Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl: The Tragic Love Story

Considered two of the most poetic and important volcanoes in our country, let us tell you about the legend of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, two lovers who turned into volcanoes.

These majestic and imposing volcanoes were admired and feared by the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, who wove stories around them. One of those legends tells about the tragic origin of the Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes, located on the border of the states of Puebla, Morelos and Mexico City: two lovers who transformed into volcanoes out of grief, and how their faithful hearts burn like a flame forever.

The names of these volcanoes come from Nahuatl. The name Popocatépetl means "Smoking Mountain" (from Popoca/smoking and tepetl/mountain) and Iztaccíhuatl "White Woman" (from Iztac/white, cihuatl/woman), though Iztacchíhuatl is better known as "La mujer dormida/The sleeping woman," all names which, as we shall soon see, were aptly assigned (for example, if you look at the picture below, you can clearly see the contour of a woman resting on her back).


This tragic love story's origin dates to Pre-Hispanic Mexico, and it is one of the best-known among Mexicans. With Valentine’s Day romantic spirit filling the air, we decided to tell you all about this tragic love story in this week's blog. 

The legend goes like this...

The love story between Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl begins with princess Iztaccíhuatl, considered one of the most beautiful women in the kingdom. This princess had fallen madly in love with Popocatépetl, an honorable man and one of the best warriors of her land. In the same way, Popocatépetl was madly in love with her.

The young couple lived with an enormous happiness and love until, one day, Popocatépetl was notified that he had to go to war. Before leaving to fulfill his duty, Popocatépetl went to Iztaccíhuatl father, the cacique of his region, to ask for the hand of his beloved in sacred marriage. The princess's father accepted on the condition that he return safely. And so, Popocatépetl went to war.

After several months of fighting, he and his army managed to defeat the enemy. Before the emperor learned of the victory, a rivalrous warrior jealous of the relationship that the young couple had, purposely misinformed the cacique that Popocatépetl had died in battle. As he intended, Iztaccíhuatl overheard this false news and believed it, falling into despair. As she fell deeper into heartbreak with her grief, she stopped eating and fell into a deep sleep without anyone being able to ever wake her up again. 

When Popocatépetl returned victorious, he learned about what had happened. Not believing it, he looked for Iztaccíhuatland and found her breathless, for which he wept uncontrollably.

Resigned by the bad move that fate had planned for him, Popocatépetl climbed to the top of a mountain, carrying his beloved princess on his arms. As he laid her down, he lit a torch and promised that he would never put it out to honor the memory of Iztaccíhuatl. Then, he lied next to her and closed his eyes.

Since then, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl have laid together. Over time the snow covered their bodies, turning them into two giant volcanoes that will remain close to each other for eternity.

The legend adds that, when the mighty warrior Popocatépetl remembers his beloved, his heart, which keeps the fire of eternal passion, trembles and his torch smokes. For this reason, to this day, the Popocatépetl volcano continues to spew fumaroles as a warning sign to anyone who betrays him or harms Iztaccíhuatl.


Despite being one of the oldest stories of pre-Hispanic Mexico, the legend has a couple of variations in its plot. One of them tells us that the town chief was Governor Tezozómoc, who was against the relationship and that in the search to end the life of Popocatépetl he sent him to war. Another version states that after the return of Popocatépetl and after hearing the news, he climbed the highest mountain and ordered the construction of two pyramids; one would function as the tomb of his beloved and the other as a guard to protect her from curious onlookers and thieves. It is said that they were covered with snow with the passage of time, and this is how the two volcanoes formed.

No matter what version you know, this is a love story worthy of telling. Since learning it, we cannot help but to mourn the loss of lovers and to yearn a love so pure. Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl died of sadness because they could not live without each other. Love transformed them into volcanoes and their faithful heart will burn like a flame forever.

Here are some interesting facts about these volcanoes, that might be looked at differently after learning of this legend:

  • The Popocatéptl and Iztaccíhuatl volcanoes are Mexico's second and third highest mountains, the first being Pico de Orizaba.
  • Popocatépetl is the taller of the two mountains, reaching 17,802 feet in height.
  • Popocatépetl is still an active volcano, having spewed smoke and ash as recently as two weeks ago.
  • Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl are connected by a high mountain pass known as the Paso de Cortes.
  • The Iztaccíhuatl mountain includes four peaks, the tallest of which reaches 17,158 feet. Many see her silhouette as resembling that of a sleeping woman, complete with head, chest, knees and feet.
  • Iztaccíhuatl is an extinct volcano and is a popular destination for adventurous mountaineers and hikers.
  • The Iztaccíhuatl volcano has not shown activity since 1868.
  • Both volcanoes are in the Iztaccíhuatl - Popocatépetl Zoquiapan National Park, a protected natural area, one of the oldest in the country, since 1935 and which in 2010 was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.


What do you think? Did you like this story? Have you ever seen these two volcanoes up close? Let us know what are your thoughts, you know we look forward to hearing from you!

Lastly, while you’re at it don’t forget to check out our Día del Amor y la Amistad Collection where you can find all essentials for your loved ones, romantic and non-romantic alike, as well as a collection of lovely home decorations!

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Mexican history culture and traditions





cristiano ronaldo

cristiano ronaldo

que bonito

Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Just learned the the history of the Sleeping Woman, very interesting.

Hotencia Villalobos

Hotencia Villalobos


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