Discovering Mexico’s Treasures

By Mauricio Zarzar

Considering a trip to Mexico? Look no further – this vibrant country is a traveller’s paradise, promising an array of unforgettable experiences. With its diverse landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, Mexico invites you to explore at your own pace.

Our recent 16-day journey took us from the bustling streets of Mexico City to the tranquil shores of the Riviera Maya, each destination leaving an indelible mark on our hearts. Mexico is a big country and therefore, this will be one of those destinations you will visit more than once so don’t need to rush it.

Our adventure kicked off in Mexico City, where we spent three nights at the Majestic Hotel, a comfortable base from which to explore the city’s wonders. It’s a big and fun city. We stayed at the Majestic Hotel which is a nice and comfortable hotel with colonial style architecture right on the Zocalo. We had a free day to acclimatise and see the surroundings, which I highly recommend since Mexico City is over 2000masl. Make sure you take time to visit the Anthropology Museum and the Palacio de Bellas Artes as well as Diego Rivera Museum where you can admire his beautiful murals. The next day we visited Virgen de Guadalupe and Teotihuacán. During the Guadalupe part of the tour, we learnt about the deep religious culture of the country which gave us a good perspective and understanding for the rest of our time in Mexico. During the second half, we visited the impressive archaeological site of Teotihuacán which was our introduction to the intricate and interesting indigenous culture of Mexican history. Here is where I would have added at least an extra day to visit Friday Kahlo’s Museum and boat through the Xochimilco canals.

Next, we made our way to Puebla, stopping to marvel at the Great Pyramid of Cholula along the way with its extravagant and gold rich church. In Puebla, we savoured the local cuisine and relaxed at the charming Hotel Colonial Puebla.

Oaxaca stole our hearts with its vibrant culture and delicious cuisine. We spent our days wandering the streets, sampling mezcal, and trying the delicious local cuisine. Oaxaca is not big enough to feel like a busy city yet not too small to feel like you know everyone and everything. It has so many shops, stores, bars and cafes around. Even a cat cafe! The perfect place to take a break in this very picturesque city. We stayed at Casa Conzatti which was very well located and comfortable.

From Oaxaca we decided not to fly to Tuxtla as the flight leaves early in the morning and goes via Mexico City. Instead, we took the overnight bus which also saved us quite a bit of money. The downside was that the road is a bit of a winding road and there are quite a few stops before Tuxtla which kept waking us up.

From Tuxtla we took a transfer to San Cristobal de las Casas which is such a beautiful and quaint city. Lots of cafes and restaurants and bars, night markets. Easy to get around. We stayed at Casa Vieja Hotel near the main square which was a lovely colonial style hotel. In the State of Chiapas, there are still 13 indigenous languages, and you can hear the people speaking their mother tongue language everywhere. It was a great cultural experience to walk around the city.

We then travelled from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque via Agua Azul. We started our journey around 6am to avoid roadblocks but still encountered a few. The same citizens block the road and ask for donations money to let you pass but sometimes they will just block the road for hours and won’t let you go through. Then you would need to find another road. Here is important to be prepare for winding road and lots of bumps but it is absolutely worth it. Agua Azul waterfalls was beautiful. We swam in the first section without anyone else. Truly felt immerse in nature.

Once in Palenque, we stayed at Nututun hotel which was wonderful. Pool, hammocks, howler monkeys, iguanas, and birds all around as well as access to the river where you can also swim. You can stay an extra day and visit some other waterfalls in the area. We took a day to visit Palenque archaeological site which was stunning and incredible interesting as it is surrounded by the jungle.

We then travelled from Palenque to Campeche via Isla Aguada and Edzna. The road is in good condition and even though it is a long day, it is broken down in 2-3 hours intervals. Isla Aguada is beautiful, and we got to see a lot of bottled nose dolphins and birds. The people in Isla Aguada protect the area and don’t interfere with the dolphins so these beautiful animals are comfortable with boats. This is a great opportunity to be out in nature and without many tourists. Edzna is a smaller site than the ones we saw before but just as impressive as we got to see different Mayan architecture like round pillars.

We then arrived in Campeche which is a small city but still worth a night to go out and eat some nice food and see the sunset by the seaside. We stayed at Hotel Plaza Colonial which was a very comfortable and nice colonial style hotel with a pool.

The next day we journeyed from Campeche to Merida by bus. Instead of visiting Uxmal and Kebah, we decided to explore Cenote Santa Barbara where we swam in 3 beautiful cenotes. One of them is completely under land in a cave! From there it was a couple hours to our hotel in Merida. The town is lovely and has a beautiful main square. The downtown area, where we stayed, is full of hotels, restaurants, and bars. We stayed at Gamma Hotels which was a nice hotel but more commercial than the others. This hotel was a modern building.

From Merida we travelled to Tulum via Chichen Itzá. The archaeological site of Chichen Itzá is a must do. Very well preserved and restored, you can walk around different temples and learn about the Mayan culture from around 6,000-12,000 A.C. Very impressive. From there we visited Cenote Zaci in the quaint town of Valladolid. This one was bigger and deeper, so it is great for those looking to snorkel or jump of the surrounding cliffs! We then drove 2 more hours to Tulum.

Tulum is a great place but do your research. If you want a beach holiday, then best to stay at Tulum “zona hotelera” (hotels area) and not the town. The town is nice but it’s about 20min drive to the beach so you would need to rent a car, motorbike or bicycle. You can also take the public bus but be aware it goes every 20min and they are often full. Keep in mind that if you stay in the hotel area, then you won’t have many choices to go out and eat unless you go to town. Also, it is very important to keep in mind that due to higher temperatures than usual, the beaches in the Riviera Maya such as Tulum will potentially have a decent volume of algae piled up on shore and in low tide from April to November so you might get days where swimming won’t be as nice.

So, if you’re considering a trip to Mexico, don’t hesitate. With its rich history, diverse landscapes, and warm hospitality, Mexico promises an unforgettable journey for all who visit. Pack your bags and get ready to embark on an adventure you’ll never forget!

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