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Iztaccíhuatl – Popocatépetl National Park

Photo credit: Lopezia/Sorokin / Foter / CC BY-ND
Iztaccíhuatl – Popocatépetl National Park
  • (worth a detour)
  • NA
  • High
  • Free
  • full day
  • 2 2

A tragic love story between two volcanoes

The Iztaccíhuatl – Popocatépetl National Park is located between Mexico City, the state of Morelos and the state of Puebla, lying on the eastern side of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt. The park is the home to Mexico’s two most majestic volcanoes: Popocatépetl and Izztaccíhuatl.


Popocatépetl (“the Smoking Mountain”) is an active volcano that erupts quite frequently and stands at an altitude of 5,426 m (17,802 feet), making Mexico’s second highest volcano.


Izztaccíhuatl (Sleeping woman”), unlike Popocatepetl, remains dormant and has an altitude of  5,230 m (17,160 feet) above sea level.

Aside from the obvious and undeniable beauty of the two volcanoes, what makes them even more interesting is how the Nahua people (a group of indigenous people in Mexico) always seemed to romanticize everything that came into their sight; and these two volcanoes are not an exception to this rule.


The story starts with a warrior named Popocatépetl who was hopelessly in love with Iztaccíhuatl, a Princess. The princess’s father, the emperor, promised his daughter’s hand to Popocatépetl if he went to fight at war and came back alive.


Determined, the warrior headed to Oaxaca to fight. Meanwhile, another warrior who was also in love with the princess, told everyone that Popocatépetl had been murdered. Devastated, Iztaccíhuatl committed suicide.


Months later, Popocatepetl returned victorious and looked for his fiancée only to hear the tragic news. He held the princess in his arms and walked for days on end looking for a proper place to mourn her. When he found it, he lit a torch beside her and lay next to her until the fire consumed him. Days later, two mysterious volcanoes appeared out of nowhere spewing smoke and lava on the place where they had both laid.

Ever since, they both lie if front of one another until the end of times. Iztaccíhuatl has achieved eternal sleep and has now become a dormant volcano; Popocateptl, on the other hand, still seems to be enraged and will erupt on a regular basis.


Interestingly enough, Iztaccíhuatl does indeed resemble the body of a woman laying on the ground. Could the legend be true?