Travel Inspiration

Your Ultimate Mexican Adventure

Photo by Abel Robles

Colorful Mexico is one of the most-visited destinations by Americans, and for excellent reason. With its chilli-infused gastronomy, miles of sublime coastline and fascinating archeological sites, Mexico is bursting with beauty, culture and history.

According to the Maya people of the Yucatán Peninsula – particularly the K'iche' – two great thinkers, the Plumed Serpent from the sky and the Hurricane from the sea, came together to craft the physical world. They did so by speaking the names of things, because in Maya cosmology, things were created to match their names rather than the other way around.

Today, the undulating mountains and jungles that make up Mexico stretch from the bottom of the USA into what once was Mesoamerica: one of the world’s six Cradles of Civilization. What has resulted is a land of fiestas, siestas and cervezas – so kick back in your proverbial hammock and come on a prosaic tour of some of the best experiences Mexico has to offer.

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas

Unplug at Isla Holbox

If you’ve crossed the border to detox from the rigours of modern life, sleepy and car-free Isla Holbox is for you. Relax on its postcard-worthy beaches with a Corona in hand, jump aboard a boat and cruise the dreamy coast, or traverse the mangroves – keeping an eye out for the island’s resident flamingoes. If you happen to be on Holbox between late June and early July, you can also bathe with the whalesharks on their yearly voyage through the Gulf. Despite the peace and tranquillity of this island getaway, Isla Holbox is just a stone’s throw from the infamous party town of Cancun, where you can live-out your Carribean Spring Break fantasies.

Photo by The Free Birds

Cool off in a Cenote

Along the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, as well as spectacular Mayan ruins, you’ll find the densest concentration of idyllic cenotes: naturally occuring sinkholes filled with crystal clear water. These stunning swim spots are formed when an underground limestone cave collapses in on itself. As well as being the perfect retreat from the midday sun, cenotes were of huge significance to the Mayans, who gave them their namesake ts’onot, or ‘sacred wells’. Not only were cenotes their primary water source, but the Mayans also considered them to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods. Take one dip and you’ll know why.

Photo by Mathilde Langevin

Delight in Mexico City’s contemporary cccculture

While the cenotes and ruins of the Yucatán showcase the triumphs of the previous civilisations, Mexico’s eponymous capital shows the best of the current one: between the blare of car horns and the smog of the street lurks a profundity of unique and modern culture. Think dimly-lit cocktail bars, sprawling flea markets, exclusive restaurants and avant-garde exhibitions. Munch your way around Mercado de la Merced – one the city’s oldest and safest food markets; take a boat ride through the World Heritage-listed canals and floating gardens of Xochimilco; carve out time to visit the hip suburbs of La Condesa and Roma; and check out internationally-acclaimed exhibits such as Kurimanzutto and the Frida Kahlo Museum.

Photo by Roberto Carlos Román Don

Traverse the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacán

Once you’ve seen the big smoke, it’s time to hit another enormous city – or the ruins of one, at least. Before Columbus, the Americas were home to some of the most advanced civilisations of the time. At its peak, Teotihuacán was the centre of the largest and most populous – constructed as early as 400BC and completed in about 300AD. Take a stroll down the Avenue of the Dead, clamber up the steps of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and surmount the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. If your legs are feeling weary (and you’ve got cash to splash), the best vistas can be seen by soaring over this ancient site in a hot-air balloon.

Photo by Cinthia Aguilar

Catch the Perfect Break in Puerto Escondido

Oaxaca’s Puerto Escondido has long been a stop on the Mexican surfing trail. Home to one of the most dangerous waves in the world, this laidback coastal town has become somewhat of a scene among digital nomads, yogis and backpackers – meaning it is swiftly gentrifying. If you’re there to paddle out, set your alarm early before the winds pick up and head to La Punta or Zicatela beach, whereas beginner surfers will find a more chill break at the beautiful Playa Carrizalillo. For a dip, you can’t go past family-friendly Playa Principal, and snorkellers will delight at Puerto Angelito and Playa Manzanillo. Out of the water, Puerto Escondido is just as much fun as it is in – with plenty of thatched-roof bars, eateries and accommodation options to match every budget.

Photo by Cristina Cerda

Take your Tastebuds on a Tour in Oaxaca City

Step onto the streets of Oaxaca City for an authentic taste of Mexico. After wandering around the Zocalo (central plaza) and marvelling at its gorgeous architecture, line up with the locals at any of the myriad street-food stalls. There, try a plate of anything drenched in mole (mo-LAY): a gravy-like sauce made from chocolate, fruit, nuts and spices. Other Oaxacan highlights include tlayuda (often compared to pizza), huitlacoche (corn fungus), banana-leaf wrapped tamales and – for the meat lovers – carne asada. If you’ve got time for a day trip while you’re there, head out to Hierve el Agua: a petrified waterfall where you can swim in (semi-)natural pools.

Photo by Roman Lopez 

Scale a Stratovolcano in Toluca

If you’ve got legs in need of a stretch, track down some hiking boots and set your sights on the misty heights of Volcán Nevada de Toluca, often known by its Nahuatl name of Xinantecatl. This is what’s known as a stratovolcano: a steeper and more conical version of a regular volcano formed by layer upon layer of viscous, sticky lava. About 40 miles west of Mexico City, the town of Toluca will act as your base camp, where you’ll find the Cosmovitral Botanical Gardens housed in breathtaking stained glass. When you’re ready to trek to the volcano’s 4500m peak, be sure to pack your camera, as the summit hosts two stunning crater lakes brimming with fish! Oh, and don’t worry – Xinantecatl’s last eruption was about 3300 years ago, and since then, the volcano has been very quiet.

Photo by Karla Lopez

Gemma is a writer, editor and bush enthusiast living in lutruwita/Tasmania.