It's difficult to decide to book a trip to Mexico and then not be fascinated. It is an amazing feeling and a unique experience that is hard to describe. Yes, we are talking about the places, the wonderful sunny beaches, and the warm friendly people. The cultural wealth and the well known historical aura surrounding this land is to be discovered.
We are of course referring to the Maya and the Aztecs. The two populations have really left their mark permanently in our human history. The first inhabitants of Mexico were the Olmecs (1500 BC) to whom we owe the invention of the calendar and writing. This is followed by Teotihuacan, Maya, Toltecs and finally the Aztecs. Aztecs were exterminated by the Spanish conquistadores, who made Mexico as the new Spain in 1520.
Only towards the early nineteenth century, we had the first mottos of rebellion that were then destroyed by the Americans. They awaken in the threshold of the twentieth century when the Mexican population gets a new energy after a new drive for independence led by Emiliano Zapata.
Disembarking from our flight we prepare to face our tour in Mexico. From the morphological point of view, we are faced with a very varied terrain. For mountain lovers, Mexico boasts of the famous mountain ranges of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental.
The beach lovers can find their zen in the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Adventure lovers and hikers should not miss a ride in volcanic areas that abound in this area. The sun-tan enthusiasts should not miss a tour of the coasts of the various islands surrounding Mexico.
Before going to the south of the city for our first visit, before breakfast, we discover the Los Chilaquiles Toluqueños. It's good, but at 8 am, it's hard. By taking the metro from the Zocalo, the central square of the city, we have a quick look at the neighborhood which we will again visit in the afternoon on our way back from Xochimilco.
We then take the Tren Ligero which stops at Xochimilco. There is a canal called floating gardens because the Aztecs had their corn grown there. Today, Mexicans grow flowers to supply to the whole city. This ride resembles the excursion on El Tigre during our tour of Argentina.
We then, head to the museum of anthropology, passing by the garden of Chapultepec. It is a must see in Mexico City. The museum is huge and beautiful with reconstructions of Mayan sites adorn the gardens that bypass the museum.
Visit to Teotihuacan
For our second day in Mexico, we take the direction to Teotihuacán. A good hour drive and the bus drops us at the entrance to the site. Here we discover the palace of Quetzalcóatl, then the pyramid of the sun and finally the pyramid of the moon. We then visited the basilicas of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The oldest sink into the ground, so the whole interior is supported by an iron skeleton. This is due to the fact that the city is built on swamps. In the opposite is the new, much more modern Basilica.
Then we discover Mexico City from 135 meters height by climbing the 42nd floor of the Torre Latino. The panoramic view is incredible. We realize the extent of the city. Finally, we went to the Zocalo to see the decorations that were put for the national holiday of September 15.
Departure to Taxco
We leave our luggage in order to be able to visit more freely this city on the slope. We go to the zocalo and it's pretty cathedral, passing by small alleyways all uphill. A few kilometers from the Zocalo you can take the cable car from where you can see the city seen from above. After a small meal in front of the cathedral, our bus to Puebla awaits us. It is 4 pm and the journey is quite long. On the way, we see the Popocatepetl volcano.
Day in Puebla
Puebla changes a bit in architecture as we feel the colonial style. The zocalo and the center of Puebla are to be seen. The city is pretty, with all its buildings in color. School children play in the central square. We were able to devote only one morning to this city. At 12:50, our next bus takes us to Oaxaca. We put our luggage in the hotel and we go to eat by eating typical Mexican dishes of Burrito, Chili Rellenos, and Pollo Asado.
Monte Alban Zapotec Ruins
Oaxaca is famous for its archaeological sites like Dainzú, Yagul, Mitla, and Zaachila. Here you can admire the remains of temples, villages, and artifacts that testify to the life of the past. We chose to make the visits via an excursion organized by the hotel in Oaxaca. The combi (small vans) takes us to the site of Monte Alban and come back in 3 hours to take us. The site is beautiful.
It is located on the mount of the hill that dominates the whole city. In the afternoon, we dedicate ourselves to the visit of the city through boutiques of souvenirs piled up in front of the cathedral. Oaxaca is really a pleasant town.
Excursion to Hierve el Agua
Another organized tour. We leave our hotel at 10 am to visit the tree of Tule, which is 2000 years old. This tree is a cypress of Montezuma, called Ahuehuete in the Nahuatl language. It is 41 meters high and has a circumference of 36 meters. Its diameter, measured at 1.5 m height, is 14.4 meters. Its precise age is unknown. Estimates range from 1200 to 3000 years.
Subsequently, we were taken to see a Mexican carpet factory. From the mowing of mountain sheep to the coloring of wool by natural pigments until weaving, we learn how the Mexican make their carpets. Then, we head to Mitla, a small archaeological site that did not look too much like the other archaeological sites of the country. The ruins are rather poorly preserved and the site is relatively small.
The next visit to Hierve El Agua and its petrified cascade is magnificent. This halt here was magical. Suddenly, a 20-minute thunderstorm struck us! Here we are more than soaked! A little tasting of mezcal to forget this incident and it left again. We also discover the whole process of manufacture, which is very interesting.
In the evening, we departure for Tuxtla. The journey lasts more than 10 hours.
Cañon El Sumidero and San Cristobal de las Casas
As we arrive at Tuxtla, we are already on the Corzo pier. But we must wait until the boat is full to embark. After an hour, we are on the canyon El Sumidero amidst crocodiles. In the afternoon, we reach San Cristobal de Las Casas. Once again, we are delighted by this stage of our journey in Mexico. The zocalo and the church are superb. We continue our tasting of local gastronomy with typical Mexican dishes like quesadillas and Sincronizada!
On the way to Palenque
In the early morning, we go to the Museum of Mayan Medicine where we are told of the main rituals of prayers. Then, we head to Palenque. We went to the place called El Panchan to find a hut in the middle of the jungle, where the howler monkeys are heard. The first night was difficult because we are not used to hearing all this wildlife while sleeping!
Site of Palenque
In the morning, we contact a guide at the place called El Panchan for a trip in the jungle. We saw there the tarantulas, bats, and other critters but we did not have the chance to see howler monkeys. On the other hand, our guide showed us an area of undisturbed Mayan ruins that makes the show even more impressive. In the afternoon, we continued the walk on the site of Palenque. This site is wonderful, but prefer a morning visit to avoid the hot weather.
Combined Agua Azul/Agua Clara/Misol Ha
After being well informed, we make the combined excursion of several sites. We start with Misol Ha with a waterfall and a walk along the falls. There is a possibility of swimming for the most courageous because the water is fresh here! Then the combi takes us to Agua Clara. Then we go up this river, until Agua Azul in a combi. We realize that these Combis are used widely in traveling around Mexico as a means of transport.
Visit to Campeche
Campeche is a colonial city that is very pretty, with its buildings of colors and the climate is drier. We spend the day visiting the city of Campeche and rest a bit in the evening.
In the morning, we take the bus directly to Merida, the capital of the hammock! As we arrive in this small town, we leave again early to visit the site of Mayapan. At 2 pm our bus leaves the station and drops us in front of the site around 3:30 pm. We are only two on the site! What a privilege! The site is very touristy but has a lot of charm.
In the evening, we decide to walk in the streets, and this being the national holiday month, the illuminations are magnificent.
Today, we visit the Natural Reserve of Celestun. After 1 hour of the wait to fill the Lancha, we finally leave for a 2-hour ride through the mangroves. It's a very nice excursion for those who like to see the fauna and flora. Pink flamingos are numerous.
After this visit, nothing is better than a good meal with your feet in the sand and the sea in the background. On the menu is shrimp with garlic or breaded with coconut! In the afternoon, we dedicate it to the visit of the city center of Mérida and buying some shopping souvenirs.
Ruins of Uxmal
The departure for Uxmal is quite early. This site is superb, and the iguanas are everywhere! Even human presence does not make them move! These big lizards are bronzed in the sun and we take the opportunity to take a picture. Back in Merida, we take the bus to Piste, a small village about 1 km from the site of Chichen Itza. In the evening, we decided to see the sound and light show of Chichen. The rendering is nice. The entrance is cheaper by coupling with the next day's visit.
The morning is devoted to the visit of the Chichen site which last 3 hours! This Mayan site is huge. We place our luggage at the entrance. Then we discover for the first time a cenote that is, in fact, natural wells of fresh water. They are very widespread in the Yucatan Peninsula. Arriving early on the site we have the privilege of having no one in our photos of the Castillo pyramid of Chichen Itza. On the other hand, we could not climb to its summit.
After a good meal of Queso Fundido, Cheese melted with chorizo and Pierna Asada, Pork steak with spices, we intercepted a combi which dropped us in Valladolid. After arriving in Valladolid, we took the first taxi to drop us at the cenote Dzitnup, which is in a cave. In the late afternoon, we go for a walk to visit the city center.
Tulum and its surroundings
Arriving in Tulum, we plan to rent a car to move freely in the vicinity of this area. There is the village of Tulum and the hotel zone, so you need a means of transport to get around here. Finally, we choose the rental of a scooter for lack of availability. So make sure to book your car in advance. And if you book online, the price is cheaper than in the agency.
This morning, we go for the first time to bathe. We arrive in Tulum, put our bags in a bungalow, facing the sea. We take out our masks to go snorkeling and swimming. After 3 weeks travel in Mexico, we enjoy a little rest!
Ruins of Tulum
The archaeological site of Tulum is one of the most beautiful because of its geographical location. The place is superb for the view of the Caribbean Sea! The Gran Cenote is a preserved place in which non-biodegradable sunscreen is forbidden! Mask and Snorkel are highly recommended! This is the kind of place dreamed by lovers of snorkeling. There is also the cenote of Labna Ha near Tulum.
Visit the Sian Khan Reserve
We plan to go through an agency with a local guide. It is the preferred solution to see the maximum. Otherwise, if you do it alone, arm yourself with patience to discover the surrounding flora and fauna. We could still see coatis, blue crabs, multicolored fish and other exotic species.
Day at Xel Ha
Xel-Ha is a bit pricey, but the restaurants and bars are at will. They provide the mask and snorkel, and you can spend a whole day underwater watching the fish. You can also see dolphins and swim with for those.
Akumal and its turtles
Akumal is a small beach, where if you are lucky like us, you can swim with the turtles. It is the privileged place of sea turtles as on the island of Petite-Terre in Guadeloupe.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a seaside resort, where one begins to see more tourists and more Americans. After a morning of snorkeling, we soon realize that this end of the journey between Mexico City and Cancun has nothing to do with what we have done before. Gone are the typical villages, the Mayan sites, and museums, the place here is for mass tourism which is not really our cup of tea.
Visit to Cozumel
Cozumel is not very interesting, which is a small island with a large shopping mall where cruise ships drop Americans en masse to shop! This place is interesting for diving or snorkeling.
The day is spent in Playa del Carmen with a lot of beach, beach and still beach! It's good to rest a bit! It's still our vacation. In the evening we take a bus to Cancun to finish our Mexican trip.
In Isla Mujeres, we visit Tortugranja, which is a reserve that protects turtles. The people here recover eggs of turtles from the beaches. They make them hatch in this reserve to release them when they are bigger. Among the main cities in Mexico, there are Acapulco, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, Tijuana, Veracruz, and Palenque.
These are of course not the only popular destinations for tourists and in fact is followed by the Yucatan, known for its Caribbean beaches and Mayan ruins. The main town is Cancun, where you can easily reach the Isla Mujeres. Here there are not only excellent restaurants but also other islands that are almost real nature reserves.
From the island of Holbox or Cozumel Island, which is well known among divers. Tulum is the favorite destination for sunbathers and fans can also choose to stay in the typical homes and enjoy the Mayan culture.
Throughout the first part of the journey, we changed the city every two days with two days of stay in a city followed by one night on a bus.
We continue to Chiapas, a mostly wooded and mountainous area, and the most popular destination is San Cristobal de Las Casas, an interesting town retaining intact most of the colonial architecture that is very colorful and evocative. We arrive in the perfect area of the Pacific Coast and for those who love water sports, there is Sayulita, Puerto Valley, Bahia de Banderas and then towards Puerto Escondido.
The choice of the bus, which initially was a little intimidating because we had never done, turned out to be the only sensible thing to do. Also with a car, we would have to sacrifice the whole day. The buses are all quite comfortable, on time and reliable. We enjoyed it on almost all classes. Unfortunately, in some cases, it is not possible to choose the most comfortable class because it does not exist or is at an unsuitable time. Buses are also recommended for security reasons.
The use of the bus, however, has a downside, and that is the lack of freedom in the organization of visits and excursions. We often had to rely on guided tours purchased at the hotel. Another downside of traveling by night bus is the inability to enjoy the view and see how the landscape changes such as moving from Mexico City to the Pacific coast.
For Yucatan instead and that is for the last week of travel we rented a car and here, in fact, the distances were minor and we slept one night in the base city to the ruins such as Merida and Valladolid, and a few more days on the Riviera Maya.
Quintana Roo: beyond all expectations
Loved and scoured by travelers from around the world, the Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan peninsula, is a surprising destination. The nightclubs in Cancun are no secret, but a joy contagious, and also Playa del Carmen would have a lot to tell about it. What should not be overlooked is that this Mexican state also gives great experiences in contact with nature.
Let's talk about the meeting with the iguanas that wander among the Mayan ruins of Tulum, the underwater world of Cozumel or Isla del Banco Chinchorro, the largest coral atoll in the northern hemisphere. But also of the turquoise waters and coral beaches of Isla Mujeres, where the Buccaneers "guarded" the lovers.
If you seek an adventurous mix of nature and culture, then the ruins of Kohunlich and Dzibanché, stunning Mayan ruins still shrouded by the forest waits for you. The ultimate adventure though is in Río Secreto, the longest semi-flooded cave in the Yucatan Peninsula. Access is limited to groups because of the sensitivity for sustainable tourism. But it is worth to get in line. Do you expect more than 12 km of a wonderful underground world?
On the Trail of the Maya
If Mexico means Maya, go in search of the many traces left by these people that bloomed for almost 2000 years from the Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras and Belize. It is one of the most exciting travel experiences. The Riviera Maya, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, offers a range of attractions that can satisfy the dream and inspiration of every traveler.
The ruins of Tulum, the city that the ancient residents called Zama (Dawn) is perched on a sheer dreamy beach in front of the Caribbean Sea. Names such as El Castillo, the tallest building in the complex, or the Temple of the Dios will earn a permanent place in your travel memories immediately.
Not to mention that in the Tulum area is another exceptional archaeological site, to Coba, with Mayan ruins largely still awaiting extensive excavations. The extraordinary vestiges of Quintana Roo and the Riviera Maya are, however, only part of that ideal path that winds toward the Chichen Itza pyramid, in the Mexican state of Yucatan, and goes beyond the Mexican borders, toward Guatemala and Belize: we speak of Ruta Maya, 1916 km through the ruins, wonders and masterpieces of a civilization that still has much to teach.
The state of Oaxaca is not only one of the 31 states of the federation but it is mainly an absolute reference for Mexican exploration. This territory overlooking the Pacific is animated by the inexhaustible energy. It immediately jumps to the eyes due to the bright colors of the fabrics and traditional objects or brass bands parading next to cafes and churches of the Zócalo, the colonial district of Oaxaca City.
This megalopolis is not a city but the world in itself. It Has many facets. It is full of quiet parks and squares in European style, teeming streets, and markets. The Zócalo district is worth the trip. It has a museum that perhaps is worth two. One is dedicated to Frida Kahlo and hosted in the Blue House (La Casa Azul) where she was born. Another is dedicated to the Beetles.
The highlight here is the mezcal, the drink with the worm inside. The worm in question is nothing but a gimmick to attract more gullible Americans. This liqueur reminds me of the tequila that gives the right note to jump right in tune with Mexico City.
The refuge of butterflies
Mexico also means nature. At the southern border of the state of Michoacán is the extraordinary reserve of the Monarch butterfly. It can be a great idea if you plan the trip after summer. Every autumn, from late October to early November, millions of monarch butterflies reach these plateaus covered with forests for the winter hibernation. They come here after a tour of about 4500 km from the North American region of the Great Lakes.
Here is a city that can give the mind a state of invigorating inebriation. Located in the homonymous federal state, Veracruz dresses succinctly adorned with sea shells. Some alleys of the port can relieve you of the lost glory. Above all, it is ready to welcome you with its dreamy beaches, as well as an uninhibited and relaxed atmosphere. It's Carnival, no wonder is the wildest and most engaging in the country.
Adventure in Copper Canyon
Among the attractions of northwestern Mexico is the spectacular Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon). This labyrinth made up of seven main canyons and a dozen secondary Canyon covers a land area four times larger than the Grand Canyon in Arizona and in some places reaches greater depths (over 1800 meters).
You can reach some of the most inaccessible areas by means of the Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacífico railway. The only thing you should not expect is to find copper. The Spaniards called it the canyon because they confused the greenish sheen of lichens with the gleam of that metal.
The best along the coast
With sea, beaches, intriguing cities, art treasures and, of course, very few clouds, one of the best ways to experience Mexico is to follow its coastline, blessed by the gods. From Baja California to the Yucatan, do not miss the memorable encounters. Start with the Isla Espiritu Santo, one of the jewels of Baja California. It is a long succession of bays from the low cliffs of pink and turquoise waters.
We continue to the town of Mazatlan. There is a jump in Acapulco, a place of hardcore fanatics of Sinatra or Presley. We then landed on Isla Holbox in the state of Sinaloa, and in Quintana Roo. This beautiful place is no longer the secret of some time ago but retains something of primal instincts. On this island, there are no noises or bulky buildings, but only sand streets, and buildings in Caribbean style and dogs.
Guanajuato, the city of students
This city not only gives its name to the state that includes, Guanajuato, right in the middle of the country. But above all, it is one of the few places on earth where you can be sure to attend a cultural event every night. Callejoneadas are traditional parades where musicians guide people in the streets, singing and dancing symphonic concerts and tango performances. The offer is able to satisfy even the most creative spirits. Orients the needle of your compass to this town of 70,000 inhabitants and mixed his students.
On this trip, we preferred to stay in the hostels and cabanas. The rooms where we stayed were very modest but we were always treated very kindly even when we showed up at 7 am with a reservation for the next night. Only a couple of places included breakfast.
The entrance to the archaeological sites is never too expensive. In many sites, however, there are signages that describe the various buildings in English and Spanish and also with the guide book you can understand the city well enough.
The food is a subject that is close to our heart and it's great and cheap. Mexico City has amazed us from breakfast done right under our hotel with an endless array of cakes and pastries, all delicious! So we tried this panederìe in other cities and with a few pesos did an excellent and abundant breakfast.
Also, this area is renowned for its restaurants, which serve some good local specialties such as tacos made with tortillas. It closely resembles wraps and is stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables, tortas or the sandwiches. Quesadillas are tortillas filled with cheese and guacamole. The fried tortillas or tostadas is a sort of Mexican sushi, seasoned with spices and those who have the courage should really try the chapulines or fried grasshoppers.
Everything is accompanied by the traditional drink, which is the Agua de Sabor. It is made from hibiscus infusions or by maceration of rice or with fruit juice. Ultimately, the best time to visit Mexico is between October and May when the temperature is mild and less humid.
I already miss the smells of food prepared at any time in the streets around the Metro station in Balderas in Mexico City. Then, the color of the houses of the colonial city, first among all Oaxaca and San Cristobal. The flavors of all the dishes we tasted from fish, meat, and vegetable were united by the constant presence of Guacamole and Habanero. Even at breakfast, the sounds of the salsa music stalls has been the soundtrack of the days spent in Boca del Cielo.
Mexico Travel Tips
The Cinco de Mayo is a festival that is celebrated annually in Mexico on May 5, with an emphasis on drinks, food, and music.