Peñón de los Baños is one of about 40 public bathhouses in Mexico City. It’s the only one fed by natural volcanic springs. The history goes back centuries. It’s easily the only bathhouse convenient to the airport, and represents a real opportunity for those en route to South America. (There’s no place better for a 12-hour layover than Mexico City.)
The cost is mx$215 pesos. That’s for a private room with bath. The owners recommend no food for three hours prior to arrival. Immersions should be of 15 to 20 minutes in the water, which is reported to be between 37 & 46 degrees celcius. There is ample space for a recommended 20- to 30-minute rest. And a follow-up massage takes 45 minutes and puts you back another mx$300 pesos.
The site name cames from the Peñón, like a giant rock or hill. Today that rock hosts the spinning radar tower, and the Mexico City Metro burrows under its west side. It’s easy to imagine it as the small island that it was for centuries. It was also, historically, a part of Tlatelolco, even before the purchase of the Aragón area, just north of here.
The Nahuatl name, “Tepetzinco,” means simply, hill. There were believed to be a number of sacred constructions, most likely in the area of the Santos Reyes church and the Market. But in 2000, fossil remains of a woman found here were dated to 12,500 years ago.
The recently restored Guadalupe Chapel within the medicinal baths complex dates from 1765. It is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. The baths’ most famous visitor was Moctezuma II himself. Later 19th-century naturalists, Andrés Manuel del Río and Alexander von Humboldt analyzed the waters quite scientifically for their age. The Emperor Maximiliano and his wife Carlota are said to have visited on numerous occasions. It’s ironic then that the surrounding neighborhood is also home to Mexico City’s biggest Cinco de Mayo celebrations. The May 5th Battle of Puebla saw the French most soundly defeated in 1862.
One could walk in about 15 minutes from the Mexico City Airport to the baths. A walk from Metro Terminal Area, at the far western end of the airport, can be done in just five minutes. (Exit from the Pantitlan-bound platform and use the Metro tunnel to pass underneath the Circuito Interior highway.)
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.