Mexico is a tourist destination like no other. The sheer number of destinations, diversity of terrains, the colors, the cuisines and people, make it a must visit country in the itinerary of any avid traveler. I have compiled a list of the best cities in Mexico to visit. Here are the destinations to enjoy sun, sand, history and food:
A holiday to Mexico may bring pictures of sun-soaked beaches and water-based activities on to your mind, but if you’re headed to Mexico City, the tourist attractions here are a fry cry from those offered by the country’s coastal destinations. Mexico City is landlocked and captivates visitors with its historic sites, exuberant street life and abundant cultural offerings. With a history that stretches over thousands of years, Mexico City is an appealing combination of the Aztec and Spanish culture. A must see if you are in Mexico City is ‘Zocala’ or the Plaza de la Constitucion – with an area of 200,000 square feet area in the center of Mexico City, it is one of the world’s biggest “town squares” and is surrounded by some of the most fascinating buildings like the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the Americas; National Palace, Federal District Buildings and Templor Mayor, an ancient Aztec temple. The city also hosts a wealth of museums, the most significant ones being the Museo Nacional de Historia and The Museo Nacional de Antropologia. These museums are committed towards maintaining and restoring the archaeological and cultural records of Mexico. The City of Teotihuacan Archaeological Site is located about 31 miles northeast of Mexico City and features architecture and antiques from the city’s lifespan, which ran from about 200 B.C. to 600 A.D. The Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City features a large variety of animals from across the globe as well as endangered species. You can also tour Xochimilco, a Federal District borough, which features floating gardens, flower markets, historical churches and rare wildlife, on canoes or colorfully adorned gondola-like boats known as ‘Trajineras’
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Most travelers to Playa del Carmen are looking for the ultimate Mexican beach vacation, with plentiful of sun, sand and relaxation, but this pretty little town situated off the shore of the Caribbean also attracts the more active and adventurous holidayers as the area is renowned for its diving, snorkeling, shopping, food and nightlife and also offers travelers great opportunities to explore the marine life and reefs in the Caribbean Sea. The town square, known as El Zócalo, is the place to be in if you are in the mood for some souvenir-shopping, bar-hopping or people-watching. This funky little town square is just about walking distance of the beach. Just off the square and running alongside with the shore is a street called the La Quinta Avenida or the Fifth Avenue. This street is the main tourist drag and is lined with endless delicious eateries, European-style restaurants, bars and unconventional shops. This street sells pretty much anything you can think of, from souvenirs to upmarket & fashionable clothing to dive equipment to Cuban cigars. Calle Corazón is another popular but tiny shopping area, which has a few specialty shops, a fancy jewelry shop and an art bookstore. This street is also a foodie’s haven as the restaurants here serve a variety of cuisines like European, Greek, Japanese, German and, of course, Mexican. The European and American-influenced nightlife here is also worth mentioning. This town contains an assortment of clubs and music venues, as well as several beachside bars. Most of the action is concentrated around El Zócalo and La Quinta, but you can find less pricey and lesser known hotspots along the beachside or farther out of town.
Many tourists travel to Cancún every year to experience the city’s vibrant nightlife. With hundreds of awesome beachside bars, nightclubs and music venues, Cancun is also one of the most popular spring-break destinations in Mexico. If you’re in Cancún to party, this nightlife hub of the Yucatan will keep you up until dawn!
Cancún is also known for its scenic beaches and some of these are the most cherished ones in Mexico. These beaches are indeed spectacular spots for Jet skiing, parasailing, boating, and scuba diving. Cancuns diving environment is also perfect. The water is clear all year round and the shallow waters provide excellent oppurtunities for new divers. The large reefs allow travelers a glimpse of the area’s abundant marine life, including dolphins, anemones, snappers, cave sharks, barracuda, starfish, lobster, and scorpion fish.
Don’t miss out on visiting Chichén Itzá, a large Mayan archaeological site situated close to Cancun, and which now features as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
There’s a reason Cancún can party well into the night—the workers here take a little disco nap every afternoon. So expect activities to pause from about 1 to 4 p.m.!
Old mansions, tropical gardens, hidden courtyards, wide boulevards and horse-drawn carriages give Merida a very colonial look and feel. Owing to its tropical climate, intense cultural background/heritage and a growing expat community, the calendar in Merida is loaded with events year round – from local Mayan festivals to musical concerts to cultural events, there’s always a celebration happening here! Some of the noteworthy events are Merida’s Carnaval, the Easter Week celebrations, Mexican Independence Day, the Festival Otono Cultural and the Toh Bird festival. The speed only slows down in mid-summer when temperatures soar and the temptations of a swinging and relaxing on a hammock while sipping on a cool drink outshines the celebration mood!
Sour orange, hot habanero chillies and roasted meat are the trademark flavors of Merida, but the chefs of this very cosmopolitan city, merge local ingredients like tropical fruits and fresh fish into contemporary, fresh and delicious creations. You can also opt for courtyard dining and enjoy a leisurely dinner by candlelight, under the stars and surrounded by exotic plants and flowers.
Merida’s shopping scene is also heating up. Go shopping for top-quality local products like the fames Yucatan hammocks, lacework and linens, Panama-style hats, guayaberas or rebozoz which are lightweight shawls worn by Mayan women.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
San Miguel de Allende attracts visitors with its enchanting cobblestone streets, spring-like climate, boutique shopping, colonial architecture, international cuisine, large festivals and a world-class arts scene. This stunning and neat ‘bohemian’ city, also known as “the San Francisco of Mexico’, is home to thousands of expatriates from the United States and Canada. The expatriate community has started art galleries and international restaurants that along with the very impressive colonial architecture make San Miguel de Allende one of Mexico’s most intriguing destinations.
Regular festivals, fireworks and parades rule the local scene. The town’s global charisma is displayed in its excellent restaurants and high-class, colonial-style accommodation alternatives. Several galleries are hoarded with some of the best of Mexican works. Visitors still gather here to study at the art institutions. The climate is pleasing: cool and clear in winter and warm and clear in summer, with occasional thunderstorms and heavy rain.
Just laze around in the main plaza, visit the food market or interact with the locals, to get a vibe that is so quintessentially Mexican!
About the author: Martin Cowell is a Playa del Carmen real estate expert. When he is not selling & buying homes and condos, he travels cooks and blogs. You can reach him through his website www.iownakumal.com