In the minds of many, Mexico is synonymous with indulgent, laid-back resort vacations. While resorts can be a welcome respite, you'll miss the unending beauty of the rest of the country if you stick to the manufactured landscape of coastal resorts. Here are just a small handful of reasons why I urge you to step outside of your comfort zone and skip the resort on your next trip to Mexico:
Kind, friendly, and incredibly hospitable, the people of Mexico are what will make your trip a truly memorable experience: Travel with an open mind and respectful attitude, and prepare to be warmly welcomed. During my last stay in Mexico, I was studying Spanish and felt painfully shy about speaking with locals. However, once I gained a little confidence and made an effort to converse beyond “Hola” and “Gracias,” I was often engaged by locals who went to great lengths to understand me, despite my flawed grammar and pronunciation. People are eager to connect and share what their country has to offer.
The colonial towns
Mexico is full of enchanting colonial towns, with well-preserved architecture and fascinating history. Towering cathedrals, ornate courtyards, and narrow cobblestone streets may have you questioning whether you’ve somehow ended up in Spain. San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, is arguably one of the most picturesque and famous colonial towns, but there are countless others waiting to welcome you.
Markets in Mexico are loud, colourful, and exciting — if not a little overwhelming — and are the perfect opportunity to get an up-close look at the country’s traditions and culture, while at the same time scoring some unique souvenirs. From traditional food offerings and retail markets that you’re sure to get lost in to small-scale organic markets offering a selection of trendy artisanal products, the markets of Mexico are plentiful — and are an essential part of daily life for much of the country’s population. In Mexico City alone, there are more than 300 permanent mercados, and more than 1,000 more weekly open-air markets, known locally as tianguis, to explore. So whether your desire is handcrafted jewellery, live turkeys, or a used bicycle, head to a local market and expect to find everything you're looking for (and more)!
The street life
The streets of Mexican towns are busy, vibrant, and full of life, punctuated with colourful graffiti, live music, and an army of food vendors eager to meet your snacking needs. Mexicans make the most of their downtime, and you can join them in the fun. In Mérida, on Sunday, the Paseo de Montejo is closed to cars, making way for the city’s cyclists and offering a unique opportunity for visitors to explore the city on two wheels. In Valladolid, I fell in love with the live music and dancing that took place each Sunday evening in the main square. If you happen to be travelling during significant holidays or celebrations, such as Carnival or Semana Santa, expect the street celebrations to be kicked up a notch, with impressive religious processions, elaborate costumes, street performers, and choreographed dance numbers.
In 2010, traditional Mexican cuisine was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, confirming there is so much more to Mexican food than tacos and guacamole! Food in Mexico is incredibly diverse, with distinct regional cuisines steeped in centuries of tradition. Venture to the state of Oaxaca to sample local cacao, moles, and protein-rich chapulines (yup, grasshoppers). In the Yucatán region, feast on cochinita pibil — an outrageously delicious slow-roasted pork dish, traditionally cooked in a stone-lined, subterranean pit. And in Puebla, don’t miss a chance to try chiles en nogada — a unique dish made of poblano chiles stuffed with minced meat and covered in a creamy walnut sauce, commonly served to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day.
The natural landscapes
You don’t need to travel far to encounter breathtaking natural beauty all over Mexico. Within a day’s drive from Cancun, you can experience the wonder of bioluminescent plankton on Isla Holbox, observe flocks of migrating flamingos in the Celestun Biosphere, dip your toes into the Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas, and sail through the seven colours of blue in Laguna Bacalar. The Yucatán Peninsula is also home to an estimated 6,000 cenotes, perfect for cooling off after a day in the sun.
The real beauty of Mexico is that there is always more to learn and explore. It truly is the destination that keeps on giving.
Ready to see Mexico for yourself? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our small group tours to Mexico here.