Exploring MexicoOur Travel Guide
Mexico is a country rich with history, delicious food and sprawling beaches. Mexico has natural beauty and interesting sites in almost every part of the country. Whether you are interested in roaming the grounds of old archaeological ruins, laying out on the white sands of the country’s many resort beaches both in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans or exploring cenotes of the Yucatan peninsula, there is something for everyone who wants to explore Mexico.
Mexico at a Glance
Currency: The local currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN).
Power: Mexican power voltage is 127 V 60 Hz; Power sockets A & B
Entry: To enter, you will need a U.S. passport valid for at least 6 months after your departure date.
- Sight Seeing 95% 95%
- Cost 55% 55%
- Ease of Travel 70% 70%
- Activities 90% 90%
Michael lived in Mexico and traveled throughout the country. Whether you want to experience archaeological sites, world-class beaches, eclectic cites and warm and friendly people, Mexico has it all.
Top Experiences in Mexico
1. Mexico City & Side Trips
Having lived in Mexico City for over half a decade, I can tell you that the city can be overwhelming. Mexico City is one of the largest, most populated cities in the world. BUT, despite the terrible traffic (on one particular night, I remember being trapped in a taxi for over three hours trying to get to the airport),the urban sprawl, and pollution, Mexico City is a metropolis that is hard to describe. It has the second-highest number of museums in the world, with Paris being number one. It has the oldest forest in all of the Americas, and it has over 40,000 restaurants.
With a population of over 20 million, Mexico City is ever-changing. In one day, you can climb pre-Columbian pyramids, visit colonial buildings, and dine at a 5-star restaurant. It really is like stepping back in time, and it is incredible.
Here are some of my favorite places in Mexico City and some side trips that are definitely worth considering:
Centro Historico – Take a taxi to the Centro Historico. You will get a real feel for Mexico City and the history that it embodies. You will experience narrow streets that open up to the Zocalo. Head over to the National Palace. There you can see some of the most amazing murals by artist Diego Rivera. After visiting the National Palace, head over to the National Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in the 1500’s and is the largest in Latin America. I have taken many guests to the National Cathedral and everyone loves going inside and seeing the architecture and the artistic treasures inside.
After visiting the National Cathedral, go to the Templo Mayor Museum. The Templo Mayor was the main temple of the Aztecs and the Museum houses some incredible pre-Columbian art.
After you have completed your visit, walk down the Calle Madera. Calle Madera is a street full of shops, temples and historic buildings. Also, it leads you from the Zocalo to the next site you will want to see the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
The Palace of Fine Arts houses some of the country’s finest art and has exhibits here constantly. If you have a chance, attend the Ballet Folklorico which is a personal favorite.
Another area to see is Paseo de la Reforma. Paseo de la Reforma will lead you directly to the city’s main urban forest. Take your time to wander around the multiple paths and museums of Chapultepec. The Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest) see the baths of Moctezuma or just admire the beauty of the lake. Head up the hill to see the Chapultepec Castle. The views here are amazing.
Take time and visit the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. It is an wonderous collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts. Mayan, Aztec and Teotihuacan cultures are all represented. This Museum is huge and will take you most of the day to experience it properly.
There are so many neighborhoods that I recommend including Colonia Roma, Condesa and Polanco. Though I spent many nights in the Zona Rosa, it has become too much of a tourist area and there are better places to go.
Try the street Tacos, as they are the best in the world, and walk around and discover Mexico City’s past. It really is a wonderful town.
Here are a few worthwhile side trips:
Teotihuacan – About 25 miles northeast of Mexico (don’t be fooled though, it can take a couple of hours to get there), Teotihuacan is a vast Mexican archaeological complex. Running down the middle of the site, which was once a flourishing pre-Columbian city, is the Avenue of the Dead. It links the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, the latter two with panoramic views from their summits. Artifacts in the Museum of Teotihuacan Culture, on-site, include pottery and bones.
Cuernavaca – On the weekend, a great place to have a lunch and wander around the city. Cuernavaca is the lush capital of Mexico’s Morelos state, cradled by the Tepozteco Mountains south of Mexico City. The colonial city center features the 16th-century Palace of Cortés, former home of Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés and now a history museum with murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Just southwest is Cuernavaca Cathedral, in a 1500s walled monastery complex with a mural depicting Mexico’s first saint. It will take a couple of hours to get here from Mexico City.
Acapulco – Acapulco, a beach resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, is set on a large bay backed by high-rises and the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. Made famous by the jet set in the 1950s and ’60s, it’s known for its high-energy nightlife, beaches and golf. Many nightclubs still have that vintage feel as they play music from the 70’s disco era. It is nice to take a break from Mexico City and head here for a couple of days, especially if you have rented a car.
2. Cancun & Playa del Carmen
We love love love this area. Since we live in SW Florida, it is a quick flight to Cancun. But beware, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel are more than just beaches and large hotels. Archaeological sites, museums and exploring cenotes should all be on your itinerary.
Visit one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is home to many ancient buildings that are still in great condition including the Great Ball Court, The Temple of Warriors, El Caracol (an ancient observatory) and the most popular – El Castillo (The Castle).
In Playa del Carmen, visit Tulum. Sitting on the cliff-side overlooking incredible beaches and perfect blue water, Tulum was one of the largest cities built by the Mayans. A trip to Tulum is something you don’t want to miss.
There are other great archaeological sites that we love such as Coba where you can still climb the pyramid and have a great view of the surrounding area.
You cannot come to the area and not visit and swim in a Cenote. Cenotes are underground caverns that are formed after limestone caves in leaving a giant hole in the earth. This hole typically leads to a pool that in most cases has beautiful aqua-colored water.
Find a local and ask about Cenotes that are not on the tourist route. You will love it and it is a great place to cool off.
Head to downtown Cancun. Downtown is one of the many places in Cancun most tourists seem to skip in exchange for beach visits or other activities. But if you want a more authentic feel of Cancun away from the Hotel Zone then you’ll want to head downtown.
I typically stop into VIPs to have a quick lunch. It also reminds me of Mexico City and is a cheap alternative to higher priced tourist restaurants.
These activities, along with world-class beaches and beautiful hotels make Cancun and the surrounding areas a great place to go.
It´s always good to visit Oaxaca, a city recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In March, for example, the jacarandas bloom, emphasizing the greenish of its original quarry stone. Oaxaca is one of the cities where all the historical periods of Mexico shine: pre-Columbian, colonial, independent, modern, and contemporary are expressed with its natural elegance in every street, colonial building, museum, magical festival, colorful crafts, pre-Columbian ruins, and the many splendorous baroque churches that are to be found in every corner of the city.
Take a day and go to Monte Alban. Monte Alban is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Arguably the most majestic of Oaxaca’s ancient ruins, Monte Alban, meaning “White Mountain,” is an ancient Zapotec capital with a spectacular mountain top location overlooking the valleys of Oaxaca.
Being one of the most culturally and historically significant places to visit in Mexico, the site received UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition in 1987.
While in Oaxaca, see the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman, the Zocalo, and visit one of the markets.
Oaxaca has recently being found more and more from tourists but still not to the level of Cancun or Cabo.
4. Cabo San Lucas
5. San Miquel del Allende
It is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and in 2008 it was recognized, along with the Sanctuary of Jesus of Atotonilco, as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its attractive and cosmopolitan appearance makes it one of the favorite destinations for art enthusiasts.
One of the sites that you must see is the San Miguel Arcangel Parish. It has become the hallmark of the city. It is a beautiful temple of the end of the century. Other must places in San Miguel de Allende are the handicraft market of the city or the archaeological zone of Cañada la Virgen.
In the market there is a sample of the local craftsmanship made of metals, paper mache, blown glass and more. Its cobbled streets, wooded courtyards, fine architectural details and sumptuous interiors.
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