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Pena de Bernal is a monolith in Mexico that rises a whopping 1,420 feet above the Pueblo Magico tucked at its feet.
It’s a popular tourist destination both for its history and natural beauty. The rock is more than eight million years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its importance as a guardian of sacred territory for the Otomí-Chichimecas people.
The town of Bernal at the rock’s base is considerably younger than the monolith itself, with only around 350 years of history, but both are beautiful, and I recommend adding a day or weekend trip to Pena de Bernal to your central Mexico itinerary.
Dan and I visited from the city of Queretaro, the capital of the state of Queretaro where Pena de Bernal is located. The trip was only about an hour for us, but you can also go fairly easily from Mexico City as well.
Ready to check it out?
This Pena de Bernal travel guide covers alllllll the info you need to know to visit the sacred monolith, explore the Pueblo Magico at its base, and cross one of the 13 Wonders of Mexico off your bucket list!
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The towering monolith from the town of Bernal at its base
How to Get to Pena de Bernal
Pena de Bernal is easiest to visit from Queretaro, a frankly underrated city and one of the best in Mexico. After living and traveling in 14 states over the course of a year, Queretaro is one of my absolute favorite places in the country!
It’s a beautiful colonial city with little tourism and lots of wine and cheese. What’s not to like? It’s similar to the much more popular San Miguel de Allende, but after spending over a month in each I have to say Queretaro is better.
All this is a roundabout way to say I think you should visit Queretaro and then go to Bernal from there, but if you want to go direct from Mexico City I got ya covered as well.
Enjoying the view from about halfway up Pena de Bernal
How to get from Queretaro to Pena de Bernal
You can travel from Queretaro to Pena de Bernal by car, Uber, or bus. I rented a car, but I’ll cover all three options below.
By Rental Car: After spending almost a year in Mexico, Dan and I have finally gotten brave enough to rent a car and it’s crazy easy.
We rent from Alamo in the Fiesta Inn Hotel in Queretaro and have had zero problems. It usually costs around $40 to $50 usd for a 24-hour rental and if you have the budget, this is the most fun way to get from Queretaro to Bernal.
There are lots of vineyards and cheese factories around Bernal that you can add to your day trip if you have the freedom of a car as well.
By Uber: The 50-minute ride from Queretaro to Bernal costs around 550 mxn / 26 usd each way. So, it comes out to about the same price as the rental car but you don’t have to worry about driving yourself or getting in an accident or anything like that. For larger groups of three or four people, splitting the cost makes Uber a pretty budget-friendly option.
By Bus: The bus is the cheapest way to get to Pena de Bernal from Queretaro.
The Flecha Azul and Felcha Amarilla bus lines run to Bernal regularly and you can buy tickets and see the exact schedules at their respective counters in the Queretaro bus station.
Tickets should cost around 50 mxn / 2.50 usd each and the ride takes about an hour.
And enjoying the view from the top – from here all hikers have to stop and you can only continue up the monolith with special climbing gear.
How to get from Mexico City to Pena de Bernal
Want to skip Queretaro and go from Mexico City straight to Pena de Bernal? I don’t agree with your choice (but I’ll help you do it anyway).
By Rental Car: You have your choice of about 1,000 different car rental places in Mexico City, but I can only recommend Alamo because it’s the only one I have experience with in the country.
The traffic in Mexico City is so crazy that they even have laws that license plates with certain numbers are banned from driving on certain days to keep the roads a little more clear, so make sure your car is good to go for all the days of your rental.
The drive from Mexico City to Pena de Bernal should take about three hours, but with CDMX traffic you truly never know. Your rental with full insurance coverage and all fees should cost around $40 to $50 per day.
By Uber: Will be hella expensive and probably not possible from Mexico City to Bernal.
The ride takes about three hours, and then from there you can get on the one-hour Flecha Amarillo or Flecha Azul buses that run from the Queretaro station to Bernal (or, spend a day in Queretaro before heading to Pena de Bernal which is what I’d really choose to do).
You could also possibly get off the bus in San Juan del Rio and then go to Bernal from there and cut ~30 minutes off your travel time – if your Spanish is good ask at the bus station about this option as well.
Exploring the town of Bernal is just as fun as climbing the rock beside it
What to do in Pena de Bernal
Ok. Now that we’ve finally covered all the ways to get to Pena de Bernal, it’s time to get to the fun stuff: what to do when you finally arrive!
Some of the most popular things to do in Bernal are:
- Climb Pena de Bernal
- Explore the town (don’t forget your camera because it’s picturesque af)
- Eat and drink (duh)
- Shop at the boutiques and galleries
Let’s dive into each one more in depth.
Be prepared for lots of cacti and dry, arid landscapes
How to Climb Pena de Bernal
Climbing Pena de Bernal is the highlight of any visit to the town and the whole point of going.
There are three different routes up the monolith: the easiest one takes 45 minutes to bring you to a view point about halfway up the rock, but you can also do a 1.5 hour hike or a 3 hour hike on the mountain. There are signs and marked paths for each. If you want to go all the way to the top you need rock climbing gear and (probably) permission and a permit.
The monolith has a 30 mxn / 1.50 usd entrance fee and is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day. We climbed the 45-minute route to the viewpoint which is definitely the most popular option.
It’s pretty easy on paths and natural staircases for the first 30 minutes and then it gets more difficult with a bit of a scramble over rocks to the top.
If you can’t make it all the way to the top, I still recommend going up a bit because just a few minutes of climbing will give you some amazing views of the surrounding area!
Once you make it to the view point there’s a small chapel you can visit and tons of space to sit down, relax, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
The crowded market at the base of Pena de Bernal will funnel you right back into town
Where to Eat and Drink in Pena de Bernal
There is plenty of good food in Bernal to tempt you after your climb.
At the base of the monolith there are market stalls lining the walk back into town, but I recommend holding off on your purchases ‘til you get to the center.
Some regional delicacies to try in Bernal are gorditas, stuffed corn tortillas that are a famous in Queretaro, and the unique nopal helado aka cactus ice cream!
Dan and I ate at Restaurante El Mezquite because it had such a beautiful colorful courtyard under the branches of a massive tree. The food was ok but the atmosphere was great and I recommend it. Then, finish your visit with a few drinks on the gorgeous rooftop at Restaurante Milo’s.
The courtyard at Restaurante El Mezquite in Bernal is the perfect place to relax after the climb
Where to Stay in Pena de Bernal
I’ve visited tons of Pueblo Magicos in my year of travels through Mexico – like Tepoztlan, Cholula, Sayulita, and Orizaba – but Bernal is probably the most beautiful one I’ve ever been to. Why not spend some extra time there?
There are tons of affordable Airbnbs in Bernal, and I took the liberty of choosing some of my favorites, like this gorgeous modern loft and this private room with a terrace and breakfast included. I also like this palapa with a view and these not-so-rustic cabins for a slightly different experience in town.
If you’re more of a hotel type, you can explore the top-rated picks on Booking.com here. Personally, I’m partial to Hotel Rangu because I’m a sucker for a private terrace with a view (and the pool doesn’t hurt either).
No matter what you choose, if you book accommodation near the center of the town you’ll be in walking distance of the shops, restaurants, nightlife and the hiking trails that wind up the rock, so you can’t go wrong!
The center of Bernal is not-so-subtly marked with this bright orange church
What else is nearby?
Visit the city of Queretaro as well if you have time because it’s a beautiful, clean, colorful colonial town with tons of cute restaurants, bars, cafes, theaters, and historical sites to while away your time at.
Queretaro is in the wine region of Mexico so there’s an entire wine and cheese route through the state to all of the vineyards and cheese factories. You can book a half or full-day tour to visit them or explore them yourself in a rental car. The Queretaro Tourism website has more info.
Finally, if you have the time I strongly recommend visiting the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve as well. One-third of the entire state of Queretaro is protected here and it’s beyond beautiful. The drive from Queretaro is about three hours (and from Bernal about two hours) but it’s so worth making a day trip. If you go, I recommend visiting the Mirador Quarto Palos viewpoint and the Puente de Dios waterfall.
Puente de Dios waterfall in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is about two hours from Bernal by car and worth visiting if you’re in the area!
Ready to go?
Finally, don’t forget to join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new hiking destinations, and take part in quarterly virtual trail clean ups!
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