So this isn’t really a little-known fact, but Mexico is an absolutely incredible place. It’s got absolutely everything you could need: great food, great music, sunshine (almost too much sometimes), jungles, a LOT of history and oh yeah, did I mention the food?
But while the first thing that pops up in your head when people mention Mexico might be Cancun or Cabo, there’s a whole long list of other beautiful places just waiting to be visited. Cancun and Cabo are beautiful, there’s no denying that, but if you’re looking for somewhere a little bit more off the beaten track, then give some of these places a try instead.
San Cristobal de las Casa, Chiapas
This was my personal favourite place in Mexico. Set high up in the mountains, San Cristobal is one of the major cities of the Chiapas region, a place known for its handicrafts and gorgeous surroundings. If you’re into ancient ruins, there are lots a long(ish) drive away – especially Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak, which are all set deep in the jungle – but the town itself is also incredibly peaceful and restful, with a thriving arts scene and lots to explore around the area. It’s pretty chilly though, so make sure you wrap up warm. Just make sure you put suncream on if you visit the nearby (but much further south) Canon del Sumidero though, as I got so badly sunburned I still have a stripe on my arm. The nightlife is also brilliant here, with places ranging from Cuban bars with live music to reggae and reggaeton bands.
A bit further west of Chiapas you’ll find Oaxaca, incredibly rich in culture and wildlife. With an amazingly diverse population of indigenous cultures who are very proud of their heritage and distinct cultural practices, there’s lots to learn. Oaxaca is also the proud host of the world’s thickest tree trunk and one out of two (the other one is in Turkey) calcified or “frozen” waterfalls – hilariously named Hierve el Agua, or the water is boiling. Oaxaca is also THE place to spend the Day of the Dead, which is kind of a big deal in Mexico (they like invented it) – and further to the south there are some of the best surfing beaches in the world. Not that I surf, but you can also help release baby turtles into the sea, just incase you weren’t already convinced.
As a city, Guadalajara more than exceeded my expectations – pretty buildings, dancing fountains (I’m not easily impressed, I promise), great markets and a regional dish that involves a meat sandwich soaked in sauce. So far, so good. But the surrounding countryside in the wider Jalisco region is where Guadalajara really shines – beautiful little mountain towns, the absolutely gorgeous Lake Chapala and its accompanying delicious seafood – and let’s not forget that Jalisco is the home of the town of Tequila. Yep, it IS what you think – you can visit the distilleries and see where this beautiful yet deadly social lubricant came from. Perfection.
If you’re looking for tropical weather but don’t fancy lying on a beach all day, then take a trip to Mérida. The whole Yucatan peninsula is famous for its amazing food, and they have a tapas culture similar to Spain where if you go somewhere and order a drink you will suddenly find a decent sized plate (or plates if you’re lucky) of goodness before you. I nearly teared up the first time this happened. One of the seven wonders of the world is just a couple of hours away, the extraordinary Mayan city of Chichen Itzá, while there are also loads of beautiful beaches and a lagoon that’s completely pink in the nearby town of Las Coloradas.
Ok, so this might not seem like a little-known place, but hear me out. Mexico City might get a bit of a bad rap, but you really can’t miss out on everything there is to see and do there. To be perfectly honest, you might as well just go for the Museum of Anthropology and the pyramids of Teotihuacán. As with any big city, it’s best to exercise a bit of caution, but the amount of things you’d be missing out on if you were to cross Mexico City off your list makes me want to cry a little bit.
Tulum, Quintana Roo
Tulum is like Cancun’s hippy younger brother – cheaper, much less built up but no less worth visiting. It’s got really beautiful beaches, sun-baked ruins and deep, deep clear pools of water called cenotes where you can snorkel and dive. Vegans and vegetarians will be in luck as there are plenty of restaurant options there, and it’s very easy to get to from other parts of Mexico.
The thing about Mexico is that it’s just so big that nowhere’s really the same as anywhere else, which is amazing for travellers – sometimes I felt like I’d travelled through 15 small countries instead of one big one, with the added bonus of not having to change language or currency. So what are you waiting for?
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