 to 3 p.m. and again between 7 and 9 p.m. — make Mexico City a pretty challenging place to get around in on an average week day.

But something quite remarkable happens in Mexico City during Easter Week: the capital’s now-normal congestion eases substantially.

Easter is an important religious holiday in Mexico, and more people travel during this time than at Christmas.  As with Thanksgiving in the United States, Easter is a time when Mexicans travel to be with their families, and it’s also the most popular time of year for family vacations.  School is out for two weeks and workers book time off and flock to Mexico’s beaches, or take vacations abroad.

If you travel to any of Mexico’s popular retreats or vacation spots during Easter, expect airports and bus stations to be hectic, interstate highways around principal cities to be busy, hotels to be heavily-booked, and leisure attractions to be teeming with people.  It’s also the most expensive time of year to vacation in Mexico.

The Easter exodus from Mexico City begins on the first Friday of the holiday period.  Roads south to Cuernavaca and Acapulco, south-east towards Puebla and Veracruz, west to Guadalajara and Morelia or north towards Queretaro and the colonial heartland are packed with cars on the first weekend of the Easter holiday.   The airports at Mexico City and Toluca experience their busiest weeks of the year during Easter, so even flying-out of the capital requires patience.

A second flurry of people leave on days following Good Friday, as those who had to work earlier in the week finally take their leave from the capital for a long weekend away.

A corollary of the holiday exodus is a capital that can feel more like Mexico City on any given Sunday in 1976. Journey times that could take two hours during a ‘normal’ weekday are completed in thirty minutes. Car parks have ample free spaces in them. Restaurants and bars are less crowded. Museums and parks are quieter, more serene.

Some of the colonial enclaves within the city, like San Angel and Coyoacán, which are usually bustling with activity, feel close to the small provincial villages they were before the capital engulfed them. The city’s metro, buses, and micro-buses don’t tend to have their passengers packed to the rafters; taxis and Ubers are plentiful and fares cost less due to shorter journey times.

The air is fresher and feels more crisp, especially during the mornings.  The majestic volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl, which have flanked the valley since time immemorial, may be seen clearly from vantage points facing south-east as the smog clears.

The feel and vibration of one of the world’s largest capital cities is transformed during Easter Week: its natural — almost mystic — aura becomes emphasized as the noise and commotion created by twenty million people going about their daily lives eases for short while.

If you enjoy big cities, but you prefer less congestion when you visit them, note Easter in your diary as an ideal week to visit Mexico City.  Conversely, if you like big cities and the swirl of people, activity and movement which normally accompanies them, make a note to avoid Mexico City during Easter.

If you like to avoid the crowds and have a flexible schedule, visiting Mexico City during Easter and then heading out to Mexico’s beaches and colonial cities after the Easter holidays have passed will afford you the best of both situations: you’ll enjoy a tranquil capital and a quiet, off-peak, visit to a beach and/or colonial region afterwards.

The capital’s activity levels begin to pick up again after Easter Week, but it’s not until the following Monday after Easter Sunday, when the holiday period is properly over and the kids are back at school that Mexico City will return to its usual high levels of activity and congestion.

If you have to travel in Mexico City on the first Monday after the two-week Easter break, allow yourself plenty of time and patience for your journey across the city.

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1 Comment

  1. Alice says

    This is my first trip to Mexico City. Been here since February. Thank you for this article. I’m in Coyoacan and just love it here. Plan to walk to San Angel later today.

    Your writings gave me the inspiration to visit Mexico City. So, thank you.

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