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Popocatepetl is an active volcano and, at 5,426 m (17,802 ft), the second highest peak in Mexico after the Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m/18,491 ft). Popocatepetl is linked to the Iztaccihuatl volcano to the north by the high saddle known as the Paso de Cortés, and lies in the eastern half of the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt.

The name Popocatepetl comes from the Nahuatl words popōca 'it smokes' and tepētl 'mountain', thus Smoking Mountain; the name Don Goyo comes from the mountain's association in the lore of the region with San Gregorio (St. Gregory), "Goyo" being a nickname-like short form of Gregorio.

Popocatepetl is 70 km (43 mi) southeast of Mexico City, from where it can be seen regularly, depending on atmospheric conditions. The residents of Puebla, a mere 40 km (25 mi) east of the volcano, enjoy the views of the snowy and glacier-clad mountain almost all year long. The volcano is also one of the three tall peaks in Mexico to contain glaciers, the others being Iztaccihuatl and Pico de Orizaba. Magma erupted from Popocatepetl is a mixture of dacite (65 wt% SiO2, two-pyroxenes + plagioclase + Fe–Ti oxides + apatite, 3 wt% H2O, P = 1.5 kbar, fO2 = NNO + 0.5 log units) and basaltic andesite (53 wt% SiO2, olivine + two-pyroxenes, 3 wt% H2O, P = 1–4 kbar).

The first Spanish ascent of the volcano was made by an expedition led by Diego de Ordaz in 1519. The early 16th-century monasteries on the slopes of the mountain are a World Heritage Site.



The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 × 600 m (1,300 × 2,000 ft) wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris avalanche deposits covering broad areas south of the volcano. The modern volcano was constructed to the south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone.[1] Three major plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 AD, have occurred from Popocatépetl since the mid Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano.[2]

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