Meandering through Mexico

We just completed an amazing 3 week overland journey from Mexico City to the Yucatan. On this blog post, I’ll give a summary of the top 10 places we visited in Mexico. We also had the opportunity to spend Christmas and New Years in the Yucatan (our second year in a row spending winter in a Tropical Country….last year, we were in the Philippines). It’s also our 6th year in a row being away from Vancouver for the Winter Holidays (Whistler, Abbotsford, Salt Spring Island, Tofino, Philippines, Mexico). It’s become an annual tradition to get away from the cold of our home city of Vancouver in search of the sun!

We loved Mexico overall but found the Yucatan area to be much too touristy. We preferred the overland journey from Mexico City to Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas to Palenque to Campeche to Merida. Once we hit Cancun, there were thousands of tourists, prices were much higher, everyone was speaking English, and the locals were trying to rip us off because they are so used to rich tourists. As you know from this blog, we are passionate immersive travellers and tend to avoid mass tourism destinations. Looking forward to exploring the rest of Central America after we are done with Mexico.

So, here’s our Top 10 Destinations in chronological order based on date of visit:

1) MEXICO CITY 
Mexico CityWe spent 1 week in Mexico City at an Airbnb that was only 10 mins walk from the historical centre. We filled ourselves up with tacos almost every day (how can you not with 5 Tacos for 15 Pesos/$1 USD) as well as Quesadillas, Gorditas, Enchiladas, Tortas, Sopas, and more! The kids loved going to a local Wrestling Match (called “Lucha Libre” – “Free Fighting”). They even got matching Yellow and Pink Masks for the Main Fight of the Night (Caristico vs Mistico). We also did a day trip to the Aztec Ruins at Teotihuacan visiting the Pyramid of the Sun (the 3rd biggest pyramid in the world). We even got to see “The Last Jedi” on Opening Night in Mexico City!
2) OAXACA 
Pyramid of the SunOur first destination outside of Mexico City brought us to Oaxaca City (about 7 hours by bus). We absolutely loved Oaxaca as it’s rich in culture and history. We even got to experience a local Parade from the main church to the town square with families, ladies, and children dressed up in colourful local attire. Plus, there was a Live Orchestra playing in the Zocalo (“Main Square”) and a big Night Festival with kids’ rides and lots of local food stands. Make sure you try out Mexcal and Negro Mole (“Black Spices”) which are both local specialities.

3) SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS 
Tacos
After hearing many travellers rave about San Cristobal de Las Casas, we had to visit for ourselves to see what all the fuss is all about! San Cristobal is an atmospheric highland city in the state of Chiapas (made famous around the world during the Zapatista Uprising in the 1990s). The darker days are behind it and now San Cristobal is flourishing with tourism. We spent hours exploring the Colonial Architecture, the Local Markets, and Elegant Churches. Definitely a must-stop on any overland journey through Mexico!

4) PALENQUE
Palenque
Visiting Palenque makes you feel like you have entered the world of Tomb Raider with the ancient Mayan Ruins being overgrown by the surrounding jungle! The last time I felt this way was visiting Ankor Wat in Cambodia. Palenque ranks at the top of the Mayan Ruins we visited (partially because it is so atmospheric with the jungle landscape but also because it is much less touristy than the Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan). Our daughter Rianne especially loved Palenque (she even managed to climb up to the top of 3 pyramids by herself) – yes, she is a bundle of energy always!

5) CAMPECHE
Chichen ItzaWe are super glad we made the last minute decision to stop in Campeche (which is a UNESCO World Heritage City with the City Walls still intact). It was also our first time ever seeing the Gulf of Mexico! Man, was it HOT! Can’t complain though as our hometown of Vancouver is super cold now so I would chose the heat and sun over the cold and gloom any day! We also tried the famous local dish of fresh Shark meat (“Pan de Cazon” – “Bread of Small Shark”)! This was the second time our kids tried out shark (the first was trying out Shark and Bake in Maracas Bay, Trinidad).

6) MERIDA
Merida
Merida is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage City and the gateway to the Yucatan. The city really comes alive at Christmas with a Tunnel of Lights with Christmas Carols blazing through loud speakers, a massive Christmas Tree in the middle of the City Square, a huge Nativity Scene with live-sized Camels and Elephants, and even Outdoor Polaroid Pictures with Santa (for about 100 Pesos/$5 USD). Merida and Playa del Carmen are the 2 big Digital Nomad hot spots in Mexico so we were able to look into how Digital Nomads base themselves in Merida.

7) CANCUN
Cancun
Cancun is super touristy yet super beautiful. It’s the beauty that causes the mass tourism. The Mexican Government and dozens of big name hotels and corporations have invested billions of dollars in Tourism Infrastructure, especially in the famous Hotel Zone (yes, you have probably seen the famous Spring Break Videos from the area)! We also did a day trip to Chichen Itza (one of the 7 wonders of the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to the famous El Castillo Pyramid) and swam in a local Cenote (“a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath”).

8) COZUMEL

Cozumel
We decided to spend 3 days and 2 nights in Cozumel (you can call it a mini 2 day vacation from a 2 week Yucatan vacation in the midst of our massive Daddy Blogger World Tour). We took the ferry from Playa del Carmen and stayed in a couple of different areas of Cozumel. We also took a Collectivo (local public mini bus) to explore the eastern side of the island and spent a nice afternoon swimming at Chen Rio Beach. There was an amazing Mayan Dance Performance in the Main Square where we all got Mayan Face Painting!

9) PLAYA DEL CARMEN

Playa del Carmen
After Christmas in Cancun, we decided to spend New Years Eve in Playa del Carmen. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb which was 15 mins walk to the main beach and to the famous 5th Avenue (a pedestrian only street which goes for over 10 blocks with some world-class dining options and some of Mexico’s finest gastronomy)! We also got a private guided tour of the grand opening of the famous Hotel Xcaret (unfortunately, we were not able to do a Blog Review of this property as it was in the midst of the high holiday season but we did a Video Tour of one of the rooms). All 3 of our kids managed to stay up until midnight to experience New Years Eve on a beach – here’s the video proof:

10) TULUM

Tulum
Our final destination in Mexico was the small town of Tulum made famous for the majestic Mayan Ruins overlooking a cliff with stairs down to a beautiful beach giving you the opportunity to swim in the jade green Caribbean Sea while looking at some impression ancient ruins! During dinner, we also randomly ran into Susannah Crey and her family, founders of Our Tribe Travels, who were visiting from England!

Now that we are finished our 3 weeks in Mexico, we are heading to Belize next so stay tuned for lots of pictures, videos, and of course a blog summary of our trip there! Then, we are going to complete the rest of Central America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica).

Which parts of Mexico have you been to? Let us know in the Comment Section below!