Archive for Mexico

What to Do on a Trip of a Lifetime to Mexico

Whether you’re planning a round-the-world trip or donning your backpack for the very first time, Mexico should be on your list of must-visit destinations. The country is famous for tequila, fantastic food, Mayan ruins, deserts, excellent hospitality and beautiful beaches. And everything is at a very affordable price including some of the best beachfront homes in Mexico. Some come to relax or honeymoon while others for the adventure or to practice their Spanish. Whatever the reason, Mexico won’t disappoint.

 

The Best Things to Do in Mexico

Planning a trip to Mexico is difficult because there are just so many things to do and new experience to have. The beaches are some of the best outside of the Caribbean and crystal clear water makes a perfect spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. You can head to the resort areas of Los Cabos or Cancun for a relaxing vacation at an all-inclusive or find a vacation rental with a view. Or head along the coast to the smaller towns for a more local experience.

Next are the ruins. Mayan ruins are all around the country including pyramids, settlements and temples of which some have a very gruesome history. Check them out and learn about the unique culture that lived here and their practices of human sacrifice. Other awesome things to do include whale-watching, exploring some of the islands, heading into the desert and soaking up the atmosphere in the colonial towns.

 

Where are the Best Places to Visit?

 

Mexico is a huge country taking up about 20% of the landmass of the United States making a lot of ground to cover. The most popular destinations for those taking a holiday around the coastal areas are to places like Los Cabos, Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Fewer take the time to visit some of the areas on the interior and miss out on colonial towns and ruins. Let’s look at some of the less explored parts of Mexico to visit.

Mexico City, in the Valle de Mexico or Valley of Mexico in the central part of the country, is the economic and cultural centre of the nation. Highlights include museums, both Aztec and Mayan ruins, colonial buildings along with beautiful gardens and public spaces. The shopping district is unlike any other in Mexico selling the very latest accessories and fashion. Despite the humongous size of the city, it’s not that difficult or overwhelming to visit as most attractions are clustered in three or four districts. And any negative reputation for safety isn’t as bad as you may think after the government began cracking down on crime.

 

Mexico City Palace of Fine Arts

Mexico City Palace of Fine Arts

 

Tulum shares a stretch of the Caribbean coast and has some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches. Tourists often come to relax in the high-end resorts and spend a few days lounging on the beaches soaking up the sunshine. Head a little away from the town, and you’ll find an ancient Mayan city that once acted as an important port. The complex has a series of ruins with the main building, a castle, sat on the cliff. Head to the north of Tulum Beach and you’ll come across plenty of other ruins, including the ancient Mayan city of Coba. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also worth visiting on a day trip from Tulum.

 

Off the Beaten Path

Perhaps you want to visit the lesser-explored parts of Mexico. After all, it’s big enough, and if you know where you want to go, you’ll have an incredible experience with warm and friendly locals.

San Miguel de Allende is in the central highlands of Mexico and is one of the prettiest colonial towns in the country. Spanish baroque architecture dominates the facades, and an active arts scene makes San Miguel a cultural centre. Expect cobblestone streets with lots of churches, such as the neo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel and the Templo de San Francisco church. Most visitors typically spend a few days in the pretty town for the architecture, culture and the cooler climate.

San Pancho, or sometimes referred to as San Francisco, is a seaside town on the central Pacific coast. Beaches are quiet and many of the visitors are yoga enthusiasts. Apart from joining a yoga class, you can also visit the Punta Monterrey inside the jungle or follow the trails to very secluded beaches. You won’t find as many tourists here giving you a more authentic Mexican experience.

 

How to Get Around Mexico

 

The fastest and easiest way is to fly. Domestic flights connect major cities and depart on regular schedules making it convenient to get from one side of the country to the other. Alternatively, if you want to get to the smaller towns, especially in the interior, you’ll need to use the chicken bus. A chicken bus is a minibus taking passengers around the country with fares costing very little. This is the preferred method for visitors who want to slow travel around Mexico or are on a budget. You can also use the ferry or boat services to get from one destination to the next along the coast.

 

The Ingredients for a Trip of a Lifetime

 

What makes Mexico so special as a travel destination is its diversity, culture and your ability to get off the beaten path at affordable prices. You’ll see beaches, Mayan ruins and colonial towns or replace your wardrobe in Mexico City while enjoying their delicious food on a daily basis.

 

Tulum ruins Mexico

Tulum ruins Mexico

Why Mexico should be on top of your travel list

Fabulous Mexico is a must visit destination for keen travellers and sun seekers alike. A beautiful country full of contrasts, Mexico is packed full of surprises from the ancient Mayan temples to the powder white beaches and crystal clear waters.

 

4 reasons why Mexico should be on top of your travel list:

 

Beaches

You can find beautiful beaches across the globe but Mexico’s sands are some of the most incredible in the world. The soft sandy beaches which covet the Mexican Riviera are literally paradise on earth. From out of this world five star resorts where you can sip cocktails and watch the sunsets to hammocks strung from the trees on deserted stretches of sand, there’s a gorgeous Mexican beach destination for you.

 

Mexican Beach

 

Adventure

If spending your days lazing on a beach isn’t for you, there certainly much more to Mexico. For the adventurers there are amazing monuments to see like the Chichen Itza which is the home of ceremonial Mexican antiquity. A trip there is a definite must for keen explorers. There are lots of other amazing adventures not to missed in Mexico from the pre-Columbian architecture to the Oaxaca in the south where there are stunning markets and amazing woven rugs.

Mexico Chichen Itza

 

Amazing food

 

Authentic Mexican food is one of a kind and some of the tastiest cuisine in the world. There’s great food to be experienced in whatever area of Mexico you choose to visit. Be sure to venture out of your comfort zone and try something a little more adventurous than the traditional burrito (but those are great too!). The street vendors do some of the best Mexican food that you have to try, think lashing of salsa, spicy beans and rice so full of flavour that you’ll forever be disappointed with basmati afterwards.

 

Mexican Food

 

 

Culture

 

We all think of the stereotypical poncho and sombrero combination when Mexico comes to mind but once you visit you’ll be enthralled by the vibrancy of traditional Mexican culture. In Mexico City you’ll be able to find real Mexican music performances and enjoy a ranchera which is a traditional guitar song. Sit back with a margarita and soak up the amazing Latino vibes. If you’re planning on visiting Mexico soon, check out TrekAmerica which has some great trips exploring many different sides of a wonderfully diverse and exciting country.

 

Mexican Culture

 

*Images courtesy of iStock

From Hernan Cortez to history of Baja California

Todos Santos Cultural Centre with Museum

When visiting Todos Santos and staying at the famous Hotel California, I took a tour of Todos Santos with Sergio from Eco Adventures. Sergio is a very knowledgeable man and during our walk around the town he gave me the insight not only to history of Todos Santos town but also to history of Baja California and the rest of the Californian peninsula.

 

 

It all started when Hernan Cortez, a great talker and conqueror, escaped from Cuba with 500 men and 5 ships without the Cuban governor’s permission. They arrived to the Mexican coast where they founded La Villa Rica de Veracruz, nowadays known as the city of Veracruz.

Cortez with his men found the Aztecs living a pretty good life in there ruled by Moctezuma II who was more interested in his clothes than ruling. Being a kind of posh Luis XVI who could wear his clothes just once and then they had to be burned, Moctezuma II got scared when he saw Hernan Cortez.

It all came down to the legend of Quetzalcoatl he remembered – a white tall bearded man coming back and who was supposed to punish Moctezuma II. The Tenochtitlan ruler thought he would avoid getting punished if he gave presents to Cortez so Cortez received a silver plate, a gold plate and women for all his men. Moctezuma II also gave a native woman to Cortez himself. She is famous now as La Malinche.

As for the Aztecs, the best looking women were those with their eyes crossed so they all looked that way, however Hernan wanted to change his woman because she did not look like a European ideal beauty he was used to. But she was a very clever princess and after she had been a present to the Aztecs before and then they got rid of her to give her to Cortez and thus insulted her, she learned Spanish from Cortez and helped him to defeat the Aztecs finally in 1521.

But you must be asking now what all this had to do with Baja California? We are almost there!

Spain became the biggest monarchy and wanted to send Hernan Cortez to conquer China. After leaving from Acapulco, he arrived to what is now called Baja California. It was in May, too hot with hardly any water – hot oven hell they called the place so they decided to leave and continue on their journey to China. But one of Cortez’s men found a pearl in the sea so for the next 2 years they stayed there and were looking for pearls. The sea was named after Cortez – The Sea of Cortez is the name of the Gulf of California nowadays. For 430 years Baja California was the richest place in pearls in the world.

Once the Cortez left, the Jesuits managed to convince the Spanish emperors to give them that part of land who  no one ever wanted – too hot with nothing really happening there – Baja California, Sonora and Sinaloa (that’s how we call now those 3 Mexican states).

The Jesuits started building missions with the first one being in Sinaloa in 1591. The missions were built where there was water and always within 1 day walking distance between two missions. It took them 100 years to build missions up to the North of Sonora and exactly the same long to cross the Sea of Cortez and build their first mission there in Baja California named Loreto. Then they were slowly moving down the peninsula building other missions in Baja California Sur.

In the Cultural Centre of Todos Santos you can see a traditional house and rooms of the Jesuits in Baja California. In the museum there the rest of the history is explained with maps, photos, statues etc.

Todos Santos Cultural Centre with Museum

Todos Santos Cultural Centre with Museum

 

Jesuit houses in Baja California

Jesuit houses in Baja California

a Jesuit bedroom

a Jesuit bedroom

historic maps of Baja California

historic maps of Baja California

 

 

After the Jesuits were expelled from the New World in 1767, the Franciscans and later the Dominicans took over the place. This was the beginning of history of Baja California.

 

Today Baja Californians say that their land, like a bride, was not conquered by force, but by love.