A guide to flying near Tenancingo, Mexico - updated for December 2023

Alex and I had planned a Mexico trip for a while, wanting to go someplace before the winter holidays.  Mexico is an easy choice since it’s easy to get to and the logistics are relatively straightforward.  The usual visiting pilot season runs from November onwards, with general conditions (and cloud base) ramping up in December and considered "strong" in January and February.  We planned to spend about 10 days in Tenancingo before relocating to Valle de Bravo for another 10 days.

Overview of Tenancingo with the Market LZ visible in the centre (filled with vendor tents on Thursdays and Sundays)

When you arrive at the Mexico City airport, assuming you’ve arrived into terminal 1, you can get your Mexican Sim card sorted out right away.  When you exit international arrivals at T1 you will find yourself between doors 7 and 8; simply backtrack to between doors 6 and 7 and you will see a ramp heading up to the second floor. At the top of that ramp is a Telcel store  (open 9am to 5pm) which will sell you a Sim card and a phone plan for very cheap.  If the Telcel store is closed, you can also visit the Airport's 7-11 or local OXXO stores to get sorted out.  I’m sure there’s cheaper ways of getting yourself a Sim card once you leave the airport but this way gets you set up right away in case you need to start communicating with other pilots ASAP.   Another option is for you to install an e-sim prior to leaving your home country.  2 options are Airalo or Ubigi...both have Mexican e-plans and you'll be sorted as soon as your plane lands in Mexico!

Christo Rey statue in Tenancingo.  If walking up, it's ~1200 steps once you get to the staircase!  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Our plan was to take the AeroCaminante bus from the Mexico City airport to Toluca (245 pesos) and then get a taxi from Toluca to Tenancingo (400-600 pesos depending on your haggling skills).  The AeroCaminante ticket sales is just past the Telcel store on the second floor. Walk through the food court and you will see the ticket booths on the other side…there’s a bus every hour.  

If taking the bus from the Mexico City airport, you end up at the AeroCaminante bus station in Toluca: a smaller, separate bus station from the much larger general Toluca bus station (which houses the "regular" non-Aero Caminante company, along with the myriad of other bus companies).  So be aware if you plan to bus further than Toluca, you will need to get from one station to the other via 45 minutes of walking or a 10-minute taxi ride (70-100 pesos).  If you choose to take a bus from Toluca to Tenancingo instead of a taxi, it'll be from the larger bus station (using the "Zina/Teo" companyand cost 44 pesos.

Between Tenancingo and the Toluca volcano are many greenhouses, so choose your LZs carefully!  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Daniel Pedraza and his daughter Daniela are the main points of contact if you want to arrange for drivers or access to the launches.  Daniela runs a taxi company so if you require a ride she will send one of her taxi drivers to come get you.  From MEX airport is 1500-2000 pesos, from Toluca is ~600 pesos.

Petroglyphs in the jungle on the La Malinche ridge

There are quite a few Canadian paraglider pilots staying in Tenancingo over the winter months. If you are new to the area and want organized guiding, contact Sea To Sky Paragliding since they run excellent weekly tours all winter in this area (Alex and I used them in 2018...highly recommended!).  Casa Del Piloto is the main house where most pilots stay.  But if the house is full there are plenty of Airbnbs and hotels around.  Casa Del Piloto will often have a shuttle running from their place twice a day. Check with them to see if they have space. If not it’s quite easy to take your own taxi to the launches. If you need to find a taxi walk over to the Garis department store (next to the LZ).  There is a taxi stand inside the parking lot, and the taxi drivers there can take you to either the morning Bistro launch or the afternoon La Malinche launch.

Lookout Rock on the La Malinche ridge.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

To get to the Bistro launch have the taxi drive you to just outside the town of San Simon el Alto and then direct them to the Telcel tower (it’s a dirt road but passable via taxi).  Launch is the field below the tower.  It faces SE so you can fly there late morning or early afternoon. A local tandem pilot from Malinalco (Pablo Lopez) will often be there on weekends.  Note: as of December 2023, the launch is covered in a bean crop, so you'll have to launch at the very bottom of the slot.

Brad getting ready on the Bistro launch.  November is prime wildflower season!

Bistro launch is generally considered a cross country site, so once you get high you have the choice of flying back to Tenancingo, going to Chalma to the SE, flying towards the volcano, or attempting to fly to La Malinche.  If you make it to La Malinche you can then top land and have a nice siesta before re-launching for the afternoon restitution and then flying back to Tenancingo.  Here is a typical flight from Bistro to La Malinche and then to Tenancingo.  

If you choose to land at the bottom of Bistro, near the town of San Nicolas, a common LZ is the “Lemon field”, and there will be lots of collectivo (shared) taxis driving to Tenancingo or Malinalco from the road.  Just flag one of them down and squeeze in (it should be less than 50 pesos from Malinalco area back to Tenancingo).

Another nearby flying site is called El Picacho.  This can be used pretty much all day (it faces south) and you can either fly locally (landing here...don't land at the golf course!), or fly XC towards the Toluca volcano or elsewhere.  Have a taxi take you to Santa Cruz Tezontepec, take the turnoff here, and drive south to the end of the road where it turns to dirt.  Then keep walking for ~10 minutes (slightly downhill) until you reach launch.  Here is a typical flight from El Picacho to La Malinche and back to Tenancingo.  Note: the local farmer/landowner, if present, will ask you for a 50-peso launch fee.

Above Santa Cruz, looking south.  El Picacho launch is off the end of the plateau where it drops down to the  Malinalco valley.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

If you prefer to wait for an afternoon flight, La Malinche faces SSW and is flyable from about 11am until dark.  If you end up taking your own taxi to this flying site (100-120 pesos) have the taxi driver take you to the town of Terrenate, keep driving uphill until the road turns to dirt, and then drop you off at the large tree after ~200 m of driving on the dirt road.  The road falls apart at this point so it’s easiest to just walk it and it takes 8-10 minutes.  Note as of December 2023: Daniel plans to have the final part of the road to launch paved sometime in 2024, so there is the possibility of taking a taxi all the way to launch, once paving is complete!

La Malinche launch and the pilot's hostel.  Tenancingo in the background.

On launch you will find the hostel that the Pedraza family has built. Pilots are welcome to stay there: inquire with Daniel or Daniela about pricing, and there is a bathroom, kitchen, cell signal, hot water, and electricity.  There is also camping welcome on launch for those who choose to bring their own tents.

If you sink out at La Malinche, you end up here.  There is a hiking trail (1 hour) back to launch.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

The shared kitchen at the pilot hostel at La Malinche.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

The shared bedroom and bathroom with bunk beds.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

He has several rooms, one room is bunkbeds to accommodate up to 4 pilots, and he has separate rooms for a couples or those who prefer a bit more privacy.  And the kitchen is fully equipped for cooking.

The matrimonial room at the La Malinche hostel, with a fantastic sunset view.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

The Pedraza family has done a fantastic job with the take off!  The launch is green grass and is perfectly groomed with lots of space to lay out 10 gliders.  (As of December 2023: Daniel plans to enlarge launch even more by taking out the rocks near the outhouse on the west end.)  And it’s relatively easy to top land as well, provided you can get down through the abundant lift. Many pilots take a few go-arounds before making it in!

The Pedraza's Mexican dinner offering on La Malinche launch.  Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.

Definitely ask the Pedraza family about their "Mexican dinner" option on La Maliche launch!  They will do up a fantastic meal for you or a group with multiple Mexican dishes and you'll be stuffed by the end of the night!

Some top-landings go better than others!

If you choose to land in Tenancingo there are a couple of options. One landing zone is called 2 Trees, is directly behind launch and easy to glide to from about 2300m.  Another common LZ is the Cinema, a short distance beyond 2 Trees and closer to the main road and taxis back to town.  If you can make it to 2700m you can then make the glide to the Tenancingo market landing zone.  Be aware that this LZ will be full of parked cars and tents on market days (Thursdays and Sundays). On these two days you will need to land in the unused corner which is closest to the powerlines and road.  There is a prison close by. When approaching the landing zone make sure not to overfly the prison directly!

La Malinche has excellent hammocks for an afternoon siesta!

Tenancingo is a fantastic place to fly, and a good alternative for those who find Valle de Bravo too busy, too expensive, or want to explore a bit more of "rural" Mexico.  If you are a lower airtime pilot this area may be more suitable vs. Valle de Bravo since it does not involve the crux of having to XC it back to the lake each flight.  For those wanting a bit of XC, this area has lots of crossings, valley systems, and interesting local meteorology.  There are also other nearby sites within 1-2 hours (Ixtapan, Taxco, etc) so there are definitely lots of sites to explore and not use the same ones day after day!