Feb 7, 2024
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Paso de Cortés, a Mountain Pass Between Volcanoes in Mexico

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Paso de Cortes is a high mountain pass located in central Mexico, between the two iconic volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. It sits at an altitude of about 3,700 meters (12,100 feet), making it a popular spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The pass is situated in the State of Mexico, within the Izta-Popo Zoquiapan National Park, approximately 90 kilometers southeast of Mexico City. The pass marks the continental divide between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins.

NamePaso de Cortés
Elevation3,400 m (11,200 ft)
LocationEstado de México

The Popocatépetl volcano on the left and the Iztaccíhuatl volcano on the right. The Paso de Cortés passes through the middle.


The pass is named after Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who crossed it in 1519 on his way to conquer the Aztec empire in Tenochtitlán (present-day Mexico City). It is said that some of his men even climbed Popocatépetl from here to collect sulfur for gunpowder.

Driving El Paso de Cortés

Driving Paso de Cortés can be a bit challenging, as the road is narrow and winding. It is paved and in good condition, so a 4WD car is not necessary. Just be sure to take your time and drive carefully.

The Paso de Cortés is open all year long, however, the weather conditions can vary greatly depending on the time of year. In the winter, it can be quite cold and snowy, so be sure to dress warmly if you’re visiting during that time.

The pass is accessible by car or bus, although the last stretch requires driving on a winding mountain road. Be sure to check weather conditions before heading up, as it can get quite cold and windy at high altitude.

Places you can visit around Paso de Cortés

  • Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, hike on scenic trails, have a picnic, or simply relax and take in the fresh mountain air. Some adventurous souls even choose to camp overnight to experience the starry night sky.
  • Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl Volcanoes: These two iconic volcanoes are a must-see for any visitor to the area. You can hike up the slopes, or simply admire them from the pass.
  • Parque Nacional Izta-Popo Zoquiapan: This national park is home to the volcanoes, as well as forests, meadows, and lakes. There are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities here.
  • Amecameca: This town is located at the foot of the volcanoes and is a good base for exploring the area. There are several markets, restaurants, and shops here.
  • Cholula: This historic city is known for its many churches, including the Great Pyramid of Cholula. It’s also a great place to try traditional Mexican food.
  • There is a small monument at the pass commemorating Cortés’ crossing.

The area is known for its traditional Mexican food stalls, offering local specialties like quesadillas and barbacoa.

Paso de Cortés on Google Maps

Mexico · North America

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