Mexico, How & Why?
When you think of Mexico, what do you think? Spring break, tequila shooters, big hats, burritos or nachos maybe… Well then, we are here to enhance your perception and dispel some of the myths of Mexico.
First of all lets talk about Mexico City. A city that is full to the brim with culture and oozes personality (and tacos) from every street corner. The Tacos here are not just the typical Mex-Tex versions we all grew up with, these are fresh, hand made, make your mouth water creations with all kinds of crunch, chew and flavor. There are so many different parts to the city, one minute you can feel that you are in a bustling city of around 13 million people and the next minute you are in an upmarket suburb checking out the latest fashions from exclusive Mexican Designers. Mexico City has everything you could possibly want and more.
Just a few hours from Mexico City, ensure you visit the archaeological site – Teotihuacan.
When you visit ensure you have a local guide with you, who knows what they are talking about and reserve plenty of time in your schedule for taking amazing photographs from both the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
This is also a good area to dispel some of the Tequila myths of Mexico. Share in a morning tea tastings of that and Pulque (the local drink, that some say has similar effects to that of Viagra…). It’s 5 o’clock somewhere right? Learn how Tequila is to be sipped and savoured similar to scotch or cognac, not shot back with salt and lime. Find out how many different flavours there are and even learn about some of the health benefits.
Next on our list of must hit spots is Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ca). You’ll love Oaxaca for it’s culinary wonders, history and amazing landscapes.
Just a side note – If you thought for a second that you were going to lose weight in Mexico, well, you won’t.
Our second must see archaeological site to visit is Monte Alban, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site. The initial construction at the site has been placed at circa 8th century BCE. It contains great plazas, truncated pyramids, a court for playing the ball game tlachtli, underground passageways, and about 170 tombs, the most elaborate yet uncovered in the Americas. The site is located on high ground and the great plaza atop the highest hill is flanked by four platforms; two temples stand on the southern platform. Complete your day with a wonder through the entirely pleasant town of Tule, which houses the worlds biggest tree and finishing off at Hierve El Agua (a petrified waterfall which is impressive and a small hike to burn off the day’s tacos and tamales)
Oaxaca is also a great place to visit a Mezcal distillery. The origin of this drink has a myth. It is said that a lightning bolt struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing its juice. For this reason, the liquid is called the “elixir of the gods”. However, no one is certain whether the native peoples of Mexico had any distilled liquors prior to the Spanish Conquest. You’ll be able to taste and learn much more about this ancient beverage.
A short transfer and a one hour flight will bring you to San Cristobal de las Casas, which is located in the state of Chiapas. San Cristobal is a sweet little city, with a bit of everything from intriguing Mayan culture, to a fantastic array of travellers, who found themselves attracted to an easier life and never left. While there make sure to take in Na Bolom Museum, markets filled with amazing textiles, stunning views from the Church of Guadalupe and of course so many tasty restaurants to try.
From San Cristobal de las Casas you must visit the villages of San Juan Chamula and Zincanantan – culturally rich and a fascinating insight into how the Mayans still live today. Leaving the cooler temperatures of San Cristobal area, head down the mountain stopping at Misol Ha and Agua Azul on the way to Palenque. We don’t want to give too much away, but you will for sure need your swimming costumes to swim in that lovely blue water!
From Palenque have a local guide take you for a mysterious jungle tour. You will enter the jungle and hike through areas where people once lived, over their houses and to the Forgotten Temple. Often surrounded by howler monkeys who tend to sound like King Kong in the morning, yet like to hide from you, but a good guide will ensure you spot them and perhaps a Toucan or two. Listen for what sounds like a tiny frog croaking, and you have likely found a Toucan. From there go into the site of Palenque, where you are treated to a story (different kinds of myths from Mexico) that takes you back in time – you feel like you are actually there, right in the jungle, surrounded by enormous buildings where ceremonies and market places would have occurred. We suggest you spend a couple of nights in Palenque, adjusting to the heat, getting to know the people and soaking in the culture.
From Palenque it is worth the drive to the city of Merida. A very picturesque bus ride takes you through 4 states before you end up in Yucatan, the capital being Merida.
She is a lovely, colonial city, with a certain buzz. Although always active, Merida tends to really come alive at night, around the Zocalo (Central Park) area. So much to see, and the food in the Yucatan really steps it up a notch and dispels the myths of Mexico on a culinary level.
While in Merida ensure you include a trip to some wonderfully secluded cenotes (pronounced say-no-teys), which are sink holes, with crystal clear water that you can lose yourself in. A lovely break from the heat in the city.
Saving the best for last, visit Chichen Itza, which is basically the Mecca of the Mayan culture. It is about an hour and a half drive from Merida and we strongly suggest arriving early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the peak heat of the day, while being enchanted by our guides voice when he explains the history of this great place while we stand, in awe, in front of the Temple of Kukulcan, the Great Ballcourt and other truly phenomenal points of interest!
We hope you are starting to get a sense that there is a lot more to Mexico than what you once thought.
Once you have learned all about the real Mexico and absorbed the history, culture and adventures to be had on this route, continue on to the white sands of Playa Del Carmen, for some well deserved beach time. The Mayan Rivera has also drawn many celebrated chefs who live for the sensational fresh seafood the coats has to offer and the amazing creations they can produce from it. Even though you are now at the beach destination of Playa del Carmen, there are so many places and activities that break the cliché of Mexico. Snorkel or dive in Isla Majares where you can explore the underground sculpture garden, ship wrecks, amazing sealife, including perhaps the elusive whale shark. If you haven’t had enough ruins yet visit Tulum, situated on 12-meter tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula or Coba, the nexus of the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world. Coba is one of the most recently discovered ruins in the Mayan world. If you’ve been missing nightlife at all, Cancun is the heartbeat of the evening and just a quick transfer away.
We could just keep writing because we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexico has to offer, but we hope this has wet your appetite to learn more about Mexico’s multifaceted culture and history!
If this itinerary sounds appealing to you but it sounds like work to put it all together or you would enjoy the comfort of travelling with a small group and your own personal guide then consider our tour “Hello Mexico!”
Our first Hello Mexico! tour of the year departs on the 30th of October and although we count all of our tours as very special, this one trip is going to coincide with one of Mexico’s biggest celebrations – Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Mexico is renowned for it’s festivals and we’re going to tell you about some in our next article.