Historical heritage and cultural diversity are the engine of the creative spirit that Mexico boasts. From the giant heads of the Olmecs to the Baroque extravagances of the Spaniards; from the neat and essential lines of modern buildings to the particular skills of craftsmen. Contrasts are also expressed through the landscape: tropical beaches, rain forests, desert and volcanoes. Every corner is a surprise. Here are 15 reasons to immediately book your trip to Mexico.
Swim surrounded by tropical fishes in Cozumel island
Cancun residents, diving enthusiasts and cruise visitors arrive in Cozumel for a taste of the famous Palancar Reef’s beauties, one of the world’s leading snorkeling and diving spots. Experts can choose day trips to around 20 offshore sites. In the southwestern part of the island there’re the best beaches to swim, while the eastern coast is not recommended because of the strong currents. In the northern part, untouched, there is a late maya site, San Gervasio, with a temple dedicated to Ixchel, goddess of fertility. The island is reachable by ferry from Playa del Carmen and by cruise from Cancun.
Get inspired by the creative soul of Oaxaca
The heart of Oaxaca, declared World Heritage Site by Unesco, is the great zócalo, animated by cafes and main crossroads for anyone in the city. The square of its famous market holds the same location of the 17th century, and all the traditional Mexican markets offer a unique spectacle of colors, sounds and smells: fresh fruit and juices for all tastes, handicrafts, fabrics and the traditional chapulines, roasted and seasoned grasshoppers served as a snack, the most sought after by foodies. Among the rich and strong traditions of the area, do not miss the Guelaguetza Festival (in July), an animated cultural event with roots in the pre-Columbian era, attended by people from all over Mexico, dancers, performers and musicians. If you’re looking for high quality textile souvenirs, your must-stop is Los Baules de Juana Cata.
Macedonio Alcala 403, Lazaro Cardenas 1ra Secc, 68140, Oaxaca; +52 951 501 0552
Discover an archaeological site
Much before the Aztecs established the capital in central Mexico, Teotihuacán was the main center of the Empire. Located about an hour’s drive from Mexico City, the place of the dead is one of the main archaeological sites in the country. It includes several temples that house millennial stone sculptures, and the majestic pyramids of the sun and the moon. On top of the last one, you can enjoy the vast panorama of what was once an enormous city, with an extension of more than 20 km². Yagul‘s (Oaxaca valley) site is less frequented; it‘s located high on the cactus-lined hills and offers a 360 ° view of the valley that is worth the journey.
Find the secret Playa del Amor
This beach, listed in the top 50 of the world’s best beaches for the Guardian, stands out for its crater-like shape that makes it a hidden location. Not so hidden, don’t worry! You will easily find a tour operator who will drive you to the Marietas Islands, where the beach is located, a one-hour boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. Once a military area used by the Mexican government to conduct experiments, there’s the suspect that a bomb was the cause of the crater’s formation. The archipelago was named National Park in 2005, so take your mask and bathing suit and dive without fear!
Taste tequila in Plaza Garibaldi while listening to mariachi music
Mexico City by night. Let yourself go and taste the countless types of tequila in Plaza Garibaldi at the rhythm of mariachi music. You will find that this is not just a cliché, but a living tradition and a part of modern culture that animates the square every night. Do it also in Guadalajara, the birthplace of the Mariachi, typical music bands of Mexico’s western regions. Not far from the city, in Jalisco, you’ll find the Mexico’s Tequila Trail, for the connoisseurs to enjoy a tour of the best distilleries in the country. Get on board the Tequila Express: live music will accompany you on the journey between the desert region where the agave (the basic element in tequila production) grows lush.
Visit an Indigenous Village
Walk through the streets of an indigenous village in Chiapas, for example San Juan Chamula, where you can admire a unique synthesis of ancient Mayan cults and Catholic rites. The city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas is the starting point for excursions to the villages of the area. San Juan Chamula hosts a big Sunday market in front of the extraordinary church. Here the Tzotzils, one of the most distinctive and most intriguing communities in Mexico, practice a cult that blends Christianity with ancient Mayan rituals. The Tzotzils, in addition to their own customs, have their own language and a singular sense of time marked by religion. In the village there are over 120 spiritual leaders who animate the particular religious syncretism. A profound experience for believers and not.
The Frida Kahlo Museum
Also known as The Blue House due to the intense color of its walls, the museum dedicated to the greatest Latin American artist is located in the most beautiful and ancient district of Mexico City. The house where Frida lived was turned into a museum in 1958, year of her death. The personal objects of the painter and her most intimate dimension are revealed to the public; along the path you can also admire some of her masterpieces, such as Viva la Vida (1954) or Portrait of my father Wilhem Kahlo (1952).
Open every day except Monday, ticket prices vary between week and weekend and, for a small fee, you can take no-flash photography in the museum. Guided tours available in Spanish and English, also at night. A compulsory stage for art lovers.
Mexico City: World Capital of Tacos
Corn tortillas have been the base of Mexican food for centuries, and still accompany the majority of the dishes. Tacos and burritos are stuffed versions for a more nutritious snack. Tacos are fried tortillas with various fillings. If you choose carefully where to buy them, they can be delicious and very cheap. The competition in Mexico City is ruthless and you can find various styles.
Taqueria La Costilla serves 100 grams of excellent grilled meat accompanied by three tortillas, to be seasoned with one of their incendiary sauces.
Cumbres de Maltrata 352, Narvarte, Mexico; +52 (55) 5579 1852
Tacos Manolo, instead, suggests the combination of bacon and caramelised onion and a variation of unleavened bread imported by Lebanese immigrants.
Calle Luz Saviñón 1305, Narvarte, Mexico; +52 (55) 4437 1463
Admire the boldness of Baroque architecture
About an hour and a half traveling south-east of Mexico City, in Puebla, the real capital of Mexican Baroque, you’ll be amazed by the Spanish colonial style. The city’s full name is Puebla de los angeles (people of the angels) and here are more than 350 churches. Do not miss the Chapel of the Rosary, showing the utmost splendour of Mexican baroque, and the temple of Saint Francis Acatepec, with its spectacular multicoloured façade. In Tazco, the church of Santa Prisca, financed by the French mining tycoon Jose de la Borda, offers a spectacle on the outside and inside, including golden altarpieces, oil paintings and a monumental organ. Other masterpieces in Cuernavaca, Querétaro and Oaxaca.
Step back in time in San Miguel de Allende
This quaint little town hosts US expatriates, students and tourists, and the many cafes, bars, restaurants and shops are studied on their needs. The neo-Gothic spire of the Parroquia sits on the vivid main square. The eighteenth-century home of Ignacio Allende, a hero of independence, is now home of the regional museum. Another fascinating 19th century dwelling not to be missed is the Mayorazgo house, which houses an art collection. Time seems to have stood between the pastel-coloured facades, the secular churches and the pebbles of San Miguel de Allende’s streets. La Casa de la Cuesta gallery offers a unique point of view on Mexican culture through a local handicraft exhibition.
Cuesta de San Jose #32, 37700 San Miguel de Allende +52 415 154 4324
Approach one of the huge Mexican volcanoes
Viator offers daily tours on the Iztaccihuatl Volcano; it’s easier to book than to pronounce it, but the price and the walk ($ 49) are certainly worth the breathtaking view! Your guide will drive you from Mexico City along an medium difficulty path, down to the descent and into the dormant volcano. The road to the trail where your walk starts is super-panoramic, and you will have many opportunities to take great photos. If this kind of adventure is for you, do not forget to pack some winter garments. In fact, the walking route starts at an altitude of about 3,700 meters and it is likely to reach 4,200 to 4,800 meters. Before leaving we recommend a Mexican breakfast: fresh fruit, eggs and tortillas to have full energy.
Discover the Mystery of Our Lady of Guadalupe
The new basilica was inaugurated not many decades ago, but the mystery of the Virgin of Guadalupe is as ancient as the history of Spanish colonialism. Following an apparition of Our Lady to Juan Diego, an Aztec converted to Christianity, the figure of the Virgin would be miraculously imprinted on his mantle. The image is distinguished by the traditional iconography of Mary, here in the form of a young Indian, nicknamed Virgen Morenita (the brown Virgin), and it has remained intact until today, despite various experiments conducted on the mantle’s fabric in the attempt to “uncover the cheating”. December 12, the day of the apparition, is a national holiday in Mexico, dedicated to the protector of all Latin American people.
Explore a hidden boutique in the Romantic Zone of Puerto Vallarta
The town of Puerto Vallarta (or PV as abbreviated by local) has a unique atmosphere and a stunning location along the coast, in the Bahia de Banderas. The location has risen to the international forefront in the ’60s thanks to John Huston’s Night of the Iguana, with the mythical couple Elizabeth Taylor + Richard Burton. At the time, Vallarta was just a fishing village, and still has some original cobbled streets and tiled roofs from that period. The old town retains an enchanting atmosphere, and the streets are full of shops and galleries to explore if you’d like to bring home a unique souvenir. Even the Mercado Isla Rio Cuale (local flea market) can surprise you. Crafts and beachwear items for all tastes.
Pour out your sporty soul
There are many unforgettable diving and swimming spots throughout the country. One of the most striking is surely the cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula. You can swim in these natural pools formed within suggestive caves and mineral-rich waters. Alternatively, go for a swim with dolphins at Isla Mujeres or Cozumel at the ultimate dolphinarium (photo memory included). Bahia de Banderas is a great area for kayak lovers, whether you want to take lessons or simply rent a boat. Parasailing in Acapulco will cause strong emotions to the bravest and give a chance to take amazing photographs to the spectators. For more pictures, you will find experienced divers performing at Quebrada, Acapulco.
Feeling like Clint Eastwood in A fistful of dollars
Cinema has never hidden his love for Mexico; from western masterpieces to the latest James Bond, or even Elvis Presley and his Fun in Acapulco. For a day like a real cinephile, follow the tracks of the most famous filming locations and breathe the atmosphere of your favorite movies. For those who do not feel very romantic despite Elizabeth Taylor (cited above), Puerto Vallarta also evokes atmospheres for true machos: it was in fact the set for Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger. True intellectuals will instead look for places seen in Y tu mama tambien. Locations are so numerous that you often walk through without realising it; you might have fun spotting them challenging your travel mates.
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